Active time:45 minutes
Total time:3 hours 45 minutes
Servings:16 (2-by-3-inch rods)
Yes, the bars do need to be kept in the freezer for a few hours, but these cool, creamy, crunchy, salty-sweet warm weather treats are 100 percent worth a little delayed gratification. Plus, if, like me, you have fond memories of a Dairy Queen soft serve (“A twist with a chocolate dip, please”) — or really anything to do with DQ or [insert name of your forever fave ice cream spot]these particular bars give you all the nostalgic feelings, but in a slightly more mature package.
A recipe for a “Dilly Dessert”, a wonderful combination of two different Dairy Queen bars – the Dilly, vanilla ice cream on a stick dipped in chocolate; and the Buster, the Dilly plus peanuts and fudge — inspired these dreamy ganache-coated pretzel-peanut ice cream bars. I heard about this DQ bar amalgam from a friend who cut the recipe from her local Midwest newspaper, and I instantly fell in love with both the whimsical name (I mean, who wouldn’t want to make a dessert with the word “dilly” in it? it?) and how easy it would be to run.
In my version, softened store-bought vanilla ice cream is spread over an easy, no-bake, slightly salty pretzel crust. The original recipe called for an Oreo cookie crumb crust, but this pretzel adds a salty, snack-like dimension to these can’t-miss bars; it helps reduce the sweetness of the ice cream and ganache—which your grown-up self will probably appreciate. You then press chopped roasted and salted peanuts into the ice cream (as in the original recipe), pour over a slightly chewy, soft ganache (the ganache is a slightly more elevated version of the original chocolate/evaporated milk topping), and make top with a sprinkling of crushed pretzels and more peanuts.
After a few hours in the freezer, the result is a tray of treats that has your new “go-to, make-ahead summer dessert-for-a-crowd” all on it.
Here are a few of my tips for putting together an ice cream bar for perfect salon-worthy treats every time.
Making Pretzel Crust 101: A food processor is the best tool for grinding your pretzels, but a zip-top plastic bag and a rolling pin will do the trick in no time. When sharpening, your goal is a combination of small pretzel pieces and pretzel dust. You don’t want all the dust, as the pieces add a nice texture and help structure the crust. After you’ve mixed in the butter, sugar, and salt, you’ll know your mixture is good to go if you squeeze your hand a bit and it sticks together. Press the crust firmly and evenly into your prepared pan so that it is firm and not only stays firm and crisp when covered with ice, but also, once frozen, cuts nicely without cracking or crumbling. And if a chocolate chip cookie crumb crust is more your speed, you can use it up by increasing the ingredients by one and a half.
Streamline the mounting of the bars: To minimize downtime when assembling the bars, follow this timeline: When you’re done making the crust and placing it in the freezer, remove the ice cream from the freezer to soften.
The crust benefits from resting in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes, so it will firm up and be less likely to crumble when you slather it with the ice cream. And coincidentally, the ice cream softens to a nice spreadable consistency in about the same time. This timing may vary a bit depending on the temperature of your kitchen, but I’m sure by the time your ice cream is ready to be spread, your pretzel crust will be ready to receive it.
Next, press the peanuts into the ice cream and return the pan to the freezer for another 30 minutes (allowing the soft ice cream to have a chance to firm up again before being topped with ganache.) At this point, you can pour the ganache – or even sooner, while you’re waiting for the chilled crust and soft serve ice cream – because it also takes 20 to 30 minutes to get to room temperature.
So in an ideal world for making ice cream bars, the ganache will be cool enough to pour over the ice around the same time the ice cream has hardened enough that spreading the ganache is a foolproof job.
This is how you quickly bring ganache to room temperature: To further streamline the assembly of these bars, stop melting your chocolate, whether on the stovetop or in the microwave, when you can still see chunks of solid chocolate in the mix. Stir the pieces from the heat into the ganache until melted and smooth. Melting those last little bits from the fire will help lower the temperature of the melted chocolate. The ganache needs to cool further on the counter, but you’ll have a head start on getting it to room temperature.
Following these tips will not only improve your ice bar game, much to the delight of your family and friends, but will also enable you to get your hands on the bars as quickly as possible; and that is why they will love you forever.
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ahead: The crust can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 days.
Storage: The bars can be frozen in a zip lock bag for up to 2 weeks.
For the crust and filling
- 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus more at room temperature for greasing the pan
- 2 1/2 cups (8 ounces/226 grams) finely ground pretzels (about 4 1/2 cups whole pretzels, ground in a food processor or crushed in a zip lock bag with a rolling pin; see NOTE
- 6 tablespoons (75 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 1/2 quarts (783 grams) store-bought vanilla ice cream
- 9 ounces (255 grams) chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2 cups (about 254 grams) roasted and salted peanuts, roughly chopped
- About 1 tablespoon each chopped peanuts and crushed pretzels, to sprinkle
Make the crust: Grease the bottom of a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan with softened butter. In a large bowl, combine the crushed pretzels, melted butter, sugar and salt and mix with a flexible spatula (or your hands) until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Scrape into the prepared pan and press the bottom of the pan with your hands or the back of a dry measuring cup to create a firm, flat layer. Freeze for about 30 minutes.
Make the ganache: In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water) combine the chocolate, heavy cream, and corn syrup and heat until about three-quarters of the chocolate melts, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally with a flexible spatula. Remove from heat and stir until chocolate is completely melted. (Alternatively, microwave the chocolate, whipped cream, and corn syrup on HIGH in a microwave-safe bowl, in bursts of 30 seconds, microwave for about 90 seconds, stirring in between until a thick and glossy sauce forms.) Cool completely.
About 20 minutes before you are ready to assemble, transfer the ice cream to the counter to soften. Using a spatula or large spoon, spread the soft ice cream evenly over the frozen pretzel crust, sprinkle with the peanuts and gently press into the ice cream.
Transfer to the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes (even if your ganache has completely cooled, it’s a good idea to let the ice cream and peanuts harden in the freezer for about 20 minutes before adding the ganache).
Pour the ganache over the peanuts and spread evenly with a spatula or the back of a large spoon until smooth. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and crushed pretzels and place back in the freezer until firm, at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.
Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the bars into 16 or 24 squares, taking care not to nick the bottom of the pan. Hold the knife under hot water and dry it after each slice. Use an offset spatula to lift the bars out of the pan.
NOTE: The crushed pretzels should be a mixture of small crumbs and dusty bits – you want to avoid dust standing up.
Per serving (a 2 by 3 inch slice)
Calories: 501; Total fat: 35 g; Saturated fat: 18 g; Cholesterol: mg; Sodium: 72mg; Carbohydrates: 43 g; Dietary fiber: 3 g; sugar: 25 g; Protein: 8 grams
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietician or nutritionist.
From cookbook author Jessie Sheehan.
Tested by Suzy Leonard; e-mail questions to [email protected]†
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