Soooo I'm 20?
That's going to take some getting used to. But yes, today is officially the first day of my third decade on earth! Absolutely terrifying.
I know it's a cliché, but age has always been one of the more unexplainable components of my life. In grade school, my August birthday meant that I was always the baby of the class. But for much of my teenage years, I always felt like I was more mature than the rest of my classmates. I know, it sounds pretentious. (Spoiler: I was.) Throughout most of high school, the majority of my friends were a year or two older than me. I was used to being that lone 15 year old at the senior party. Once they all went off to college, I was left with only a handful of friends that were actually my age.
Once I graduated from high school, that all seemed to change. After a last minute switch of colleges, I found myself back living at home. It was never my plan, but plans sometimes don't work out. The first two months of my freshman year were horrible —I was depressed, lonely, and just generally pretty damn miserable. As time progressed, I reclaimed my happiness via a new group of friends who just happened to be two years younger than me. It was strange at first, considering that the difference between juniors in high school and freshman in college is so much bigger than a mere difference of numbers, but the connection was a genuine one.
Despite my whole "I'm mature and over all of you people" act during high school, I really never aged properly, so to speak. Many of my “firsts” were experienced on a far more delayed schedule than others my age. The last few years of my teenage years were also notable for being the years I fell in love with One Direction and became strangely infatuated with Ross Lynch and those terrible teen magazines with thirty free posters of people that nobody over the age of 14 knows. Oh well. Today, I now realize how asinine all of that is. You know, the implied timeline for achieving certain milestones in your life. But in reality, life isn't a game and you don't have to unlock particular achievements in a timely fashion to progress. We just do.
Although I’ve been dreading this day for what seems like forever, I think I’ve finally grown okay with bidding my teenage years adieu. Everybody I have had the conversation with is telling my that my twenties will be the best years of my life. (!!!! please be true) So let’s celebrate!
Considering that my birthday falls on a Sunday this year, I’ve decided to make it extra special. I was going to bake my own birthday cake, but then I decided that birthday sundaes would be much more appropriate. So that’s what we’re doing.
Recently, I discovered that an ice cream sundae is probably one of the greatest desserts ever. I live for the contrast between hot and cold, creamy and crunchy, salty and sweet. In fact, I’ve been on such a sundae kick that I somehow had one every single day while I was in New York last month. My favorite was a salted caramel sundae with hot fudge, whipped cream, and popcorn and peanut crunch from ABC Kitchen. I took one bite before deciding that this simple ice cream sundae was one of my favorite desserts of all time. Then I proceeded to knock my mom's water glass all over her. Classic Graham. No worries, we reconciled over our sundae.
Make it at home + celebrate with me!
Popcorn and Peanut Crunch
from Bon Appetit
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces,
- 3 cups popped popcorn
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Combine popcorn and peanuts in a large mixing bowl.
Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water to boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add 6 tablespoons butter and stir until melted. Continue cooking, stirring often, until caramel is a deep amber color, 10-12 minutes.
Pour the hot caramel over popcorn and peanuts and mix to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and let cool completely. Break into pieces.
Hot Fudge Sauce
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan until smooth and combined. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer before removing from heat. Mix in butter, chocolate, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Cover to keep warm or pour into a jar and set aside.
Salty Caramel Ice Cream
(as you can tell, I cheated and bought this at the store. I mean, it's my birthday!)
from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don't add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:
Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color — like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Pour into frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.