Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD: Banana-Coconut Ice Cream Pie

This week's Banana-Coconut Ice Cream Pie was a bit of an odd duck for me. I think a large part of my problem was the name. It had me expecting lush tropical flavors, but then the chocolate ice cream kind of stole the show and overwhelmed everything else. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...) Since I always judge a book by its cover (and usually the summary inside the flap) I didn't really know what to make of my tropical-sounding, conventional-tasting mini tarts. Which is not to say that were bad, just that I am sometimes a very literal person.
The recipe, as written, called for a coconut-shortbread crust, filled with sliced bananas and chocolate ice cream that was mixed with pureed banana. The tart was to be finished with more sliced banana. If you're keeping score at home, that's a whole lot of banana in one little dessert. (And also not nearly enough coconut, but that's only because I'm addicted to the white stuff.)

I halved the recipe and made two mini tarts, since I'm the only one home for two weeks, and even my level of gluttony couldn't handle a whole ice cream pie. Some folks complained that the banana flavor was too much, so I tried two different versions. One, above, had sliced bananas above and below the ice cream, as written. The second, below, just had bananas in the ice cream, and was topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

For my taste, the bananas in the ice cream were enough. The flavor still shone through, but I wasn't eating mouthfuls of freezer banana with every bite. Plus, this gave the coconut more of a chance to shine.

I made the chocolate ice cream using Dorie's recipe for Chocolate-Blueberry Ice Cream (omitting the blueberry preserves.) People, it is AWESOME. Mine turned out pretty hard, but there's also a chance I added too much chocolate, since I kept nibbling it after I'd weighed it out and then had to throw a handful into the bowl to make up for it and might have added too much, and surely I can't be the only one who can't be trusted around a bowl of chopped chocolate while baking? Bueller?

Aaaanyhow, these tarts were great, and a nice, relatively easy summery dessert. I'd do them again without bananas and with the whipped cream in a heartbeat. To get the recipe, head on over to Spike's great blog.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Apple-Apple Bread Pudding (MY PICK!)

Today is a banner day, my friends! Today is the day that we baked my chosen recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, the online baking group I belong to. If you're not a member of this group, please understand that this is a Big Deal. There are approximately five bajillion members (give or take a kablillion) so most weeks, we TWD'ers end up making a recipe someone else has picked out. After a year and a half in the group, it was finally my turn, so you'd think I would be excited, right?

Well, I was excited. But I also felt pressure! And fear! And the ice-cold sweat of the guilty upon my brow! You see, everyone wants to pick a recipe the group will love. No one wants to be the one to inflict the TWD equivalent of the infamous Sandra Lee Kwanzaa cake upon their friends. Adding to this concern is my certainty that I have bad TWD karma because I complain about the recipes all the time. It's nothing against Dorie--I truly love this book--it's more about being an obnoxious nitpicky perfectionist who always wants to tweak things and make them just a bit better.

So although I was looking forward to choosing a recipe, I'm also sure that I've cosmically earned whatever apathy or negativity anyone has toward this week's recipe. And what a struggle it was to decide! I've confessed before that I am a bread pudding-holic. It's been a year since my admission, and I still haven't hit rock bottom. So obviously I'd had my eye on her Apple-Apple Bread Pudding since day one. But I had so many doubts: bread pudding isn't a springy dessert! And why use apples when there are so many delicious berries coming into season? And what about all the bread pudding haters? So I struggled. But in the end, I had to be true to myself, and my stomach, and say, as did the wise Kenneth from 30 Rock, "This mess is going to get raw like sushi, so haters to the left!"

This bread pudding was different from any others that I've made. It actually seemed almost more like stuffed French toast. Toasted brioche is slathered with apple butter, then caramelized apples are sandwiched in between the slices, and the custard is poured over the whole thing. As you can see from the picture above, the end result is just about the most delicious--and calorically deadly--sandwich you could have.
I decided I couldn't have my bread pudding going out into the world naked, so I made cinnamon ice cream to go with it. (That linked recipe is just about my favorite ice cream recipe ever. And I swear, the "Elizabeth" who submitted it is not me. I would take full credit if it was!) I reserved some of the ice cream mixture before churning, so some of the bread pudding was served with cinnamon creme anglaise instead. Either way, you can't go wrong!

Here's the truth: I didn't love this right away. Of course I'm an impatient monkey and was there with my tastin' spoon the second I took the bread pudding out of the oven. I risked a burnt mouth to shovel it on in, and...I was disappointed. I don't know if I overcooked it, or what, but it was eggy and not so flavorful. Believe me, I was crushed.

But, not being willing to admit defeat, I kept tasting it in 15-minute intervals. (Ah, dinner, I hardly knew ye.) As it cooled and settled, it got better and better. Turns out patience really is a virtue! By that evening, I liked it quite a bit, especially when served warm with the cinnamon ice cream melting on top.

But the truly happy ending to this story is that I loved it the next day! I don't know what magic my refrigerator worked overnight, but when it was reheated the next day, it was amazing. Moist, flavorful, melting into the ice cream...to die for. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe again this summer with more seasonal fruits, like using fresh peaches and peach jam, maybe with ginger ice cream? Yum!

Thanks to everyone who baked along with me this week! Here are the blogs of my fellow TWD'ers who made it, and here's the recipe:

Apple-Apple Bread Pudding
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the caramelized apples: [I actually made this times 1.5]
3 medium apples, peeled and cored (Fuji or Gala recommended)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp sugar

12 oz egg bread, such as challah or brioche, sliced 1/2" thick and stale

1 cup store-bought spiced apple butter [I used more like 2 cups]

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Confectioner's sugar or apple jelly, for finishing

Getting Ready: Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan (like Pyrex), dust the inside with sugar and tap out the excess. Line a larger roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels.

To Caramelize the Apples: Cut each apple into smal lchunks. Put a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter, and, when it melts, sprinkle over the sugar. Cook the butter and sugar for a minute or so--you want the sugar to caramelize but not burn, so adjust the heat accordingly. Toss in the apple slices--don't worry if the caramel seizes and lumps, it will melt and smooth out as you work--and cook, carefully turning the apples once or twice, until they are tender but not soft, 3-5 minutes. They should be golden, and some might even be caramelized. Remove from the heat.

To Make the Bread Pudding: If your bread is not stale, spread it out on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes to "stale" it.

Spread one side of each slice of bread with the apple butter, then cut each slice on the diagonal to get 4 triangles. cover the bottom of the baking pan with half of the bread, arranging the triangles, buttered side up, so that they overlap slightly (don't worry about spaces between the slices.) Spoon over the apples and their liquid and finish "the sandwich" with the rest of the bread.

Bring the milk and cream just to a boil.

Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and the 3/4 cup sugar. Still whisking, slowly drizzle in about one quarter of the hot milk mixture--this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining milk. Add the vanilla and whisk to blend. Rap the bowl against the counter to pop any bubbles that might have formed, then spoon off any foam that has risen to the top. Pour the custard over the bread and press the bread gently with the back of a spoon to help it absorb the liquid. Leave the pan on the counter, giving the bread the back-of-the-spoon treatment now and then, for about 30 minutes.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the baking pan in the roasting pan, slide the setup into the oven and very carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the pudding pan. Bake the pudding for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

The pudding can be served as is or dusted with confectioners' sugar just before serving. Or, if you want to give the pudding a little gloss, put about 1/2 cup apple jelly in a small pot with a splash of water. Heat until the jelly liquefiees, then brush a thin layer over the top of the pudding. Or...my personal recommendation...serve with lots of ice cream!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Strawberry Babycake

Believe it or not, my brother's wedding cake wasn't the only cake I made last weekend. My other brother Ian has a (completely adorable) daughter who was turning one around the time we were all together for the wedding, so we decided to have a little party and celebrate her. Meet Madeline:

What did I tell you? Completely adorable.

My sister-in-law Amy & I made the cake together, which was a blast. I always feel a little weird "teaching" friends and family in the kitchen, but she endured my ramblings with good humor, and the baby cake turned out pretty darn cute.

We made the teensiest, tiniest layer cake for Madeline: a 6-inch round and a 3-inch round. It was a strawberry cake with a strawberry buttercream, filled with fresh strawberries between the layers. I wish I had a picture of the inside, because it was beautiful: all pink!

It was topped with a ring of fondant rosebuds and a single candle.

Happy birthday, Madeline! What do you think of your cake?
OH REALLY. Well, we'll just eat it for you, then.

Fortunately, we'd also made cupcakes to go along with it, and she seemed to enjoy eating playing with that a lot more.

I think the next post needs to be cake- and family picture-free. Which will be easy, since it's soon time for Tuesdays with Dorie and it's MY PICK NEXT WEEK. Have you made your apple bread pudding yet?! Making mine tomorrow...can't wait!


Monday, May 10, 2010

I Have A Good Excuse, My Brother Ate My Homework

Hi friends! Sadly I had to skip this week's TWD recipe, but I have a really, really good excuse. This past week has been crazy, and it's all my brother Jeremy's fault:

First, let me tell you a little bit about my youngest brother. He & I are pretty much karaoke champions. We have been known to bring down the house with our rousing rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody":

And he has impeccable taste in headgear:

He and my brother Ian love to curl my mom (and me, boo) for exercise:

Our heads make a "boop!" sound when banged together:

He's my partner in adventures large and small:

And, most importantly, he's been looking for love for a long time:

Well, this past year, Jeremy got engaged to a wonderful woman, and they decided to get married last weekend. What do you get your beloved youngest brother for his wedding?

How about a cake?

I volunteered to make their wedding cake as my gift to the couple. They wanted a light, spring-appropriate cake, with white chocolate and strawberries. I ended up making a light butter cake, filled with strawberries and whipped cream, and frosted with white chocolate buttercream.

I was fortunate in that I was able to use the kitchen at work to make the components, so I had access to a big mixer and big ovens. I've done large cakes at home before with my small mixer and single oven, and it's a much more difficult process! The wedding was a 6-hour drive away, so I transported the frozen rounds and buttercream up in my car, and assembled the cake at the location the night before and day of the wedding. It was much less stressful this way.

They went simple and classic with the design: ivory fondant, ivory ribbons, and fresh purple orchids. They expected about 250 people, so I did rounds of 16", 12", 9", and 6", with the top tier to be saved for their first anniversary. It's always a crapshoot as far as how many people actually show, and how much cake they actually eat, but this time the estimate was amazingly accurate. The cake flew off the serving table:

And was gone, baby. We probably had about a dozen slices to spare, total. (Not counting the few I mangled when I tried to cut it. I still have a lot to learn about serving wedding cake slices!) It was the perfect amount, and I couldn't have been more pleased.

The wedding and reception were lovely, and although you can't trust anyone because they'll invariably lie to you and tell you your food is good regardless of the truth, people seemed to really like the cake. I got a lot of compliments about how it wasn't a traditional wedding cake (ie, dry and super-sweet) and the strawberries and whipped cream combo seemed very popular. I was just so glad to be able to be a part of their wedding day and share my talents with so many of our loved ones.

So as you can see, I couldn't squeeze in any extra baking this weekend, but I have the best excuse possible, and, even better, I have a married brother, a new sister-in-law, and some wonderful memories. Congratulations, Jeremy & Camille!


Monday, May 03, 2010

TWD: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

I have just 3 letters to describe this week's TWD pick, Burnt Sugar Ice Cream.


Now obviously, this stands for
Or, judging by the tasty puddle rapidly forming underneath all my ice cream scoops, despite hours of chilling and lightening-quick scooping, it stands for
Melty &

Yes, we absolutely loved this ice cream. I am usually lukewarm about ice cream (pun?) but even I couldn't stop eating this...and then licking the bowl...and finally the lid of the ice cream container. The deeply caramelized flavor was fabulous, but more than that, I loved the soft texture that stayed smooth for days, unlike most other homemade ice cream recipes that get rock-hard. In honor of its awesomeness, I made some sugar decorations to gussy up the plain bowls.

[And hey! Remember when I made sugar corkscrews? Well, I recently made a short video showing how it's done. In just two and a half minutes you can learn how too, if you're so inclined. The video is here. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming...]

The husband has had at least one helping a day, under the guise of market research. (So far we have discovered that it's equally good on its own, with warm cookies, and as part of an ice cream float. However, I fear more research is needed.) This will definitely be a recipe we'll come back to again and again. You could say we're
Majorly Smitten, &
over it.

Want to make this ice cream? Of course you do! Becky has the recipe over on her blog.