Saturday, August 28, 2010

Brown Butter, Strawberry and Vanilla Ice Cream Cake: August Daring Bakers Challenge

The 'reveal date' for the Daring Bakers Challenge is always the 27th of the month and whilst I have usually baked the challenge recipe well in advance this month I was up late into the night layering cake and ice cream and I am thanking my lucky stars that while it's now the 28th August here in America it's still the 27th...

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”.

Rather than make Petit Fours I decided to make an ice cream layer cake using three layers of pound cake, two layers of strawberry and vanilla jam and two layers of vanilla bean ice cream plus a layer of chocolate ganache on top. Despite using a cake ring the overall effect was quite messy but (I think) quite appealing.

The recipes given with this challenge are fantastic. I've never used browned butter before and I was amazed by the rich nutty flavour it gives to a cake. If you enjoy rich buttery vanilla cakes (hello Mum!) this is the recipe for you.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake 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 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.

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.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rhubarb and Vanilla Tart

I've often flicked through Martha Stewart's Baking Companion and admired the picture of her rhubarb tart. I've read the recipe many times and always baulk at the idea of a cream cheese filling so rather than work directly from Martha's recipe I've used it as inspiration instead.

My rhubarb and vanilla tart is comprised of a pate sucree base, a vanilla creme patissiere folded through lightly whipped cream, and rhubarb gently poached in a vanilla syrup.

The rhubarb was lovely and tart, a beautiful contrast to the sweetness of the custard filling. Really you could top this tart with any fruit, fresh raspberries and figs would be gorgeous. Or another winter fruit poached with vanilla and rosewater.

Poached Rhubarb

1 bunch rhubarb
150ml water
150g sugar
1 vanilla bean

Place the sugar, water and vanilla bean into a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Wash and slice the rhubarb into 4 cm long pieces and place it into the sugar syrup. Cover and immediately remove from heat. The rhubarb will gently poach as the liquid cools.

Pate Sucree
Makes enough for 2 x 7" pastry cases so I only used half for my tart and froze the remainder. This recipe is a lazy food processor version of Damien Pignolet's Pate Sucree.

25g pure icing sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk plus sufficient iced water to make 45ml of liquid
180g plain flour, sifted
1/4tsp salt
135g cold butter, cut into 1.5cm dice

In a small bowl place egg yolk mixture and icing sugar and whisk to combine. In a food processor combine the flour, salt and butter and mix until crumbs form. Slowly add the egg/icing sugar mix and process until a rough ball of dough forms. Do not over mix.
Wrap the dough in glad wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Flour the benchtop and roll out the dough to 5mm thick. Fill pastry cases, leaving a 1.5cm overhang which you then fold back over into the tin, leaving a small amount raised slightly above the rim.
Line the pastry shells with foil or baking paper and freeze for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Fill the shells with pie weights and bake for 10 minutes or until the walls appear to be set. Remove the pie weights and continue to bake at 170 degrees Celsius until the shell is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
Creme Patissiere Filling

Remember my favourite creme patissiere recipe? All you need to do is make a batch and fold half of it through 1 cup of lightly whipped cream. You can use the remainder of the creme patissiere to create vanilla custard and banana crepes for your beloved if you like. I did.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

I know, unless you've spent some serious time in America you're wondering what on earth these things are. I can tell you that they are also known as 'gobs', 'black and whites' and 'BFO's (Big Fat Oreos!) And according to food historians, Amish women would bake these (known as hucklebucks at the time) and put them in farmers' lunch boxes. Upon discovering their lunch treats the farmers would shout 'Whoopie!'

In essence Whoopie Pies are two chocolate flavoured cookie shaped cakes stuck together with a creamy marshmallow filling. Over time the flavours have evolved to include such exotic combinations as banana whoopie with matcha buttercream and vanilla whoopie with root beer marshmallow filling.

For my first foray into making Whoopie Pies I decided to use a tried and true flavour combination - chocolate and peanut butter. I recently bought Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell's book 'Whoopie Pies' which is devoted to providing an enormous variety of cake and filling recipes and encourages serious mixing and matching. The book is completely adorable, and that's not a word I'd usually use to describe a book I can assure you.

Look at the perfect peanut butter filling!

And look at Rahul enjoying the satisfaction of squidging the Whoopie Pies together! The whole exercise was really fun.

Next time I'm going to attempt a pistachio cardamom whoopie with rose filling. Or perhaps a peanut butter whoopie with banana buttercream. Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Afghan Biscuits

This week my mum had keyhole surgery on her ankle and requested a good dose of love, affection and Afghans. Apparently Afghans are a comfort food that she'd been fed as a child by her grandmother and has an occasional hankering for. After conducting a little research I found that they are a classic Kiwi biscuit containing exotic ingredients including Kellogs' Corn Flakes and Cadbury Bourneville Cocoa. Google found me a wide range of recipes however I settled on using one that I found on Not Quite Nigella (thanks Lorraine!)

Both Rahul and the invalid deemed the biscuits a great success, and to be honest they're very simple to make so they'll definitely be added to my repertoire.


For the biscuits
  • 170g softened butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 180g flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 60g cornflakes, crushed into smallish bits

For the icing
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 45g butter
  • 190g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • walnut halves to decorate


For the biscuits:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift dry ingredients over the butter and sugar and mix together. The batter will be in little lumps. Knead in cornflakes and then gather little balls of the mix, round them by rolling them between your palms and place on a baking tray. Press down with a fork to flatten them slightly.
  3. Bake for 12-14 minutes, remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

For the icing:
  1. Heat the water, caster sugar and butter over a low heat until butter has melted and simmer for a minute to form a syrup.
  2. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl and then pour in the syrup whilst constantly whisking the mixture. Add some hot water to thin out the icing. (I did this a tablespoon at a time until I was happy with the consistency.) The icing needs to be thick enough to hold its shape but thin enough to spread and set nicely on the biscuit.
  3. Using a teaspoon place some icing at the centre of the biscuit and then decorate with a walnut half. Leave to set.
  4. You need to use the icing straight away as it will set. I found that the bowl of icing started to set as I was decorating the cookies however this was easily fixed by adding a splash of water and giving it a good whisk.