A scoop of ice cream is often the best way to finish off a homemade dessert. This is especially true of fruit based cobblers and pies, but anything from cookies to cake can be improved with ice cream. Most recipes, when suggesting that you serve your treat a la mode, recommend reaching for a good quality vanilla ice cream. Vanilla is not only delicious, but it is extremely versatile and guaranteed to go with any baked good you might be able to think up. But vanilla isn’t the only flavor of ice cream that you can use to finish off a dessert and there are times when you can take your desserts to another level by simply adding in a different finishing touch. In the book A La Mode: 120 Recipes in 60 Pairings: Pies, Tarts, Cakes, Crisps, and More Topped with Ice Cream, Gelato, Frozen Custard, and More, you’ll find recipes for from-scratch desserts and homemade ice cream pairings with flavors that go beyond “plain” vanilla.
The book begins with a bit about the basics of ice cream and why you might want to make your own instead of sticking with store-bought before getting into the recipes. The recipes are all presented as pairings, so you’ll find a dessert and an ice cream recipe together, rather than two separate sections for frozen and non-frozen desserts, though the recipes are divided up into sections based on category. The pairings are designed to bring out the best in both dishes, pairing a Triple Coconut Frozen Custard with a Salty Key Lime Tart and and Almond Bear Claws with Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream. The recipes are clearly written and very detailed, and the results are mouthwatering. The book is also packed with photos that illustrate the dishes, as if the descriptions weren’t enough to inspire you on their own.
Even if you don’t have an ice cream maker – something that I would recommend if you get at all serious about making ice cream at home – you can still use the dessert recipes in the book and pair them with storebought ice cream flavors that are similar to those suggested in the book. While not every flavor will have a corresponding commercial product, you can definitely find something similar in most cases that will allow you to make your desserts even more flavorful.