bridgeman’s pinnacle dessert ::::
Summers and Christmases as a child in my dad’s hometown, my family frequented Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Shoppe after obligatory church-going on Sundays. Outside temperature didn’t deter the kids: we always wanted a taste of the ice cream. Bridgeman’s didn’t exist outside of Minnesota from what I knew, so visiting relatives and attending church may have been obligatory for the adults, ice cream was obligatory for the kids.
It was a typical family friendly diner, serving cottage cheese on iceberg lettuce, tuna melts, and BLTs. The ice cream wasn’t an afterthought: there was an entire menu of dessert choices. It didn’t take me long to hone in on the mother lode: The Lollapalooza Sundae. Eight scoops of ice cream with multiple toppings. And a medal! They gave you a medal. A MEDAL! If you ate the entire sundae, there were not only bragging rights but a shiny, physical reminder to commemorate the event forever, to prove to others your prowess of gorging on cold dairy and sugar.
I thought about the flavors of each scoop, how they’d melt and swirl together to create some super-power ice cream flavor. The toppings were the gold dust on it all: marshmallow cream, butterscotch, fudge sauce, I imagined. And those syrupy sweet maraschino cherries. Not my favorites but I’d gobble them up for the sake winning that medal. Though never in Minnesota in May that I remember, I fantasized ordering the behemoth on my birthday and eating every last bite.
Though persistent, my rote plea never wore down my parents’ sensibility. I vaguely remember getting many an unyielding look from my parents, especially my dad, with a firm NO. I expect most parents did not give into similar requests, and very few children actually attempted the challenge and won the medal. I couldn’t even wear down my aunt one meal, hoping I’d appeal to her softer side. We had an ice-cream friendly household growing up, chocolate and butter pecan often winning out as favorite flavors, especially the chocolate for birthday cake accompaniment.
These days, I settle on a scoop or two of ice cream, even when it’s so good it deserves to be eaten more … enthusiastically. This maple walnut ice cream is one such ice cream flavor. While not a swirl of creamy, icy happiness in a bowl the size of a bucket, the woody, caramel flavor contrasted with the bitter crunch of walnuts is enough to almost make me forget the Lollapalooza Sundae was ever important.
Happy Birthday, Dad. Have an ice cream filled day!
One year ago: apple and red currant pie with a flower cut-out crust
Two years ago: balsamic chicken with pomegranate molasses glaze
Three years ago: turkey empanadas
Four years ago: menu planning – a reprise in 2012
Five years ago: bacon beer yeast bread
Recipe from the wonderful Serious Eats website. I modified the egregious recommendation of DISCARDING the steeping walnuts to sugaring them for garnish — see below.
- 8 ounces unsalted walnuts, divided
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup darkest grade maple syrup
- ½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste (I used ¾ teaspoon)
- Special equipment: ice cream maker that holds 1 quart or more, chilled for at least 24 hours in advance
- Dry toast 4 ounces of the chopped walnuts until fragrant and nutty smelling. Set aside.
- Bring cream and milk to simmer, off the heat, and add the walnuts. Allow to steep for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.
- In a heavy saucepan, mix together egg yolks and maple syrup using a whisk. Strain the walnut-cream mixture into the yolks. In the original recipe it is recommended that the steeped walnuts are discarded. No!! Mix a small amount of brown sugar into them and toast to dry them out a bit. They make a great snack or you can garnish the ice cream with them.
- Whisk and cook yolk/cream mixture over medium heat to thicken. The goal is custard: if the back of a wooden spoon is coated with the mixture and you can run a path across the back of the spoon with your finger OR an instant read thermometer reads 170 degrees F, then it's ready.
- Pour this mixture through a fine sieve into a storage bowl. You can chill overnight in the fridge or over a bowl of ice until cold. I like the overnight step to ensure everything is really cold.
- Retrieve your cold ice cream maker bowl and pour in the chilled mixture to process. Process until fairly thick then add in chopped toasted walnuts to mix briefly. Store ice cream in freezer safe glass bowl with airtight lid. Freeze for about four hours before serving. Many homemade ice creams are rock hard after being in the freezer for an extended period. This is not one of them. It will remain soft enough, though with some muscle, to scoop even after hours in the freezer. Garnish with more toasted or sweetened walnuts.