July 31, 2014 at 1:00 am

Lick the summer heat with these ice cream treats

This grown-up sundae features Marsala syrup. Also pictured are ice cream truffles dipped in chocolate and almonds, pistachios or coconut. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)

Ice cream is one of the greatest joys of summer — no matter how you lick it. You can’t build a sundae, swirl a shake or mix a malt without it. Whether you stack scoops to the sky on a cone, drop a dollop in a bowl or sneak a spoonful from the carton, it’s the perfect treat.

Dessert-lovers are said to be divided into two categories: cake people and pie people. But one thing’s for sure: A slice of either is so much better with a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream nestled at its side. And even better than that is a dessert where ice cream is the star, instead of the understudy.

Thirty years ago, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream month. Granted, we are at day 31 of what may have been a month of sundaes, but there’s still plenty of summer left to enjoy a cool, creamy treat and spoon or lick away with wild abandon.

According to the American Dairy Association, the average American consumes 48 pints of ice cream per year; that’s a hefty assessment when you consider all those carb-conscious folks out there. But even dieters deserve a refreshing treat from time to time, and on a steamy summer day, ice cream is a deliciously creamy antidote to the heat.

Purists insist that ice cream is perfect without embellishments. Vanilla is not nearly as boring as one might think especially when flecked with vanilla beans (it still leads the list of top five flavors, according to the International Ice Cream Association). Chocoholics contend that a lick of creamy chocolate is as soothing as a dip in a pool. And fruity strawberry — the pretty, pastel pink cream dotted with icy chunks of the red berry — recalls the days when we had to endlessly turn the ice cream maker crank to churn out our end-of-supper summer treat.

But over time, embellishments such as nuts, marshmallows, chocolate chips, crushed peppermint candy, M&Ms and even bubblegum, were added to enhance the ice cream experience. In 1983, Cookies ’N Cream, made with crushed Oreo cookies, became an instant hit, and holds the distinction of being the fastest growing new flavor in the history of the ice cream industry.

Then, in 1991, along came Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, combining arguably the best part of the cookie — the raw dough — with vanilla ice cream and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Since then, ice cream companies from Ben & Jerry’s to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio, to the local hot (cool) spot, Treat Dreams in Ferndale, churn out flavors that years ago never would have been considered, let alone spooned. While some of them — such as macaroni and cheese, hot jalapeno and pistachio wasabi — may be a little too unique to be big hits, any ice cream that has bacon or chocolate-covered potato chips in it always proves to be a crowd pleaser.

So to celebrate the passing of yet another National Ice Cream month, let’s let the flavor creators have their fun. Meanwhile, we can concentrate on the various ways to incorporate a pint of our favorite flavor into a specialty dessert, from a unique sundae to some tiny truffles to luscious bombes.

With these desserts, there’s no cranking or churning, just scooping; it is summer, after all, and nobody wants to work that hard. Instead, pick up a few pints of your favorite flavors next time you’re at the market to create an easy, super-cool dessert. You’ll want to save your energy for lifting the spoon.

The cold facts

■America’s first ice cream parlor opened in New York City in 1776.

■In 1843, New England housewife Nancy Johnson invented the hand-cranked ice cream churn. From 1847 to 1877, more than 70 improvements to ice cream churns were patented.

■The first commercial ice cream plant was established in Baltimore in 1851 by Jacob Fussell.

■The biggest ice cream sundae ever made was 12 feet high and made with 4,667 gallons of ice cream and 7,000 pounds of toppings in Anaheim, Calif., in 1985.

■The average number of licks to polish off a single scoop ice cream cone is approximately 50.

■Michigan is No. 5 among the states that produce the most ice cream.

Source: International Ice Cream Association and makeicecream.com.

Ice Cream with Marsala and Currants

Recipe can be doubled or tripled. Adapted from Epicurious

¼ cup dried currants or golden raisins
¼ cup orange juice
¼cup Marsala
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon grated orange peel
Vanilla ice cream
Amaretti or other cookies, crumbled

Combine first 6 ingredients in small, heavy saucepan. Boil until syrupy, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Discard cinnamon stick. Scoop ice cream into bowls. Spoon warm currant mixture over ice cream. Sprinkle with cookies and serve. Serves 2.

Per serving (per ½ cup): 420 calories; 14 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 30 percent calories from fat); 58 g carbohydrates; 48 g sugar; 45 mg cholesterol; 67 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Chocolate-Cherry, Raspberry and Pistachio Ice Cream Cake

Recipe from Bon Appetit

½ cup dried tart cherries
½ cup orange juice
5 ½-ounce package amaretti cookies
¼ cup almonds, toasted
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ pints chocolate ice cream, softened (See Note)
3-ounce bar imported milk chocolate, chopped
1 ½ pints raspberry sorbet, softened
1½ pints pistachio ice cream, softened
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
Chocolate curls or additional amaretti cookies
Hot Fudge Sauce to taste (see recipe)

Boil dried tart cherries and orange juice in small, heavy saucepan until all liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat; cool completely.

Line 9- by 9- by 2-inch metal baking pan with foil, extending over sides of pan. Finely grind cookies and almonds in processor; add butter and process until moist crumbs form. Press crumbs onto bottom of foil-lined pan. Place in freezer.

Mix chocolate ice cream, chopped chocolate and cherry mixture in medium bowl. Spoon over crust; smooth top. Freeze 30 minutes. Top with raspberry sorbet; smooth top. Freeze 30 minutes. Mix pistachio ice cream and orange peel in another medium bowl. Spoon over sorbet; smooth top (ice cream will come all the way up to top of pan). Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Using foil as aid, lift ice cream cake from pan; peel off foil. Use spatula dipped into hot water to smooth sides of cake. Transfer cake to platter. Garnish top of cake with chocolate curls or amaretti cookies dipped halfway into room-temperature melted chocolate. Cut cake into squares. Serve with Hot Fudge Sauce. Serves 8.

Note: Soften the ice cream and sorbet in the microwave on high in two to three 10-second intervals until just soft enough to spread.

Per serving: 685 calories; 35 g fat (17 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 78 g carbohydrates; 67 g sugar; 75 mg cholesterol; 127 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Hot Fudge Sauce

1 cup whipping cream
½ cup light corn syrup
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped

Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add all chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm Hot Fudge Sauce over medium-low heat just until heated through before serving.) Makes 20 servings.

Per serving (per 2 tablespoons): 146 calories; 10 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 62 percent calories from fat); 17 g carbohydrates; 13 g sugar; 16 mg cholesterol; 16 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Ice Cream Truffles

Recipe from Bon Appetit

½ pint (about) vanilla ice cream
½ pint (about) coffee ice cream
½ pint (about) chocolate ice cream
20 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups sliced almonds, toasted
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (about 5 ounces), lightly toasted
1 ½cups shelled natural pistachios, chopped

Line large rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Using 1 ½-inch round ice cream scoop or round 1 tablespoon measuring spoon and working quickly, scoop out 8 round balls each of vanilla, coffee and chocolate ice cream, placing ice cream on prepared baking sheet. Freeze ice cream overnight.

Combine chopped chocolate and vegetable oil in large metal bowl. Place bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water; stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Cool chocolate until barely lukewarm.

Place almonds, coconut, and pistachios in 3 separate medium bowls. Line 3 pie dishes or plates with waxed paper. Working with 1 vanilla ice cream ball at a time and working quickly, drop into lukewarm melted chocolate. Using fork, turn to coat and lift out chocolate-coated ball. Drop ball off fork into bowl with almonds, using hands to turn to coat. Place truffle in 1 prepared pie dish. Repeat with remaining vanilla ice cream balls, melted chocolate and almonds; place in freezer. Repeat same procedure, dropping coffee ice cream balls into melted chocolate, then coconut, and dropping chocolate ice cream balls into melted chocolate, then pistachios. Freeze all ice cream truffles until firm, about 2 hours, then cover and keep frozen. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.) Makes 24.

To serve: place 1 almond-coated ice cream truffle, 1 coconut-coated truffle and 1 pistachio-coated truffle on each of 8 plates and serve.

Per serving: 297 calories; 22 g fat (10 g saturated fat; 67 percent calories from fat); 24 g carbohydrates; 16 g sugar; 8 mg cholesterol; 92 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber.

Halvah Ice Cream Torte

Recipe from Bon Appetit

30 chocolate wafer cookies broken
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
3 cups coarsely crumbled vanilla-flavor halvah (about 12 ounces)
3 pints (6 cups) vanilla ice cream, softened slightly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend cookies, butter and sugar in processor until cookies are finely ground. Add 1 ½ cups halvah and blend in, using on/off turns. Sprinkle 1 ¼ cups crumb mixture over bottom of 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Press remaining crumb mixture firmly over bottom and halfway up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Bake until crumb mixture in pie dish and crust in pan begin to puff, about 10 minutes. Cool crumb mixture and crust completely.

Spread 1 ½ pints ice cream evenly on cooled crust in springform pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup crumbled halvah. Spread remaining ice cream over. Break up crumb mixture from pie dish. Sprinkle evenly over ice cream; press to adhere for top crust. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup crumbled halvah. Cover; freeze torte until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 5 days. Serves 10.

Per serving: 505 calories; 28 g fat (13 g saturated fat; 50 percent calories from fat); 59 g carbohydrates; 26 g sugar; 66 mg cholesterol; 256 mg sodium; 8 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Lemon-Raspberry Ice Cream Bombes

Recipe from Bon Appetit

½cup sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 large egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
18 teaspoon salt
½ cup chilled whipping cream
1 quart vanilla ice cream
¾ cup raspberry sorbet
2 cups fresh raspberries
Fresh mint sprigs (optional)
Lemon peel

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, yolks, peel and salt to blend in top of double boiler. Place over simmering water (do not allow bottom of pan to touch water). Whisk until mixture thickens and thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Chill until cold, about 45 minutes.

Beat cream in another medium bowl until cream holds peaks. Fold into lemon mixture in 3 additions. Cover and chill at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

Line six ¾-cup custard cups with foil, leaving generous overhang. Slightly soften quart of ice cream in microwave at low setting in 10-second intervals. Measure ½ cup ice cream and place in 1 prepared custard cup. Using back of teaspoon and dipping spoon in glass of warm water as needed, press ice cream in an even layer over bottom and up sides of cup, creating hollow in center. Place cup in freezer. Repeat with remaining 5 prepared cups. Return remaining ice cream in quart to freezer. Freeze ice cream in cups 1 hour.

Spoon 2 tablespoons sorbet into hollow in center of each cup and pack firmly. Return cups to freezer for 1 hour.

Divide lemon cream among cups, smoothing tops. Freeze 1 hour.

Slightly resoften remaining ice cream in quart container in microwave at low setting in 10-second intervals. Spread 2 tablespoons ice cream over lemon cream in each cup, covering completely. Fold foil overhang over bombes to cover; freeze at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Open foil on bombes; turn bombes out onto dishes. Peel off foil. Spoon fresh berries alongside. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired, and lemon peel. Serves 6.

Per serving: 441 calories; 25 g fat (15 g saturated fat; 51 percent calories from fat); 52 g carbohydrates; 44 g sugar; 158 mg cholesterol; 113 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Peanut Butter Cup, Pretzel and Nut Terrine

Recipe adapted from Real Simple

3 pints vanilla ice cream, divided
30 mini peanut butter cups
¾ cup broken pretzels
½ cup chopped peanuts (salted or unsalted), divided

Line a loaf pan with parchment, leaving an overhang. Press 1 ½ pints softened vanilla ice cream into the pan, top with 30 chopped mini peanut butter cups and, ¼ cup chopped peanuts. Smooth another 1 ½pints vanilla ice cream on top and press in ¾ cup broken pretzels and ¼ cup chopped peanuts. Freeze until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. To serve, remove from pan, let sit for 5-10 minutes and slice using a hot knife. Serves 8.

Per serving: 542 calories; 33 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 55 percent calories from fat); 58 g carbohydrates; 37 g sugar; 72 mg cholesterol; 456 mg sodium; 11 g protein; 2 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com

Make the ice cream terrine with peanut butter cups, chopped peanuts and ... (The Detroit News / Kate Lawson)
In 1843 Nancy Johnson developed the first hand-crank ice cream maker. Much ...