Friday, August 27, 2010

August 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge: 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".
Having missed out on the July challenge (I was doing enough baking in Paris), I'm very glad I chose to do this one. Why? Because the browned butter pound cake is the most delicious cake I've ever made. I don't know why I don't use browned butter more - it caramel, nutty smell is amazingly seductive. Honestly, it's one of my favorite smells. And it's so easy to make too! Just melt some butter until the milk solids are caramelize and turn brown. 
Here's what browned butter looks like after you let it set (which you'll need to do for the pound cake recipe):
The pound cake recipe is very simple. You cream the butter with sugar and eggs, then whisk in flour and baking powder. The browned butter is the star here. (Don't worry, the recipe is at the bottom. This isn't one of those medieval recipes where you just "styre everything togither").

To make the petit fours, trim off the top of the 9x9 cake, then slice it in half horizontally. Not having a 9" knife, I found the cake much easier to slice if I quartered it first. 
Line a 9x9 pan with plastic, then put one half of the cake on the bottom.
I had some leftover orange coconut ice cream on hand, so I used that for the filling. The ice cream was simplicity itself - 1/3 milk, 1/3 cream, 1/3 coconut milk, barely sweetened and infused with orange zest. I've recently become a fan of eggless ice cream - the flavor is much cleaner and sharper (and I don't need to clean the custard pot...)
Cover the ice cream with the other half of cake, and press it down a little to get everything packed down. 
Once it's frozen solid, slice it into small pieces. Again, I kept to the quarters to make slicing easier. 
You can cover the petit fours with chocolate glaze, fondant, marzipan, whatever you like. I made a hasty chocolate ganache with a touch of honey for shine (I was out of corn syrup). The original recipe called for dipping the entire petit four in chocolate. When I tried that, I got a clumpy, uneven mess - especially because the chocolate in contact with the ice cream immediately hardened and fell off in pieces. To avoid total disaster, I ended up glazing just the top of the petit fours. I rather like the minimalist look. 

Browned Butter Pound Cake
Adapted from October 2009 edition of Gourmet
275 g butter
200 g sifted cake flour (alternatively, 4 tablespoons of corn starch + rest of the weight in all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
110 g packed light brown sugar
75 g white sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a 9x9 pan. 
2. Brown the butter in a skillet until the milk solids are dark brown (or when your kitchen starts to smell like a French bakery). Chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes. 
3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
4. Beat the brown butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. I'm too lazy to clean the electric mixer, so here's the Cordon Bleu method: rub the butter into the sugar with your hands until everything is incorporated. This method is much more fun and takes about the same time. If you're lazy like me, wear latex gloves.
5. Beat in eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. 
6. Scrape into pan and cake until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean. The recipe states 25 minutes but it took me about 40 minutes. It all depends on the oven, and mine's frequently under-heated. The best way to tell whether something is done is by smell and touch.
7. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to cool completely (Being short on time, I just stuck it in the freezer. Half an hour later, I had a cooled cake to work with). 

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