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Archive for August, 2010

Blog-checking lines: 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”.

Apparently Baked Alaska was a hugely popular dessert in the 1970s – around the time the fondue set was a common wedding present (I think my parents received 5 sets).  I had never eaten or seen it before, so had no preconceptions of what it should look or taste like. I did however have some clear thoughts about ice cream, having ventured into the world of ice cream making for the last challenge and having spent some time reading David Lebovitz’ very amusing blog and following him on Twitter. David seems to be the ice cream king and I was drawn to his recipe for caramelised pear ice cream. I actually found the recipe through another blog, so thank you to Michael for sharing this recipe –

Pear-Caramel Ice Cream
Summarized from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz
Makes about 1 quart
Vegetarian and gluten-free; not vegan

* 3 medium-sized ripe pears, peeled and cored
* 3/4 c. + 2 tablespoons sugar
* 2 cups heavy cream
* 1/8 teaspooon coarse salt
* a few drops of fresh lemon juice

1. Dice the pears into 1/4-inch pieces.
2. Spread the sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, carefully watching and stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula until melted.
3. When the sugar is a deep amber, stir in the pears. The caramel will seize, that’s ok. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally (again with a heat-proof spatula – caramel will burn heck out of you) for ten minutes. The sugar will have dissolved.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the cream, then mix in the rest of the cream, salt, and lemon juice.
5. Cool to room temp, puree until smooth, press through a strainer.
6. Chill according to your ice-cream maker manufacturer’s instructions.

This is seriously good ice cream. You should make it.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (I followed Elissa’s tip of making cake flour by adding cornflour to plain flour)
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.

2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes. I used the wrong sized tin (why, why don’t have cake tins have their size printed on the side?!) and it took much longer than this to cook.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Italian Meringue

Elissa included a recipe for meringue but I was concerned that that recipe would result in a soft, unstable meringue so I used an italian meringue recipe instead. I was happy with this substitution, which also meant that the egg whites were cooked by the hot sugar. The recipe I used is below, although I halved it.

1 cup of sugar + 2 tbsp
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites

Combine 1 cup sugar and water in a sauce pan and boil until it reaches 240 degrees. While that is boiling, start beating the egg whites. Once they start to get foamy add the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and beat until peaks form. Once the syrup mixture gets to 240 add it to the egg whites slowly drizzling down the side of the bowl. Continue to beat the egg whites until mixture has cooled.

Assembly

1. Line four 4” (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.

2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose (eating!). I only made 2 small Baked Alaskas and, as I had used the wrong sized tin, the cake was also too high so I just cut out one circle and cut that in half horizontally.

3. Make the meringue.

4. Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.

5. Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.

6. Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaskas on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.

I find the Daring Bakers Challenges duly challenging on a number of levels. Apart from the technical elements of each challenge, my poor time management and tendency to leave everything to the last minute, I also have to time it so I have people to eat the results of each challenge. I’m not a massive dessert eater – I’m more of a feeder than an eater – and sometimes the poor husband just isn’t up to eating a 10 person dessert all on his own. So when my parents came over for dinner at short notice I rushed to complete the challenge so they could be the guinea pigs. The only problem with this plan is that, despite having bought a nifty cooks’ blow torch, I hadn’t had time to buy any butane to power it. So in stepped my handy engineer dad, who found our heat gun (I had no idea we even owned a heat gun) and powered it up to brown the meringue!

I think the heat gun worked quite well actually, and I was pretty happy with the end result overall. More importantly, my parental test guinea pigs were happy and my husband did not have to suffer ice cream overload. So a happy ending all round! As for the blowtorch, I have plans for it. Ginger creme brulee tart plans. Stay tuned…

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