My dad bought us an ice cream maker when I was in grade school. I have only vague memories of us sitting on the driveway in front of the house, churning ice cream. I don’t remember much about the ice cream itself; there may have been vanilla and peach, maybe strawberry. But I do remember the chocolate ice cream that came out of that maker. The flavor haunts me to this day, and, like a Pavlovian reflex, just pulling up the memory makes my mouth water. Maybe it was the rock salt that we had to pack around the central canister, but the chocolate ice cream, light and icy, had a salty undertone that I simply loved! I had always been a kid intrigued by unusual flavors and flavor combinations, eating peanut butter and bologna sandwiches, for example, so the hint of salt in the chocolate ice cream was the best thing that I’ve ever tasted!
JP and I went to Florida for six months after Clem was born and stayed with my mom. A bumpy ride it was; newly marrieds with new baby staying with family is rarely a very pretty sight, but we made some wonderful culinary discoveries – Paul Prudhomme and Cajun cuisine, for one – and brought back some wonderful kitchen tools. We had splurged, as poor as we were, on a small Donvier ice cream maker. We absolutely fell in love with this baby! The small silver canister sits in the freezer until you are ready to make your ice cream. Then pop the canister into the plastic container, screw on the lid and churn. By hand. We loved having dinner guests over, serving them a spicy Shrimp Creole or spicy breaded veal cutlet à la Prudhomme then whipping out our small hand-crank ice cream maker filled with coffee or chocolate cream and watching jaws drop or curiosity splash across astonished faces. We would all take turns gleefully grinding the handle, passing the Donvier around the table until the ice cream was ready to serve. On top of homemade cake, of course, in chocolate or lemon or a good old fashioned quatre-quarts.
Which brings me to this month’s Daring Baker challenge. Now, this month has been more than hectic here in Crazy Junction. After a lazy month in Florida, we have been having a hard time catching up and getting back into the swing of things. I had only posted twice on my blog and once on Huffington Post during those four weeks away so the fingers were itching to clatter across the keyboard, yet the brain seems to still be on vacation or shrunken dramatically from the Florida heat and hours upon hours of mindless TV. I have so many pages open on my computer screen, bits and pieces of stories, thoughts and ideas waiting to be filled in as I root around in the closets and drawers looking high and low for my blogging mojo. And August is a slow month at the office so JP takes just a tad longer with me at lunch and is home earlier in the evening, dashing from room to room, teasing me to follow him, making me laugh with his silly jokes, imitations and antics. “Come away from the computer,” he booms as his expression goes from smirk to iron eye. So his playtime becomes mine and two or five more posts get sidelined again. But August is such a wonderful time; the apartment is comfortable, the peaches and plums are out in abundance at the market, our favorite pizzeria is open for business and the streets are practically empty. Heaven!
For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa of 17 and Baking was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Brown Butter 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. The challenge comprised many parts and many options. I made the Brown Butter Pound Cake, a recipe from Gourmet, and Vanilla Ice Cream, a recipe adopted from David’s book. I used my own recipe for Chocolate Ganache using Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate with Grilled Almonds and a splash of Amaretto. Since we are at the height of peach season and since I love them so and because I felt that this dessert needed something fruity to offset the vanilla cake and ice cream and offer a wonderful contrast to the dark chocolate drizzle, I caramelized peaches and raspberries in a dot of butter, a dusting of brown sugar and yet another splash of Amaretto. And I came up with an elegant, layered treat, smooth and creamy, cool and fruity. I also created my take on the Peach Melba: chunks of the Brown Butter Cake topped with a smooth, creamy scoop of perfect vanilla ice cream, topped with the caramelized peaches and raspberries then drizzled with the chocolate ganache and finished off with slivered almonds. Divine! Sweet and creamy, wonderfully fruity and all brought together in the loving embrace of a smooth, warm chocolate sauce.
I will also be sending my Peach Melba to Elissa for Sugar High Fridays, of course!
PEACH MELBA MY WAY – or -
Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165 g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
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.)
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. (I did not have an ice bath)
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.
Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 tsp if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
Once the mixture was cool enough, I poured it into a large plastic container and placed it in the freezer overnight.
Brown Butter Pound Cake
19 Tbs (275 g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200 g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup (110 g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (75 g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter, line with parchment and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan or an equivalent round pan.
Place the butter in a 10-inch (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.) The butter will sizzle loudly for quite some time and it will begin turning brown when the sizzling stops. Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.
Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined and then the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture to the batter, blending on low speed until just combined.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 - 30 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.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
2.6 oz (75 g) good quality dark chocolate (I used Lindt Excellence semi-sweet with Grilled Almonds)
¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
2 tsps (10 g) unsalted butter
1 Tbs Amaretto
Coarsely chop the chocolate and place in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the butter and cream just to the boil to scald in a small saucepan. Pour the hot liquid over the chocolate and gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is combined and smooth. Continue to give the ganache an occasional, hearty stir with the spatula as it cools to room temperature and thickens a bit. You do not want this too warm or the ice cream will melt to quickly and you want it just thick enough that it stays on top of your dessert and doesn’t simply run off and puddle on the plate, bringing fruit and ice cream with it!