PERRY — Nearly a decade ago, Travis Barlow was looking for a dessert that would stand out from the fare offered at other restaurants. After much trial-and-error, he landed on what has become his signature dish, the Canned Brownie Sundae.
The dessert is one of the few mainstays on the ever-changing menu at The Hole in the Wall Restaurant, 7056 Standpipe Rd., where Barlow is head chef. And it’s unlike anything you’re likely to find elsewhere.
The recipe begins with a double fudge brownie that isn’t baked. It’s actually cooked through the canning process. Barlow lines the bottom of a 6-ounce mason jar with either caramel or peanut butter, pours in the brownie batter, seals the jar and boils it. Once the jar has cooled, Barlow pops off the lid and adds a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
“The original idea was for a chocolate cake,” Barlow explained Thursday at the restaurant. “When it came time to try it, it was real fudgy and tasted more like a brownie. So I went with a brownie instead.”
The sundae is beautifully plated with the lid underneath the jar to catch any melted ice cream that runs down the sides, a cup of hot fudge, and a long spoon filled with homemade whipped cream and topped with a chocolate garnish. The sundae also gets topped with a sage blossom and a mint sprig that were picked from the restaurant’s garden.
The catalyst for the dessert was a beer dinner at the restaurant. But there was one major difference. The sundae didn’t include caramel or peanut butter. Instead, it had blue cheese.
“The beer that was picked for the dessert was a chocolate stout,” explained Barlow’s wife, Jacquie Billings-Barlow, who helps run the restaurant with her mother, Anita Billings. “We needed something that would balance. We ended up picking a stilton blue cheese and the canned brownie and vanilla ice cream, and it was a perfect pairing. The bitterness of the blue cheese really complemented the bitterness of the beer. Anytime you get that back-and-forth from a food and beverage pairing, it’s a home run.”
The dessert was such a hit, it was added to the menu. But the owners feared the blue cheese would scare off the less adventurous diners and made the switch to caramel and peanut butter.
So how does one eat the dessert? Well, there are two schools of thought on that. You can either dump everything onto the plate and mix it together, or dig in with the long spoon and eat it right from the jar.
“That’s what’s fun about it,” Billings-Barlow said. “People do it differently.”
If you choose to eat from the jar, it’s best to let the ice cream melt a bit and let it seep through the brownie down to the caramel or peanut butter.
In a good week, the restaurant will serve upwards of 60 sundaes. And if you don’t have room for it after dinner, that’s not a problem.
“Some people will ask for it go and promise to bring back the jar,” Billings said. “And they do.”
“And if they don’t, we know,” joked Billings-Barlow. “We have good memories.”
The Canned Brownie Sundae costs $5 and comes with a side of hot fudge.
If you would like to have your restaurant profiled in Signature Dish, call Lifestyles Editor Matt Krueger at (585) 343-8000, Ext. 2129, or email email@example.com.