Saturday, August 28, 2010
daring bakers, august.
I must confess, I hadn't planned on completing the challenge this month. Despite having already used up my 'free passes' for the year, that little voice in the back of my head kept saying, "Can't be bothered." And, up to the very last day of the challenge, I hadn't bothered to seriously consider it. And then, having little to do on the final evening, I thought, "Hold on, I love frozen cake. And I love brown butter. And I really love Elissa's 17 and Baking blog."
So here it is. I made brown butter pound cake petit fours, filled with vanilla ice cream and covered in a dark chocolate glaze. Crumbs leftover from leveling my cake made the perfect decoration. The cake itself was nutty, rich, and not too sweet. It freezes nicely, giving it a good bite when frozen.
While photographing these little cakes, I marveled at how nice plates make all the difference to a photograph. These ones were part of my birthday gift from M, from the Royal Albert series of teacups. The one featured here is the 1930's Polka Rose.
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”.
Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)
2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.
3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.
4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2007/07/making_ice_crea_1.html
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) (See “Note” section for cake flour substitution)
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 center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
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.
9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.
Assembly Instructions – Ice Cream Petit Fours
1. Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.
2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.
3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.
4. Make the chocolate glaze (see above.)
5. While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm).
6. Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it.
7. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
In celebration of my recent birthday, I had a picnic, not for the faint-hearted, on Hampstead Heath this weekend. The weather forecast was pretty grim, but we stuck it out anyway and sheltered under my favourite tree. Thankfully, the rain held off and we were able to enjoy a feast of courgette tarts, quiche, salads, pie, and cake.
The pie in this case was the peach, marscapone, and streusel pie I promised to bake a few months back. And it was truly outstanding. Sweet, rich, and fragrant with soft peaches - by far the best I've had. And it disappeared pretty quickly, which is always a good sign. The recipe below, from Martha Stewart, calls for creme fraiche, but I went for marscapone and that worked really well.
FOR THE PATE SUCREE
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
FOR THE STREUSEL
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup cold (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 pounds ripe (4 to 5 medium) yellow peaches, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons creme fraiche
Make the pate sucree: Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. add egg yolk, and pulse. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until dough just holds together. Turn out dough onto a work surface; shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to 2 days).
Make the streusel: Sift together sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate (about 1 1/2 inches deep). Trim edge to 1 inch; fold under, and crimp as desired. Pierce bottom of dough all over with a fork. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover edge of crust with foil. Line crust with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake, covered, 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment (keep foil on edge). Bake until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly; remove foil; reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Make the filling: Put peaches into a medium bowl, and sprinkle with sugar and salt; gently toss to coat. let stand 15 minutes. Spread 2 tablespoons creme fraiche onto bottom of crust; sprinkle with one-third of the streusel. Arrange peaches on top; spread or dot with remaining 3 tablespoons creme fraiche. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.
Bake pie until creme fraiche is bubbling and streusel is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Cover edge of crust with foil if it's browning too quickly. Let cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
This is an old favourite that I like to make each summer - it started out as peach-rosemary jam, but quickly morphed into a jewel-coloured, translucent, pink plum-thyme jam. It's very softly set, best served out with a spoon, and spreads into a pool of delicate plummy sweetness. Here is the recipe once again, with a few photos.
Peach Rosemary or Plum Thyme Jam
1 lb. peaches or plums (peel the peaches by cutting a slit, dropping them into boiling water, and removing the skins), pitted and chopped
2 cups of sugar or 2 cups of unsweetened grape juice concentrate (the jam won't be too sweet, but mostly tart)
a handful of fresh thyme or rosemary sprigs
a squirt of fresh lemon juice
I don't use any pectin in this recipe because both peaches and plums have enough to set into a great, soft jam on their own.
Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl and allow it to sit in the fridge overnight, stirring occasionally until all the sugar dissolves.
Bring to a boil in a big saucepan, and cook for about 20 minutes at medium heat, mashing up the fruit chunks. Remove the thyme/rosemary once the jam is sticky and reduced, and bottle according to your favourite method. I process these in boiling water for about 7 minutes, and then leave them to cool upright for 24 hours. They almost always all seal! It keeps for a good year, but refrigerate after opening.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I have a funny feeling about France. I'm simultaneously drawn to the landscapes, architecture, language, fashion, and frustrated by the cuisine. I know, saying such a thing is dangerous - I love French food, but I can so rarely eat it for all the meat it involves. The last time I was in France, on a sustainable food conference no less, I spent most of the weekend hungry. I attended (as part of the conference) a six-course, Michelen-starred meal at which I couldn't eat a thing - and no one seemed to care. And the following morning we were encouraged, as young food activists, to eat less meat and to go vegetarian. It all seemed a bit odd to me, and between hunger pangs I spent some time thinking about all the French food I would love to eat, sans meat.
Cassoulet, for example, is a prime example of a dish that just exudes both French and carnivorous sensibilities. Rich and heartening, it's the kind of thing I'd like to eat as a vegetarian - without the sausage, chicken, etc. This is a lighter summer twist on it - completely veggie, but still as flavourful. My mom sent me some of her homemade herbs de provence the other week, so they feature heavily here. Delish.
1 or 2 cups of runner beans, topped and tailed
1 tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 carrot, chopped
1 small aubergine, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 small tomatoes, chopped or one tin of tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. herbs de provence
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
Slowly sauté your onions in olive oil over medium heat, adding in your garlic once they are translucent. Add in your carrot and aubergine, and stir occasionally to keep them from sticking. Add in your courgette, tomato paste, and tomatoes, topping the mixture up with about 1/2 cup of water (use your judgement here). Simmer for five minutes, and then stir in your butter beans, herbs, and season to taste. Add in your runner beans and simmer for a further five minutes. Cover and bake in an oven at 350 degrees F for about an hour, checking after forty minutes if it needs a splash more water. Allow to cool slightly before serving.