Ina Garten's Single Ingredient Sauce For Heavenly Desserts

If you need another reason to stock ice cream in the freezer, you're in luck. Not only is the frozen concoction delicious on its own or when scooped into a waffle cone, but thanks to Ina Garten, we now know it creates a heavenly sauce that's perfect for a range of desserts. 

In Garten's 11th cookbook, "Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks," the Barefoot Contessa shares her hack using melted vanilla ice cream to gussy up any sweet treat. As Garten explains, "Vanilla ice cream is essentially crème anglaise that's been frozen. I reverse the process and end up with crème anglaise!"

The traditional English custard sauce is made with cream, sugar, and vanilla that's been thickened with egg yolks. The recipe involves tempering the yolks so they don't scramble and then waiting for the sauce to cool, making it rather tricky and time-consuming.

In contrast, Garten's genius shortcut involves simply buying quality vanilla ice cream (as she would say, store-bought is fine) and leaving it on the counter. And that's it! Garten prefers Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, but you can use your preferred brand. Once the ice cream has melted, you are left with a thick, pourable sauce that turns even a simple bowl of fresh berries into something infinitely more elegant and decadent.

Desserts that taste great with Ina Garten's 'crème anglaise'

Ina Garten's crème anglaise shortcut is perfect for accessorizing any dessert, barring a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Her sauce complements fruit, caramel, and chocolate desserts, all the while adding a sweet, silky element. 

For the ultimate dinner party finale, serve melted vanilla ice cream on top of a molten chocolate soufflé. The sauce balances any bittersweet in the dark chocolate and contrasts nicely with the warm dessert. The chocolate soufflé can be prepared in individual ramekins, making everyone feel special or served family-style. Simply allow the ice cream to sit out as you prepare the soufflé. By the time they are ready to serve, the sauce will be at the perfect temperature. For another show-stopping presentation, pour the melted ice cream into a small pitcher and add it to the individual soufflés at the table. 

When Garten serves her warm brioche bread pudding, she also spoons the sauce onto the center of the dessert plate, making a melted ice cream pool. She then places a slice of her bread pudding (which is made with a loaf of Eli Zabar's brioche) on top for a simple and delicious treat.

What about store-bought desserts?

If you're in a total rush, there's no reason why you need to make any component of your dessert. This same Ina Garten crème anglaise shortcut and presentation described above can be applied to your favorite store-bought desserts, too. Pick up your favorite cake, pie, or tart from a local bakery, and the faux crème anglaise will instantly make the dessert fancier.

For example, stash a pound cake in the freezer next to a pint of vanilla ice cream to always have dessert on hand. Allow each of them to sit on the counter while you prepare dinner, or warm them quickly in the microwave for just a minute to get them ready. Then, serve a slice of cake with the sauce, or cube the pound cake and layer it in a glass with berries as well as the vanilla sauce to prepare a trifle. 

For a semi-homemade dessert, prepare a boxed mix while adding a few ingredients for texture. The Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, boosts box brownie mix with frozen berries, coconut flakes, nuts, or chocolate chips. (You could also add a few glugs of coffee-flavored liqueur or brandy to the batter for an adult-friendly brownie.) Serve it warm with the vanilla sauce on top. To go a step further, garnish the plate with seasonal berries for a pop of color or a mint leaf for a fresh element.