Plopping pints of mint chocolate chip or cherry vanilla onto the table after a laid-back dinner is a time-honored summer tradition. Effortless and crowd-pleasing, store-bought ice cream is the beloved finale to countless hot-weather meals.
But, with some advance planning and a smidge more work, you can transform purchased pints into the kind of nostalgic frozen desserts that satisfy the kid in all of us — as well as any actual children at the table.
Banana splits were a fixture in the comic books I read growing up, and this version looks exactly like something Betty and Veronica might have gobbled up at Pop’s, Archie looking on longingly.
There’s a bittersweet hot fudge that turns taffy-like when it hits the scoops of cold ice cream. The homemade wet walnuts — a mix of honey, maple and freshly toasted nuts — are a lot more intensely flavored than the jarred kind, lending just the right syrupy crunch. The two are poured over ice cream and whipped cream nestled in sliced ripe bananas for a classic ice cream parlor confection that’s not at all hard to make at home.
My ice cream sodas, however, would never be mistaken for their retro counterparts. Scoops of ice cream bobbing in cherry or berry syrup, they are dazzlingly colorful and deeply fruity.
You can simmer the syrup with fresh fruit in the height of summer, or use frozen fruit all year long. And feel free to play with the combinations of syrup and ice cream: Try chocolate or fudge ripple ice cream with cherry syrup; salted caramel ice cream with blackberry syrup; vanilla or strawberry ice cream with raspberry or blueberry syrup. Whipped cream is optional here but adds a nice, fluffy touch.
For me, though, the most nostalgic of these three is the chocolate chip ice cream sandwich. Based on Chipwiches, they feature a more streamlined process, using a giant cookie that’s halved, filled and sliced into squares. Sprinkling some flaky sea salt into the mini chocolate chip coating at the edges makes everything taste more intense. Prepared ahead and stored in the freezer, they’re just as easy to grab for an instant summer dessert as a pint of ice cream — and a heck of a lot more fun.