Monday, December 15, 2014

Entertaining Eats : A Chic & Simple Sundae

I don't know about you, but the holidays always seem to instill in me a sense of carte blanche when it comes to consuming copious amounts of sweets without worry for the aftermath (also known as the extra poundage sure to be tacked onto my frame come December 31). "The happiest time of the year" means calories don't count, right? Right. (That's what New Year resolutions are for.)

Well, I have one more recipe to add to your holiday must-eat list. It's not a holiday dessert per se, but it has booze, nuts and fresh whipped cream and that all screams holiday to me. Even better? It's super fast and easy to put together but the taste and presentation is impressive. The perfect thing to serve when entertaining company. This dish takes care of the requisite end-of-meal coffee service, too!

So what is this amazing dessert? A Hazelnut Affogato Sundae.

The recipe is from the cookbook "5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes" by Claire Robinson, host of the eponymous Food Network show 5 Ingredient Fix (as well as various iterations of Food Network Challenge).

What I love about Claire's show and cookbook is that all the recipes are prepared with five ingredients or fewer, which doesn't just make for simple cooking but it also lets those ingredients shine. What attracted me to the Hazelnut Affogato Sundae was the nuts (and, related, the nutty liqueur). Hazelnuts are my favorite kind, without question, and I absolutely have an unhealthy addiction to Nutella. But my first encounter with hazelnuts was not within a decadent chocolate spread but actually during the holidays. At Thanksgiving and Christmastime, my mom always puts out a bowl of mixed nuts, still in their shells, for cracking and snacking. Hazelnuts are not the easiest to crack, for surealmonds for the win—but if I could successfully manage to get a nut out whole I was rewarded with the most delightful little bite.

I'm not usually a fan of coffee-laced ice creams, but the combination of crunchy hazelnuts and freshly whipped unsweetened cream really round out the espresso flavor that on its own may otherwise be too strong. (The recipe also calls for amaretti cookies, but I got by just fine without them if you can't find any.) I take my morning cup with a generous splash of creamer and that's just how I like this sundae—with an extra helping of whipped cream.

Of course, this sundae is a play on a traditional affogato. A true affogato is when a shot of hot espresso is poured over very cold ice cream—and then eaten immediately! You can definitely turn this twist on an affogato into the real deal if you have an espresso maker.

Hazelnut Affogato Sundae
Recipe from 5 Ingredient Fix | Serves 4

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tbsp. Frangelico
1 pint espresso gelato (I used Ciao Bella's Caffรจ Macchiato gelato)
1/4 cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted
2 amaretti cookies (Claire suggests Lazzaroni cookies)

With a whisk or handheld mixer, whip the cream in a bowl until very thick but still liquid; while whisking constantly, add the Frangelico and whip until soft peaks form. (At this point I placed the whipped cream in the fridge, covered, to keep it nice and cold while I roughly chopped the hazelnuts. The skins are easy to remove after the nuts are toasted; just rub with your fingers or a nubby towel. But it was late in the evening and I just wanted my dessert, so I kept the skins on. Never fear, despite my laziness it was still delicious!)

To serve, place 2 scoops gelato into each of four dessert bowls. Sprinkle a tablespoon of hazelnuts over the gelato and top with a healthy dollop of flavored whipped cream. Rub 1/2 an amaretti cookie along a fine grater over the whipped cream to garnish. Serve immediately.

If you make this sundae, be sure to let me know what you think in the comments. Also, do you have any quick and easy entertaining recipes you turn to during the holidays? I'd love to hear!

(Cookbook image via Hachette Book Group)

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