Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gratifying Concoction

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

Earlier this year I tried my hand at a version of Baked Alaska, so this time I opted to just complete the Petit Fours part of the challenge. I made a browned butter pound cake, sandwiched between a rich yogurt lemon ice cream and coated with a dark chocolate glaze.

I also attempted Petit Fours for my nephew's baptism earlier this year. I thought it would be such a fun idea to make small square Petit Fours, cover them in green frosting and pipe CTR on the top with white frosting. The sponge cakes varied from this cake, and I filled them with Blackberry Pear jam, but whichever, or whoever came up with the Petit Four glaze I used for the frosting should never pick up a spatula, rubbing scraper, or bowl again. The frosting was disgusting, and the proportions all wrong. It ruined my brilliant idea. I'm still mad about it, partly because the lesson learned to not wait until the last minute is one I still haven't grasped, and party because although the recipe seemed a little off to me I went with it anyway.
Ice Cream Petit Fours (click for Elissa's recipe and instructions)

Browned butter is a simple yet exhilarating baking discovery. As the butter simmers in the pan, it fills your kitchen with its scent metamorphosing into a deeply rich and gratifying concoction of butter brought to the brink of ruin, and finished with a sweet, thick, resonating flavor. Elissa describes brown butter has having a lovely nutty smell, and while true, to me, it smells like the beginnings of toffee. It is a smell I remember from my Grandmother's house-exquisite and comforting.

*Although the cake in this recipe is a pound cake, I found the batter much to thick for my liking and added 1 cup of butter milk to the recipe alternating with the flour. I also substituted my own lemon ice cream recipe found below.

Lemon Yogurt Ice Cream
2 cups milk
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
Zest and juice from 3 lemons
Whisk together and place into stovetop pan
Turn heat to high to scald milk and bring it to the boiling point, stiring constantly
Remove from heat, and add 2 cups heavy whipping cream
When mixture has cooled slightly add 1 cup plain yogurt
Chill overnight
Churn according to Ice Cream Maker Instructions

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stand By Me

We have a list two pages long tacked to our fridge; it is our to do list on the house. Two solid pages of indoor and outdoor projects from growing grass and weeding, to replacing the hole in the bathroom floor from when we moved the toilet.

At the very top of that list: Buy a Washer and Dryer... if only it were that easy. Before we can do that, we first have to finish the laundry room in the basement which involves relaying the cement floor as now it is a pile of rubble from when Gabriel jack hammered the floor to lay piping for a second bathroom. Not to mention, the two page list on the fridge doesn't include the basement or the attic - and therein lies the crux of the problem.

To buoy our spirits in the meantime, we used the concrete blocks from the basement floor to form a ring of stones in our backyard to create a fire pit. I love a campfire - between the scent of burning wood, the sense of adventure that comes from fire and nature, and the sweet memories it elicits from my childhood I am never more content.

I can't help but be reminded of the movie, Stand By Me whenever we have a campfire. I have always absolutely adored this movie. I remember being on a kick for the longest time where "sincerely" followed my every sentence. My sister Pammy and I used to pretend we had leeches stuck to us that we had to pry off one another. Plus, the movie was based in Oregon so I can't deny feeling a little homage. I can not help but think of this movie when I am camping, exploring back woods and ghost towns, or just roasting marshmallows in my backyard. The exploration of innocence combined with adolescent egotism in this film is extraordinarily compelling and true to life. Every young boy's spirit can be seen in these four boys. The director/producer captured their spirit in conjecture with their unfortunate circumstances so poignantly, one can not help but be captivated by the story telling. 

When August's Mac Tweets theme: A Summer Flick was announced there was no dilemma when it came to deciding what to make. Nothing says summer like a campfire, nothing says campfire like s'mores, and nothing reminds me more of Stand By Me than all of the above. One thing just led to another. Besides, I've had this idea of a macaron for some time now. I must admit though, I re- watched this movie after deciding on the theme, and I don't know how I ever got away with watching it as a child - it's rated R for a reason... it's pretty vulgar.

S'more Macarons
110 g powdered sugar
60g finely ground graham cracker crumbs
Sift together

Whip 60g egg whites (of 2 eggs) to soft peaks
Add 40g granulated sugar and whip to stiff peaks
Fold flour into egg whites in two batches
Stir just until whites are incorporated
Spoon batter into piping bag, minus the tip and pipe even circles onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Let rest for 15 minutes - 1 hour
Bake at 310F°, 10-15 minutes until feet have puffed and outer shell is hard
Peel off parchment paper once cooled
Match tops and bottoms and place ½ large marshmallow on one macaron cookie
Place under broiler in oven until toasted
Immediately top with one square of Hershey's Chocolate and second macaron cookie

I've read that when making macarons you shouldn't substitute more than ½ the almond flour with any other type of nut or flour, however with no disrespect intended, that never really made sense to me. The reason macarons are macarons is because they are a meringue cookie; they puff and establish feet because of whipped egg whites. So I set out to disprove that rule, and this recipe proves my theory.

One year ago: Rain or Shine, Campfire Cookies

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Candy Bar Cupcakes

At the beginning of the year I shared with you all a special indulgence: Candy Bar Pizza. I told you that this is the dessert I turn to for comfort, but what I left out, this is really the dessert I turn to for a lot of reasons, some reasons that don't even exist.

It's been nagging at me for a while to transform these bar cookies into a cupcake, and they turned out just as tasty as the cookies with the added indulgence of being soft and fluffy.

Candy Bar Cupcakes

4-8 of your favorite candy bars, plus 1 bag of favorite M&M's
(Twix, Payday, Reeses, Snickers, Rolo's, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Kit Kat, Nestle Crunch)
Crush, cut and mash into tiny pieces
Mix together in a bowl, set aside

Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache Frosting
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup chopped chocolate
½ cup cream
Melt together over low heat, stiring constantly, until incorporated
Remove from heat and let cool
When completely cooled whip with beaters until fluffy

1 ½ sticks softened butter
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
Cream together until fluffy

1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
Mix together until color lightens
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups buttermilk
½ cup mini chocolate chips
Stir until flour is incorporated

Pour evenly into cupcake liners, ¾ full
Bake at F350°, 10-12 minutes until edges just begin to brown
Remove from oven, let cool

Frost with peanut butter chocolate ganache and top with candy bars
One Year Ago: My Only Advice, Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Key Lime Pie

'Tis the season for citrus; it is refreshing, cool and tickles your bones as it rushes through your body - why wouldn't you love it? Plus, you can eat it outdoors on a hot day without adding to the penetrating, suffocating heat you must already endure. Naturally the best part about summer, in my opinion, is the produce.

But... I have a confession to make. I see other food bloggers constantly post about the particular types of fruit they use, such as Meyer Lemons... Now, I know there are different types of apples, grapes, oranges, etc. I'm not totally inept, but lemons? And I must confess, I thought, in large part, the different names meant little more than a brand.

And though I'd heard of key limes, I was never too keen to go to so much effort to pick them out, especially when big, fat, plump limes were always at my disposal. However, just by chance, I saw a beautiful stack of tiny little key limes at Fresh Market the other day... I snatched up them and proudly announced my selection when the cashier looked at them and said, "What the hell are these?"

I was pretty excited to make Key Lime Pie, with real key limes for the first time. I brought home several key limes and set to work grating and squeezing the juice. I got through 5 and measured out the juice - it was just 1 teaspoon... I needed 1 cup. I drove back up to the Fresh Market and reverted back to the big, fat, plump key limes.
Key Lime Pie

It was just as good, and a whole lot easier. Now, I don't know if there is a discernible difference between limes, or lemons for that matter, I just know what tastes good and that's good enough for me.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon sugar
Mix together and press onto bottom of tart pan, and along edges
Bake at F350°, 5 minutes, until lightly toasted

1 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon lime zest
14oz condensed milk
2 eggs
Whisk together until smooth, pour over crust
Bake at 375°F, 15 minutes until set
Chill at least 2 hours
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream

One Year Ago: Main Street Ice Cream, Pecan Log Ice Cream

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