Any of you who have lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts will remember Toscanini’s. When I was in college, Toscanini’s was my place. It provided my latte before morning class and my coffee and cookie on the way to the library. Best of all–but a little more rarely–it was the doler-outer of my “micro sundaes.”
Anyone else nostalgic for those micro sundaes? Here’s the deal with micro sundaes: for $3 (a regular small cup or cone was something like $3.50, so $3 is a deal), you got a pixie cup-sized sundae, complete with a half-sized scoop of Toscanini’s super rich ice cream, a drizzle of hot fudge (on the top and the bottom), and some homemade whipped cream. It was tiny and rich–a perfect indulgence.
For a long time, I ate a lot of ice cream. Now with my mid-twenties metabolism, I eat a little bit less. These days though, I like to make my own micro sundaes–at home, which is better for the budget. I take one small scoop of good ice cream from my freezer, top it with hot fudge or this Mocha-Caramel Sauce, and add some whipped cream if I have some, or, more often, chopped toasted nuts or crumbled up cookies leftover from this or that baking experiment. (Diced pecan squares are up there too.) All of this may seem excruciatingly rich to you health nuts, but when you’re talking four, five bites, I think most of you could put away a portion.
As for the sauce that’s really the subject of this post, it’s a delight to find in the fridge when I’m craving a micro sundae. At its most basic, it’s a caramel sauce–but not the kind you have to burn sugar to make. It’s easy to throw together, and is really just about mixing and simmering. But I can’t resist throwing in some espresso and cocoa powders, as well as some sea salt, to ramp up the flavor. The overall effect is haunting and deep, delicious over ice cream, whether vanilla, butter pecan, or hazelnut (my current fave).
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes about 1 cup
4 tablespoons butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
Combine butter, cream, sugar, cocoa in small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly as the butter melts.
Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and stir in the salt and the espresso powder. Taste to make sure you’re happy with the balance of flavors.
Spoon over ice cream. This keeps for weeks (if not months) in the fridge. Reheat in the microwave very briefly (5-15 seconds) before using.