Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Peanut Butter Sauce Quest

My perfect sundae at Friendly's
Growing up in central Jersey, my friends and I had a few favorite activities in high school: driving around the Watchung Mountains, hanging out in the McD's parking lot, going to Great Adventure, and going to Friendly's. The summer after senior year—probably in subconscious prep for the imminent loss of each other to college—we went to Friendly's every single night for ice cream. The sundae I had then is the same I have now, except then my Reese's Pieces sundae had five scoops and now I only get two: 1 scoop of chocolate chip, 1 scoop of butter crunch with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce on top (the Reese's Pieces requisite marshmallow topping is sometimes added on special occasions).

Friendly's is a New England-based casual restaurant chain with locations up north plus a few more in the tri-state area. They sell their ice cream in retail stores all over the country, but not their toppings. The closest Friendly's to me is in New Jersey, though sometimes I want to enjoy a Friendly's-ish sundae without having to bridge-and-tunnel it. That's why I recently attempted a re-creation of the most elusive ice cream topping, peanut butter sauce, since it incredulously seems to be the only ice cream topping that topping makers don't sell in a jar!

So what's a peanut butter sauce-craving person supposed to do? The answer is, try to make it yourself.

If you search online for peanut butter sauce recipes, you'll find a lot. You'll even find some recipes to recreate Friendly's peanut butter sauce itself. Indeed, I found two "copycat" recipes for my favorite ice cream topping of yore. And I made them. And then I decided the people who posted their results saying they were "just like Friendly's" must be high and/or have extremely loony taste buds.

The first copycat recipe's creator said, "This one comes closest to tasting just like Friendly's restaurant." We shall see, recipe creator. It's made by cooking 1 cup's worth of corn syrup, sugar, whipped cream and vanilla into a base, then adding 1/2 a cup of peanut butter. That's a 2:1 ratio of sugary stuff to peanut butter. True, the sauce had a lovely creamy consistency and color, but heck if it didn't taste mostly like melted circus peanuts (thanks for that, corn syrup).

So I tried again using a second copycat recipe that relies on melted Reese's peanut butter chips for the base. This version is shown at left. It was slightly better than the first, but the peanut butter chips had corn syrup and extra sugar in them that resulted in a fake-tasting, also too-sweet sauce.

Since these recipe posters reminded me that everything you read on the Internet isn't true, I was now ready to abandon the quest and forlornly head to the Port Authority to hop a bus to NJ for a sundae, all the while thinking "Copycat schmopycat."

My recipe (yes it yields a small batch)
Then behold, the Les Misérables song "One Day More" started ringing in my ears, which meant I couldn't give up the good fight! So I quit listening to the song in my head and the Internet and figured, hey, I know this sauce. Friendly's peanut butter sauce tastes like melted peanut butter. Why not start with that and add a few other things in small amounts until it's right?

Thankfully, the result on the first try was very close to Friendly's peanut butter sauce in my opinion, which means it was close enough for me! Here are all three recipes:

1. The 1st copycat (melted circus peanuts)
2. The 2nd copycat (meh Reese's peanut butter chips sauce)
3. My recipe, titled "Friendly's peanut butter sauce by Marly, because every copycat recipe of this online is so sweet that it's ridiculously unlike the real thing."

3 T. salted butter
½ tsp. brown sugar (add a little more and/or some white sugar if you like it sweeter)
3 oz. JIF peanut butter (2 to-go packs)
scant T. milk
½ tsp. heavy cream
dash salt

Melt butter and brown sugar in a small pot.
Add in peanut butter and melt, stirring constantly.
Add the milk and heavy cream.
Bring to boil to reduce a little bit.
Add a dash of salt.
Serve warm over ice cream.
Save NJ bus ticket for another day.

Until we eat again,