Friday, August 27, 2010

Daring Bakers': Baked Alaska


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”.


Although Petit Fours are one of my all time favorite desserts, I decided to make the Baked Alaska for this challenge.  Have no fear, I will make Petit Fours one day!  The Baked Alaska dessert was created by Delmonico's restaurant in New York City in 1876 in honor of the new acquisition of Alaska from Russia.   The dessert consists of cake and ice cream encompassed by a layer of baked meringue.  Often times the meringue is lit on fire, but for this challenge I used a cooking blow torch to toast the shell.


It is rare nowadays to find Baked Alaska on the dessert menu in restaurants, but you can be sure you'll see this dish on a cruise ship.  The parade of the Baked Alaskas has become a ritual for most cruise lines.  On the final night of the cruise the servers will parade around the dining room with flaming Baked Alaskas and put on a show for the guests.  This spectacle is what I immediately think of every time I hear the term Baked Alaska.


While I didn't light my Baked Alaska on fire nor did I parade it around my condo, I did invite a few friends over to enjoy this refreshing dessert on a hot summer evening.  The Baked Alaska had the most delicious sweet buttery taste that at first I thought came from the Brown Butter Pound Cake.  After a few more bites I realized what I tasted was in fact the baked meringue and I just couldn't stop myself!  I made two different ice creams for this challenge- coconut and cherry.  While the coconut ice cream came out a bit icy, the cherry ice cream was phenomenal.  It was so rich and creamy and the cherries added great texture to each bite.  The flavor combination of the pound cake with the ice cream and the baked meringue was one of the best I've ever tasted.


If you do not have a cooking blow torch you can still make a Baked Alaska.  You will simply put the Baked Alaska in the oven on high heat for about 5 minutes or just until the edges start to brown.  I actually tried one Baked Alaska in the oven and was worried the ice cream would melt.  Little did I know that the meringue layer provides a shell for the ice cream and keeps it from melting. 


I made a few larger versions of the Bake Alaska and also threw in a couple mini sized versions.  The little ones were just too cute to pass up!



Baked Alaska
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, Erica's Edibles, and Kirbie's Cravings

Cherry Ice Cream
adapted from Erica's Edibles

Ingredients

3/4 cup caster sugar
2 1/2 cups of whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup caster sugar

Directions

Wash, stem and pit the cherries.  Mix the cherries and 3/4 cup of caster sugar and set aside for 2 hours. Stir occasionally as the juices come out of the cherries

In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, vanilla, and whipping cream, whisk lightly until everything is mixed together.  Add the cherries and stir until combined and the mixture is now light pink/purple.

Pour into a freezer friendly container (I used a pyrex baking dish) and freeze until firm around the edges.  This should take about 30-45 minutes.  Remove from the freezer and beat with a mixer until smooth and return to the freezer.  Repeat this every 30-40 minutes for about 3-4 hours until the mixture is set completely.  

Coconut Ice Cream  

Ingredients

1 1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup cane sugar 

Directions

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring all of the ingredients to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and chill the mixture thoroughly.  Once chilled pour into a freezer friendly container and repeat the steps listed above for the Cherry Ice Cream.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

Ingredients

19 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) 
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions
 
Preheat the oven to 325°F and put a rack in the center.  Butter and flour a 9”x9” square pan.

Place the butter in a 10” 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, about 15 minutes.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  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 add the vanilla extract.  Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” 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.

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

Meringue

Ingredients

8 large egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar

Directions
 
Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly Instructions

Line four 4” diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all of 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.  (I actually used three small salsa bowls and two shot glasses instead of the 4" tea cups.  I made sure to cut out the rounds of the pound cake before putting the ice cream in the bowls/glasses.)

Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.

Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round.  If you have trouble getting the ice cream out of the cups simply wet a dish rag with warm water and wipe the bottom of the cup once inverted on top of the cake round.  Trim any extra cake if necessary.

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.

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 oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.


I almost didn't want to cut into the Baked Alaskas because they were just so pretty.  I loved photographing them.


Above and below are the Baked Alaskas using salsa bowls for the ice cream.


Below is a Baked Alaska using the shot glass for the ice cream.


Amazing recipe overall.  Elissa, thanks for a great challenge!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies


No it's not a typo.  These cookies actually have potato chips in them!  You can turn your nose and say you won't like them, but once you have a bite you'll be grabbing for seconds and thirds and fourths.  I agree, it's an unusual concept, but the combination creates a truly delightful chocolate chip cookie.


When I was brainstorming what to make for my friend's birthday, I needed to make sure I wasn't going to make anything she didn't like.  So I asked her to make a list of her top ten favorite desserts and top five least favorite desserts.  Her list is below.

LOVE:

  1. Haagen Daz chocolate chocolate chip ice cream
  2. Baskin Robbins mint chocolate chip ice cream
  3. black and white (brownies, cookies and cream ice cream, and peanut butter sauce)
  4. hot fudge sundae
  5. chocolate brownies (alone or with ice cream)
  6. cupcakes
  7. bananas foster
  8. nilla wafers, vanilla pudding and bananas
  9. fondue
  10. s’mores
HATE:
  1. things with pieces of fruit in them
  2. things with fruit sauce
  3. fruity things
  4. fruit covered in other dessert like things
  5. things with fruit on top

I was happy that she took this so seriously and gave me two great lists.  Okay...so I wasn't going to make anything with fruit!!  And I didn't exactly make anything from her LOVE list, but I figured the chocolate chips could sneak on by and I would make her something straight from the list next year.  :) 


The potato chip cookies were a complete surprise.  I expected them to have a real contrast of sweet and salty, but they didn't.  Because there is no added salt in the recipe, the potato chips provided the usual amount of saltiness plus a real CRUNCH.  That's the special part.  The cookies were light and crunchy and you could really feel yourself biting down on the bits of crushed chips.  They were actually really fun to eat.

Potato Chip Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Buns In My Oven which is adapted from Taste of Home “Best Summer Desserts” 

Ingredients

1 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 cups crushed potato chips (I used Lays Classic Potato Chips)
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions
 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs.  Combine the flour and baking soda and slowly add to the creamed sugar mixture.  Mix well.  Stir in the crushed potato chips and chocolate chips.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  If you are making large cookies you may want to keep them in the oven for about 14 minutes.  Cool for 1 minute before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.


The recipe made about four dozen cookies, so be prepared to let your willpower go out the door!


The cookies went great with a nice cold glass of milk.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Coconut Laddoos


I discovered my love of Indian food about three years ago and really just can't get enough!  As much as I love the food I can't say I had ever had an Indian dessert before making these Laddoos.  When my friend and I decided to cook Indian for dinner one night I figured we should make it a meal and include an authentic dessert.  After searching all day for the perfect recipe we settled on Coconut Laddoos.  If you know me well you certainly know of my love for coconut, so I figured an Indian dessert with coconut would be just perfect.


The Laddoos were simple to make, but had a very sophisticated tasted.  They were extremely sweet, but delicious nonetheless.  The flavor of the cardamom really penetrated throughout the Laddoos and combined well with the sweetness of the coconut and the milk.  They were a nice and refreshing end to our Indian meal! 

If you want to read more about India you should check out my friend Ben's blog.  He is currently living in New Delhi and has amazing stories about his adventures and fabulous photos of what he's seen.  

Coconut Laddoos
adapted from Fun and Food Blog

Ingredients

1 can condensed milk
2 1/2 cups shredded coconut
2 tsp cardamom powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts and pecans)

Directions

Set aside 1/2 cup of coconut for the garnish.  Mix the condensed milk and 2 cups of the coconut in a large pan.  Add the sugar and cardamom powder and stir on a low heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the chopped nuts, and set aside until the mixture has cooled down enough to handle with your hands.

At this point my mixture wasn't firm enough to roll into balls, so I put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  I then shaped the mixture into small round balls (Laddoos) and rolled them in coconut.  I placed the Laddoos back in the fridge for another 20-30 minutes and then served.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fluffernutter Muffins


Fluffernutter...have you heard this term before?  If not, go check any college dining hall and I am sure you will find a few students snacking on this sweet treat.  A fluffernutter, for those not familiar, is a sandwich made of marshmallow fluff and peanut butter.  It's simple to make and requires very few ingredients, thus it's a college staple. 


Working full time and taking graduate courses part time has made me miss my college days.  Peanut butter and marshmallow fluff is such a great combination, so when I came across this recipe I just knew I had to try it.  I actually misread the recipe at first and dropped 1 Tbsp. of fluff into the muffin cups instead of 1 tsp.  Even though my proportions were a bit off, I liked the way the fluff exploded through the top of the muffin; so that's why I wrote below to use a heaping tsp. when you drop your fluff.  The next time I make this recipe I think I will bump up the white chocolate chips to 6 oz. and then add 4 oz. to the actual batter and 2 oz. on top.


Fluffernutter Muffins
adapted from Sugar Plum 
Ingredients

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 large bananas, mashed
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
12 heaping teaspoons marshmallow fluff
2 oz. white chocolate, roughly chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 12-cup regular muffin pan and a 12-cup mini muffin pan with liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together the mashed bananas, peanut butter, brown sugar, and oil until creamy - about 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and egg until combined.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk.

Divide 1/3 of the batter into the muffin cup bottoms.  Place a heaping teaspoon of marshmallow fluff into each center and then take 2 oz. of the white chocolate and evenly distribute into the centers.


Top with the remaining muffin batter and then sprinkle the remaining 2 oz. of white chocolate on top.


Bake 20-22 minutes or until light golden brown and risen.  Cool 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.


I made 12 regular sized muffins and 12 mini muffins with this recipe.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nutella-Banana Swirl Muffins


There are a bunch of bakers in my office and as I've mentioned previously when it comes to special occasions we get together to coordinate baked goods for the special day.  One of my best friend's had her last day at the office on Friday, so the bakers found yet another excuse to hit our kitchens.  I recently found a new muffin recipe and figured this would be a nice time to give it a try.  The recipe was a simple vanilla cake with nutella, so for extra flavor I decided to add in banana.  Who doesn't like banana and chocolate?! 


The muffins turned out so light and fluffy and the banana made them incredibly moist.  The chocolate added just the right amount of sweetness for these muffins to be perfect for both breakfast and dessert.  Everyone at the office gave them rave reviews.  Let me know what you think!

Nutella-Banana Swirl Muffins
adapted from Leslie Sarna

Ingredients

3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
2 medium sized bananas
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 jar of nutella (or other chocolate hazelnut spread)
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Fill the cupcake pans with liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Mash the bananas and set aside for use later.  Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and mix on low speed into the flour mixture.  Add the milk and the vanilla extract and mix on medium for one minute.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing in between each addition.  Mix in the mashed bananas until just incorporated.  Pour the batter into the cupcake pans and drop 1 tsp of nutella into each muffin in 2-3 places.  Take a toothpick and swirl the nutella around.  
Bake for 15-20 minutes (mine took about 16-17 minutes), just until the edges brown.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  These are best served warm.
This recipe made 24 regular sized muffins and 24 mini muffins.