Friday, August 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Ice Cream Petit Fours

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”.

Where to begin? The challenge this month was basically to brown butter and use it in a pound cake that was then used in Baked Alaska or Petit Fours. I have wanted to make both of these desserts for a while now and while I thought about making both I decided that our budget, waistlines, and sanity couldn't handle completing both. Therefore, since the Petit Fours could be divided easily between more people, leaving less for me to eat, I went with those.

I first made the ice cream which was easy enough because I used the same recipe I used last month, Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry from David Lebovitz. I fell in love with this ice cream last month and could literally feel myself biting into the chewy almonds just thinking about it. I didn't have any issues with this step because I felt like I had just whipped up a batch a short time ago and knew the steps, if not the measurements, by heart. (For that recipe, click here.)  

Next up, brown the butter and make the pound cake. I have to say that I have never specifically browned butter to include it in a dessert. I thought at first that this might be difficult for me since I wasn't sure at what point the butter would be browned, etc . . . However, upon making it I realized that I have indeed done this before in the form of making almond roca or toffee or any number of recipes for candies.

Yum! Doesn't that last picture look incredibly appetizing? It's almost like I just cleaned a grease trap or something. Believe it or not, that is my browned butter after sitting in the freezer for a bit. Mmmm, makes you want to stick a spoon in and eat it up. (Did you catch the sarcasm? I hope so.)

On to the pound cake. The batter mixed and baked up beautifully. I didn't exactly cut my cake evenly, but it worked well enough for its purpose.

Up until now I have followed the directions exactly. Notice I said, up until now. This is where I re-read the directions and realized that after reading them the first time about a week prior and then brushing up on the steps the day before I must have left out the middle. You know, the part that explained that you would be freezing and re-freezing overnight and re-freezing for at least an hour to get your Petit Fours to come out the way you want. Unfortunately, I couldn't follow those steps because I had guests who would be eating them a few hours later so I had to improvise.

I froze the cake so it was somewhat frozen when I slathered the ice cream between the layers. Instead of freezing the ice cream in the pan and then removing it and setting it on the bottom layer, I ended up just squishing scoops of ice cream between my hands and then patting them down in a somewhat even layer on the cake. I then put on the top layer of cake and stuck it back in the freezer to firm up before slicing.

I sliced half of the cake into skinny rows and made half of a batch of the chocolate glaze so that I could at least try to make Petit Fours for the guests I was having over for dinner. They were a bit rough around the edges but they still tasted good. The rest of the cake went back into the freezer to harden up overnight so I could play around with the look of the Petit Four the next day.

Ahhhh, the various stages of melting chocolate. Have I mentioned before that I love chocolate? While it was cooling, I was able to slice the cakes a bit more neatly and trim the rough edges away. I also was able to trim the top layer of cake a bit because that was thicker than the bottom layer.

When it came time to coat the cakes it wasn't a smooth process for me. There is a pun in there if you realize that I could not get a smooth coating of chocolate on the outside of those little cakes. It really didn't have so much to do with the ice cream melting and the cake sliding off, it was just that if the chocolate was thin enough to pour it was too hot for the ice cream and if it was cool enough for the ice cream it was a bit too thick to pour. After having some horrendously covered cakes, I made the decision to coat the top and have chocolate drizzle down the sides. Much prettier presentation and actually a nice amount of chocolate for the size of the dessert.

Although it was an interesting process, I love any excuse to make homemade ice cream, and it was on my Top 100 list of things to do, I probably won't be making these again, at least not the ice cream version. It was just a bit too much work, especially right now for our family. Who knows what the future holds though . . .

If you want the recipes for the Brown Butter Pound Cake and Chocolate Glaze, email me. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

Wow! Why in the world did it take me this long to get this post up? The bad thing is that it's been such a long wait and it wasn't even that great of a recipe. I know, kind of a let down, huh.

A while ago we had some fresh berries and some leftover whipping cream so I thought I'd whip up a quick batch of strawberry shortcake. I didn't have the time to peruse the internet for the best recipes out there so I went to my cookbook cupboard, grabbed out Betty, and flipped to page 143. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but in this particular case Betty definitely let me down. While I was whipping up the batter I was mulling over in my brain the fact that it really just sounded like plain old biscuit dough. I got past that and imagined the strawberries and whipped cream would somehow transform this blah dough into an amazing shortcake. Let's just say, it didn't. It tasted just like cut open biscuits with strawberries and whipped cream piled on top. I think there are definitely better shortcake recipes out there, in fact I've made them in the past. I'll post the recipe, but you can keep it mind that it will make better biscuits than shortcake. Enjoy!

Strawberry Shortcake (AKA Strawberry Biscuits)
Makes about 6 biscuits

1/3 cup shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 quart strawberries
sweetened whipped cream

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut shortening into flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder and salt with pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in milk just until blended. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Gently smooth into a ball. Knead 20 to 25 times. Roll 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured 3-inch cutter. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Split crosswise while hot. Fill and top with strawberries and whipped cream.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Mock" Levain Bakery Cookies

Ever heard of the Levain Bakery? Ever heard of their monster chocolate chip cookies? If you have, and you don't live in New York, then you most likely heard about them on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. And if you have not heard of them yet they are monster-monster-monster cookies.

When we were in Hawaii we had some early nights because of our son's bedtime which forced us to watch television more than we normally do at home. Anytime I get the chance to watch a myriad of channels I head straight for the Food Network, Travel channel, and TLC because we basically just get local channels at home. Woohoo to extended channels! Anyway, as I was saying, after watching Throwdown both my husband and I were fascinated by these cookies. So fascinated that he requested that I make them for a meeting where he was supposed to provide the refreshments. That was all the prompting I needed. I headed straight for the computer and typed in my key words but the result was a little deflating. You see, they don't publish their famous cookie recipe, and although I understand the reasoning behind it was definitely disappointing.

I had to console myself with the links they have to "mock" Levain chocolate chip cookie recipes. These are basically other people's attempts to try to figure out their secret combination of ingredients and baking methods. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

I needed to make three batches (since one only makes 14 cookies), so I was actually able to try two of the recipe links. There didn't seem to be a huge difference between the two and unfortunately I didn't keep them separated long enough to get pictures of each side by side. Both recipes are posted below.

I don't think I can adequately portray just how large these cookies are. I had to use my biggest tupperware bowl (which does not get used very often) to hand mix the dough. I also measured the entire amount of my dough and then divided by the total number of cookies I needed so I knew how much each cookie should weigh. You can also see from my picture of the halfway baking time that no matter how good your oven is it still bakes somewhat unevenly and it's always a good idea to turn the pan halfway through.

These cookies were fabulous! They were large and they were yummy. I think the difference with the Levain cookies is that they not only have circumference but they also have height and volume to their monster cookies. You could make a monster cookie out of any cookie dough recipe but you won't get the height and volume like these guys. Click here for the Levain Bakery site with their recipe links. Enjoy!

Just for kicks, here is a cookie comparison between a regular sized oreo cookie and a "Mock" Levain chocolate chip cookie!

Recipezaar "Mock" Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: and Cheeky Kitchen

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, cold
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, if desired (not chopped or coarsely chopped)

In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles crumbs. Add sugars and stir well, breaking up any brown sugar clumps. Add eggs and mix until dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if desired).

Chill dough for one hour (and keep chilled while baking first batch).

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put half of the dough on an ungreased baking sheet in 7 large balls. (I weighed my dough so each cookie was equal.) Bake for 8-10 minutes; turn cookie sheet around back to front and bake until light golden brown on top, another 5-8 minutes. (Mine took about 6 minutes and 5 minutes.)
Remove from oven and cool on sheet for a few minutes, then place on wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough after cookie sheet cools.

If you'd like to make them somewhat smaller, use a 375 degree oven so they don't over-brown. And remember that they most likely won't get as high.

Cheeky Kitchen Recipe
Makes 14 cookies

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups walnuts
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter, brown sugar, and eggs until fluffy. Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and cornstarch until thoroughly combined. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Dump dough on counter and knead to completely mix dough.

Gently pull lemon-sized hunks (or weight them evenly) of dough. Keep the dough loose and with air. Place mounds on cookie sheet.

Bake at 390 degrees (just above 375 but not quite 400) for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies have turned light brown. Remove from cookie sheet, cool.