Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 2010 Daring Bakers - Baked Alaska and 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”.

This month's challenge surprised many Daring Bakers because it involved cake and icecream - AGAIN! Only last month we were challenge to prepare Swiss Swirl Icecream Cake which was delicious! But here we were again with the same components only put together differently and, ok, using a different type of cake - Brown Butter Cake. Cake and Icecream non the less! For those in the Northern Hemispere in the midst of summer, icecream is perfect however for those of us in the Southern Hemispere summer hasn't quite arrived and icecream wasn't quite what I had in mind. This is meant to be a challenge so bring it on!



I decided to make a Baked Alaska because it was something I had always wanted to try. My 12 year old son thought he was quite clever asking. "Baked Alaska? How can you bake a country!" 
Baked Alaska is a dessert consisting  of  a bottom layer of cake, topped with a dome of icecream and the whole lot is covered in meringue then baked to brown the meringue. One would think the icecream would melt but the meringue forms an insulation to the heat so the result is rather strange - hot meringue and cold icecream! A real taste sensation! I couldn't decide on one flavour so I made large, individual bombes with different flavour icecreams -

Cookie Dough,

Turkish Delight,

Chocolate Rum and Raisin

 and Orange Cardamom.

I hadn't really planned to make the Petit Fours but with cake leftover and Espresso Icecream in the freezer from the previous challenge I couldn't resist. The Petit Fours were delicious though not a traditional petit four more of an elegant, individual dessert.




Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
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.

Italian meringue for the Baked Alaska

1 cup of sugar + 2 tbsp
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites

Combine 1 cup sugar and water in a sauce pan and boil until it reaches 240 degrees. While that is boiling, start beating the egg whites. Once they start to get foamy add the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar and beat until peaks form. Once the syrup mixture gets to 240 add it to the egg whites slowly drizzling down the side of the bowl. Continue to beat the egg whites until mixture has cooled.

Chocolate Glaze (For the Ice Cream Petit Fours)

9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.

Assembly Instructions – Baked Alaska
1. Line four 4” (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all 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.2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.
3. Make the meringue (see above.)
4. Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.
5. 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
6. 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/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.

 


Cookie Dough Icecream for the Baked Alaska

Cookie dough
1/2 cup plain flour
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons water
Mix together the brown sugar, white sugar and butter until smoothe. Stir in vanilla and water. Mix in flour until well blended. Shape into a log or loaf and freeze until firm 1 to 2 hours.

Vanilla Icecream
300ml milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
vanilla extract to taste
300 ml cream

Mix milk, sugar, cornflour and vanill well and bring to boil until smooth and thickened. Cool and add cream. Freeze in icecream machine. When ready fold in chopped, frozen cookie dough. Freeze in airtight container.

Turkish delight Icecream for the Baked Alaska

300ml milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
300 ml cream
2 teaspoon rosewater essence or to taste
100g turkish delight, roughly chopped
50g milk chocolate, finely chopped

Mix milk, sugar and cornflour in saucepan until smooth. Bring to boil to thicken. Cool and add cream and rosewater essence. Freeze in icecream machine. When frozen fold in turkish delight and chocolate. Freeze in airtight container

Chocolate Rum and Raisin Icecream for the Baked Alaska

100g raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
300ml milk
3/4cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
50g dark 72% chocolate
300ml cream

Macerate the raisins in rum overnight. In the meantime mix milk, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan until smooth. Bring to boil to thicken. Remove from heat add chocolate. Stir until well blended and smooth. Cool and add cream and raisins and remaining rum. Freeze in icecream machine.Freeze in airtight container

Orange Cardamom Icecream for the Baked Alaska

1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
300ml milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
300ml cream
1 orange, grated rind only

Place the orange juice in a saucepan and reduce over high heat until only about 1/2 cup remains. Cool. Mix milk, sugar, cardamom and cornflour in saucepan until smooth. Bring to boil to thicken. Cool and add cream, grated orange rind and orange juice concentrate. Freeze in icecream machine. Freeze in airtight container

Assembly Instructions – Baked Alaska
1. Line four 3” (7.5cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all 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.2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 3” (7.5cm) diameter circles from the cake. The leftover cake I split in half through the middle to make the Petit Fours.
3. Make the meringue (see above.)
4. Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.
5. 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
6. 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/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.

Assembly Instructions – Ice Cream Petit Fours

1. Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.
2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.
3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.
4. Make the chocolate glaze (see above.)
5. While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm). 
6. Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it.
7. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.

Thank to Elissa for hosting the August 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge. Check out her site for the original recipe and here for many other creative Daring Bakers!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Turkish Delight

According to Wikipedia, Turkish Delight in the Middle East takes on a variety of forms including "premium varieties made almost solely of chopped dates, pistachios and hazelnuts or walnuts". Now that I would love to try. The variety I know and love is the soft, jelly-like confectionery flavoured with rosewater but also can be flavoured with mint, cinnamon, mastic or lemon. It is often packaged and eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar but I also love it coated in milk chocolate. Not traditional but so delicious!
I have tried many different recipes trying to perfect the homemade turkish delight! On storing, some sweat and result in a gooey mess. Others stay dry but taste of cornflour. I found this Turkish Delight recipe perfect even in our humid climate. It does use gelatine which is not traditional but the taste and texture is sublime!
What I liked about this recipe was the precise temperatures that each mixture should reach rather than stating times for cooking because as we all know confectionery is a temperamental science! To coat the turkish delight I added equal quantities of cornflour (corn starch) to the icing sugar. This absorbs any moisture that seeps out of the turkish delight.
I will make this again soon because I have a request to coat  the Turkish Delight in milk chocolate!
Mmmmmm!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Torta Sbrisolona Direct From Mantova


If you are a regular visitor you will know that recently my family hosted a lovely student from Italy. 
Hosting a student from Mantova brought with it great, unexpected advantages - the exchanging of recipes!  Within a short period of time we had realised that both her mum and I love to cook, bake and try new things. So, soon arrived an email containing some of her mum's favourite recipes including the famous Torta Mantovana - Sbrisolona.
What fun we had preparing the Sbrisolona together, hoping we got it right. After popping it into the oven to cook, we enjoyed learning the Italian card game of Briscola. As the Sbrisolona baked our house was filled with its delicious buttery scent.


Sbrisolona is a traditional crumbly cake actually more like a huge shortbread but the tastiest shortbread you'll probably ever try. Filled with the crunch and flavour of almonds and the texture of the cornmeal this sbrisolona is also flavoured with a hint of aniseed essence. I'm sure almond essence or grated lemon rind could be substituted but I love the slight zing the aniseed gives. The flavour will be more prominent the next day. What I love about the tradition of eating the sbrisolona is that it is never cut but simply placed in the middle of the table - broken by hand and shared.
It was a wonderful night filled with baking, laughter and sharing.

So, here I give you the recipe I was lucky to received.

 Make it with love and share it with those you love.

Torta Sbrisolona

600g plain flour
100g cornmeal ( polenta)
350g sugar
300g butter, room temperature
50g canola oil
150g almonds, plus more for decorating
1 packet of Italian baking powder or 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon aniseed essence

This makes lots of sbrisolona. I halved the recipe and used two 20cm spring form pans well greased.

Process the almond in the food processor roughly. Do not allow almond to grind finely - uneven pieces are fine.
Mix  all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Rub the butter through with fingertips until all the butter is distributed and the mixture is crumbly.


Pour into prepared pans and press down a little but not too much it is meant to be rough and crumbly not pressed flat. It should be no more than 15mm thick.
Scatter extra almonds over.
Bake at 160C for 45 minutes


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peach Blossoms and Hosting an Italian Student

Recently our family was honoured to host an Italian student from Mantova visiting our town for 10 days. She was one of 15 students on the tour. My daughter's school exchanges with schools in Mantova. Last year our students were hosted in Mantova and were made to feel very welcome by the families who opened their homes and hearts to our Aussie kids.
So came our turn. We were excited and anxious. Waiting as the days passed slowly. Planning and thinking of what would be the best way to show an Italian student our Australian tropical wonders and delights in such a short period of time. I thought about the food! What would I cook that would show our cusine, our tastes, our different cultures that have merge into one?
The most simple but good often please!
Peach blossoms, peaches, jelly cakes - whatever you like to call them these little cakes were my host daughter's favourite.They are really easily made from simple ingredients and can be stored in the freezer.
You will require gem irons to make the traditional shape but if not the cake can be baked in a  cake pan then cut into squares.

For the cake batter you will need:-

125g butter
140g castor sugar
vanilla
2 eggs
250g self raising flour
(or the 250g all purpose flour with the appropriate amount of baking powder added)
120ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Beat butter and sugar to a cream. Add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time then beat well. Sift flour and add alternately with the milk. Mix lightly into a soft dough.
If using gem irons, spray well with oil and spoon scant teaspoonfuls of the batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes
If using a cake pan, grease and line with baking paper a 23cm square cake pan. Fill with the batter smooth and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.




Your cakes should be lightly browned and risen. 



It's only at times like this when I stand back and take a good look at what I cook that I realise that probably 80% of my cooking is Italian based with the remaining being Asian or Indian while experimenting with other cusines. While my baking is 70% Australian/American consisting of cakes, muffins, biscuits and scones with a smattering of Italian canoli and bignoli and lots of experimenting!


To assemble your blossoms you will need:- 

1 85g packet raspberry jelly (or Jell-o)
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
Whipped cream or prepared mock cream
coconut

Dissolve jelly crystals in the boiling water then add cold water. Allow to stand in the refrigerator until beginning to set or until the consistency of egg white. 

Sandwich two halves together with cream.
If your not using gem irons you will need to cut your cake into small squares about 2.5cm square. Hopefully you cake is about 5cm high. Cut each square through the middle then sandwich back together with cream. 



Dip your joined cakes into the partly set jelly then roll in coconut. Refrigerate or freeze to keep for longer.



What a pleasure it was to host our Italian student! We have learnt so much about a country and a people we thought we already knew and we have suprisingly learnt about us - our family. We are Australians with a strong Italian heritage but we are more. We have unknownly absorbed from the various cultures that make up our great, wide land. We are, our children are, what will be the future face of Australia - a people of many nations blended into one. Australia is still evolving- we are young and we have much to learn but my, what a future we have!



Our Italian student also watched, learnt and experienced much of what Australia has to offer. She has left Australia but not our hearts, returning to Italy with a new understanding of another culture - a very diverse culture. 
So, we thought we were going to share and teach about our world! How little did we know! That's why it's called an exchange - an exchange of ideas, thoughts and values. A glimpse into one an other's world.
What a gift!