Friday, August 27, 2010

Daring to do it: Brown Butter Ice Cream Cake

**UPDATED!!! The pictures have arrived! Thanks for your patience... and enjoy!!**

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”.

My first reaction when reading this month's challenge was something along the lines of "Didn't we just do cake and ice cream? And, really, more ice cream for the lactose intolerant girl?" I then remembered that the challenge hosts do not know what the challenges around theirs will be, so there was no way Elissa could have known about the Swiss roll ice cream cakes from July. I also thought, "Man... Here is an 18 year old with such great ideas, inspiration and ambition, no whining allowed!!" Of course, being lactose intolerant, I did have some questions/concerns regarding this challenge, but (again,) I wasn't going to whine - I was up for Linkthe challenge!

My first concern for this challenge actually had nothing to do with the ice cream element. With last month's challenge under my belt, I felt confident that I could make something work for that. I was actually more worried about the brown butter. I don't use butter in my house. I use margarine. When limiting dairy intake, this is the easiest substitution, and is, usually, not an issue when baking. But margarine does not brown. Butter browns when the milk solids separate and carmelize and turn nutty and toasty and really yummy (this is NOT a scientific assessment of the browning process, just my attempt to wrap my brain around it!). I tried to do some research about vegan alternatives for browned butter, but came up with not too much information. The best answer I could find was that, of the vegan butter alternatives, Earth Balance Buttery Spread came the closest to butter when browned. Encouraged, I bought some to use. I did, however, have some reservations. This is a pound cake. It calls for a LOT of butter. If this didn't work well, I would have a cake that no one would eat. So I called upon my sister, and fellow Daring Baker, Aunty Twin to help me out. I recruited her, her kitchen, and a stick of her (real) butter, and we did a side-by-side comparison. (Pictures will come, and they will help...!)

The Earth Balance did brown, though it took longer than the butter did. It also did not get as dark and toasty looking, but that wasn't so much of a surprise, as there were no milk solids to do the actual browning. By appearances it looked like I had something I could use for my cake. By taste? Not so much. While I did get some of the nuttiness, the browned Earth Balance was much too salty for my taste. For a savory dish, maybe with pasta or veggies, it would work, but for a cake I thought I had better steer clear.

All of that is to explain that my brown butter pound cake was not, actually, a brown butter pound cake... I used margarine. I did melt it on the stove to see if anything would happen, but was not surprised when nothing did. To keep the "brown" theme, though, I substitute dark brown sugar for the light, and light brown sugar for the white (granulated) sugar in the recipe. While it didn't have quite the same depth of flavor and richness as the brown butter cake did, (thank you, Auntie Twin, for letting me taste it!) it was still a VERY good cake!!

It was now time to choose my frozen dessert element... Having made two different non-dairy ice creams last month, I decided to do frozen yogurt this month. I also decided to cut my husband a break. He is a major chocolate addict. Really, he might need a twelve-step program...! And my Swiss roll bombe last month had no chocolate in it at all. So I knew right away that my "ice cream" would have to be for him. I also wanted to have some sort of "nutty" flavor in the dessert, as I didn't have the brown butter's nuttiness in the cake. I therefore chose to make chocolate peanut butter frozen yogurt. I used the basic frozen yogurt recipe from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, added cocoa powder, adapted it for not having an ice cream maker, and added peanut butter towards the end. (Other than that, though, it was exactly his recipe... ;)) I learned after last month that I had to be very vigilant about stirring the mixture frequently at the start of the freezing process. The time and diligence are worth it, though, as my frozen yogurt had a really great creamy consistency which I hadn't thought I could achieve on my own!!

Up until this point, I actually hadn't been sure if I was going to make the baked Alaska or the petit fours. I have made baked Alaska before (though not since I was a child), and thought that would be fun, but the petit fours looked to beautiful!! Come showtime, though, it came down to the fact that I didn't have the time to make the chocolate glaze, so baked Alaska it would be. But. When I made the cake I had used my brownie bites pan. So I had little cakes, which seemed the perfect size for something petit four like... Introducing...

Baked Alaska-Fours!!
Chocolate peanut butter frozen yogurt sandwiched between two layers of brown sugar pound cake, all surrounded by a cloud of meringue and toasted to a golden brown. They looked like little toasted marshmallows, but with a surprise filling! Everyone was impressed. And Hubby was loving the chocolate peanut butter...! All in all, it was a great success.

Thank you, Elissa, for such a fun and creative challenge! I had a great time playing in the kitchen, learning new techniques, and eating such yumminess! Good luck as you start college. Having seen how hard you worked as our host, and how much time, energy and love you put into this challenge, I know you are going to achieve greatness. Please keep baking!!

If you would like to see what my fellow Daring Bakers came up with, and I highly recommend that you do!!, please take a look here!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Snacking outside the plate...

Sorry to have been so quiet... I was kind of excited to have had an even 100 posts... But here we go on our way to 200!! There has been plenty going on to tell about!

As you can clearly see, we are a family of eaters. We like food, and we like to try new things. When Little Girl first started eating solids she didn't seem that into it... I was worried... How can a child of mine not like food?! As it turns out, she seems to just not have been a fan of plain oatmeal. Not too big of a concern after all! (Just wait, Little Girl, until you have oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon when the weather gets cold again... yum!) So she likes to eat. She just isn't always interested in sitting down to do so... There is just too much to do and see, why waste time sitting still? So I call her my little grazer. I put a plate or bowl (plastic, to keep things safe!) on the coffee table in the living room, and she can snack throughout the day. A Cheerio here, a blueberry there... it's all good.
The other day, while Little Girl was in the kitchen with me, she started playing with one of the cupcake tins. She put a few "O's" into a cup, then picked them out, smiling up at me. I was so impressed! Clever girl!! So she now has a new snack tray! This way she can have a little bit of pretty much everything she likes, and she doesn't get as frustrated trying to tell me what she wants. She also likes, as you can see, mixing and matching her snacks in infinite ways in the cups of the tray.
So while this might not be any sort of groundbreaking discovery or the most creative thing in the world, it has been yet another layer of fun seeing how Little Girl's mind works and watching her adapt to and with the world around her!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Daring to do it: Pierogi

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

I have to say, I was really excited to read this month's challenge. I love pierogi!! I get the frozen ones from time to time, and have even made them from scratch once, too. So when I saw that this would be what we were making, I was psyched. The one thing that I was a little stuck on that the "local interest" thing... I live in the Philadelphia (PA) area. Foods that come to mind for me: cheese steaks (not for the Kosher vegetarian, thanks!), soft pretzels with mustard (inside a pasta-type outside?), Philadelphia cream cheese (possible, I guess)... I was kind of stuck. I wanted to get an early start on the challenge, but trying to come up with a filling was frustrating me! I finally decided that my locale would be home, and I would make my filling a family favorite.
I made the Russian style pierogi dough recipe rather than the Wareneki which has a dairy base to it. The Russian dough is much more like pasta, and felt (to me) to be a little more versatile. It is also the one I am more familiar with... I know, not so daring of me, but... oh well, that's how things go sometimes! According to the recipe, the dough should rest for about 20 minutes. I actually made it the day before I planned on using it, so it went into the fridge overnight - I was saying that my dough was more rested than I was!!
For my filling, as I mentioned, I decided to do a "local" favorite - nachos!! (Yes, I oh-so-creatively called these "Nacho Ordinary Pierogi" 'cause I am clever like that...) I started with a combination of black and pinto beans, soaked overnight and simmered until tender. I then mashed them up a little bit along with some shredded cheddar cheese. Our favorite nacho toppings were now ready to go on the inside!

The traditional way to make pierogi involves rolling out the dough and cutting circles with a biscuit cutter. I don't have a cutter, and I had been seeing some people express concern that rerolling the dough made it tougher to work with. So I took the advice and experience of Aunty Twin and made my pierogi "shells" individually - roll a "snake," then cut small pieces, roll them into balls and flatten them out. Not as pretty, even or uniform as the traditional way, but effective!! Next step was to fill these pseudo-circles, then crimp them closed with a fork. I probably should have used some sort of measuring spoon or something to scoop my filling, but that would have required thinking of that in advance! So I used a regular spoon and had an adventure trying to get enough filling, but not too much!, into each pierogi. Just as with the dough, I wasn't exactly consistent, but it seemed to work out fine!

The pierogi are then cooked twice. First they are boiled, then they are fried. I have eaten them only boiled, but I have to say, the frying makes them crispy, which is something I love. I highly recommend taking the extra step!! For this batch I actually fried the pierogi with onions, just for the extra flavor and nacho-ness.

Traditional pierogi (as far as I know, at least) are served with sour cream. Yes, this would have worked beautifully with my nacho filling, but I decided to go, again, with the house favorites - home made salsa and guacamole. Hubby, Little Girl and I all loved the results! This is something I am DEFINITELY going to have to make again!!
I thought I was done for the month, then I decided to make one more type, this time using an actual local influence. As I said, I am near Philadelphia. I am also (relatively) close to Hershey. Yes, Hershey - as in Hershey's chocolate. So, yes, I made chocolate pierogi! There is very little out there that doesn't make me want to try a dessert version...!

I used the same Russian dough recipe, but added a little bit of sugar and a bit of cocoa powder. the resulting dough looked nice and chocolaty! For the filling I used Hershey Kisses. Yup, into each small circle of dough I placed a single Kiss. It was a little silly, but really quite fun!

Once sealed, I still did the double cooking process. Fried and crispy, these were tasty little morsels!! I guess they could have been served with whipped cream, or a fruit puree... But we just ate them straight! They were crispy on the outside, gooey and chocolaty on the inside... Well worth it!!
So thank you to LizG and Anula for this amazing challenge! Even knowing pierogi, you made me think about them in a whole new way, and it was so much fun! Thanks to you, pierogi will be reentering our family's regular rotation!
If you want to see the fun, creative and flavorful creations made by my fellow Daring Cooks, take a look here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blueberry Inspiration

I don't know about you, but I get my cooking and baking inspiration from just about everywhere. I am one of those people who will look at a food item, recipe, picture, whatever, and pretty immediately start thinking "How would I make that?" Yesterday Little Girl and I took a trip up to my in-laws for lunch, swimming, and a LOT of love and fun. Despite the fact that this is family, and I knew that there would be plenty of food, I am just no good at showing up places empty handed. So I started thinking about what I could bring... My inspiration this time was the yummy pint of blueberries I had sitting in the fridge. I tried looking for some blueberry crumb cake recipes, but nothing really grabbed me. Then Aunty Twin reminded me of something she had made and posted recently: Blueberry Breakfast Cake. True, she made hers with strawberries, too, but it still looked pretty quick, easy and delicious. She even came over to help me bake and brought me the lemon I needed... What a sister!!

The biggest (intentional!) change I made was to use only brown sugar. You know me, I love the stuff...! I also used soy milk instead of "real," but that is par for the course for me, so I don't really consider that a change!
When I came time to make the streussal topping I also used brown sugar. I really had meant to follow the directions, but I did use a little too much margarine. So instead of having a crumb type topping I had a creamier topping that spread on almost like frosting... I wasn't worried, I was just curious how it would turn out!!

The cake smelled AMAZING while it was baking! All warm and berry-ish... I was really excited to cut into it...! Unfortunately for me, it would have to wait until we got to dessert the next day with the family!

As we were driving, I realized that the cake was "supposed" to have a powdered sugar drizzle on top of it. I had totally forgotten... I knew I could have asked my sister-in-law if she had some, but I decided that it wasn't worth it... (We didn't wind up missing it, so no big deal!!)

The cake turned out great. Moist, not too sweet, and the "crust" streussal topping was just fine! This is a great all-purpose cake - dessert, breakfast, snack... it would work for anything! So thanks, Aunty Twin!! You know I'll be looking to you for inspiration again!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

All quiet...

...but not gone for good!
Sorry, things have been a little crazy, but hopefully I will get back to blogging soon. I promise, there has been crafting and cooking and baking... Hopefully I will get to the posting part, too!
Thanks for hanging in!