Bryan Petroff has a mantra: If you’re going to eat ice cream, then make it count.
“Ice cream is probably the only thing we all eat for emotional reasons, so you should be eating something that is personal,” he tells us. If anyone should know, it’d be him: he, along with his business partner Doug Quint, is the founder of Big Gay Ice Cream, the hit frozen dessert sensation that’s sweeping the nation with two shops in Manhattan, one in Philadelphia, and a fourth on the way in Los Angeles.
While in California working on his new shop, Petroff stopped into the Williams-Sonoma test kitchen and shared a bit of ice cream wisdom, including how to make his unusual Awesomesauce, why you should keep vanilla ice cream on hand, and more. Here are five nuggets of frozen dessert knowledge he bestowed upon us.
- Build an “ice cream pantry.” Just like you have a savory pantry, you should have what Petroff refers to as an ice cream pantry. He suggests including toppings like balsamic vinegar and sea salt, as well as spices like curry powder and Old Bay seasoning. “Skip the Ben & Jerry’s pint and go buy plain vanilla or chocolate. Then look at your fresh produce; look at your jars of weirdness.”
- Don’t cheap out. Petroff has a mantra: “There are certain things in particular you don’t go cheap on, like alcohol, shoes, and seats on a plane,” he declared. After all, if you use cheap ingredients, you’ll wind up with cheap-tasting food. For butterscotch sauce, for instance, he recommends using a respectable bourbon and the best unsalted butter you can find — and he exclusively uses flaky sea salt.
- If you can’t be bothered to make your own ice cream, at least make your own sauce. Even if you can’t be bothered to make ice cream, it’s worth it to make Awesomesauce (Big Gay Ice Cream’s spiced chocolate sauce) from scratch: it calls for few ingredients, is easy to reheat, comes together quickly, and is microwaveable. “This sauce won’t be in-your-face-spicy when you eat it with ice cream,” he promises.
- Use said sauce as a vehicle for spicy, smoky, or salty. “Chocolate can handle spicy, smoky, and salty,” Petroff explains. To make Awesomesauce, he adds milk, butter, sugar, as well as cinnamon sticks for steeping, then later follows it with salt, chipotle powder, cayenne, and vanilla extract, removing the cinnamon sticks prior to serving. If you don’t want any heat, you can cut or omit the spices, but the net impact will not be quite the same. “We call that ‘not-so-awesome sauce,'” he jokes.
- Remember to let your fresh hot ice cream toppings to cool down first. “Even if you want to use a homemade sauce on ice cream right away, it’s necessary to let it cool, otherwise your ice cream will melt really, really quickly. To cool down warm chocolate or butterscotch sauce in a pinch, set it in a bowl filled with cold water and ice.
Photos excepted from Big Gay Ice Cream: Saucy Stories & Frozen Treats: Going All the Way with Ice Cream, by Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint.