Make yourself comfy, because it is that time of the month again!
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”.
I was so excited to read this challenge. I have been very curious about browned butter for quite some time now, but have always been too afraid to try it. While there were some daring bakers who were less excited to have a second ice cream based challenge in a row, to me, there is no such thing as too much ice cream, especially now that I know how amazing the homemade variety is. So between the brown butter and the ice cream, I could not wait to dive right into this challenge.
So I didn't.
Wait, that is. For the first time ever, I started this challenge the day after it was posted. So I am so excited to finally be able to share it with you.
The first step was to decide which of the two desserts I was going to make with my brown butter pound cake. This was easy. They both looked great - I was going to make both. There was no question about that.
The second step was to make the brown butter. This was a little harder, at least mentally, before actually starting. Browning butter was always something that worried me a bit, since there is only a fine line between browning butter and burning it. A line I have always been nervous to cross. And this recipe called for two and a half sticks of butter. That is a lot of butter to risk. But this was the perfect opportunity, so I got started.
The process of browning butter is actually quite simple, as long as you watch it carefully.
The butter is melted over medium heat, and then heated further until the milk solids begin to toast, darkening to a nice brown and giving off a delicious, nutty aroma. At this point, I placed the entire pot into a pan that I had set aside, filled with cold water. This was to immediately stop the cooking process to make sure that the butter didn't cross that line into "burned" territory. The beautiful, golden, aromatic butter was then transferred to a bowl and placed into the freezer to cool for use in the pound cake. I love how you can actually see the layers in the butter, with the dark milk solids on the bottom.
While the butter was cooling, little miss and I got started preparing the dry ingredients for the brown butter pound cake. She absolutely loves measuring, pouring and mixing.
The batter came together absolutely beautifully, and had such a beautiful color and smell, thanks to the brown butter. Needless to say, I was very encouraged, even at this stage, about the entire challenge. I mean, if just the batter for the first element looked this good, that had to mean good things for the rest of the challenge.
Once the cake was done, it was time to choose which dessert I was going to make first. I chose the Baked Alaska, for no other reason than I actually had a plan for the egg yolks that I would wind up with as a result of making the meringue. I actually had some vanilla ice cream left over from last month's bombe challenge. As lucky timing would have it, I had made the ice cream late in the month for that challenge, and was preparing this challenge early, so the ice cream was only one week "leftover." I decided to convert it to cookies and cream for use in this challenge, just to change things up a bit. Little miss helped me crush Oreo cookies, then mix them into the vanilla ice cream. We then lined two of little miss's small-sized bowls with plastic wrap and used them as molds for the ice cream. These were placed into the freezer to get nice and solid, to be ready for the construction of the final dessert. I then used another of these bowls as the guide for cutting out the cake, onto which these ice cream rounds would rest. Then, when the time came to put it all together, I whipped up some meringue.
To put the dessert together, the molded ice cream is turned out onto the cake rounds. Then the whole thing is covered in the prepared meringue. The meringue can be piped on or, as I did, spread onto the ice cream and cake, making sure that the entire dessert is fully covered. I then put the meringue covered domes back into the freezer until dessert time, just waiting for the finishing touch. Once dinner was done, it was time to pop these guys into a very (VERY) hot oven for just a couple of minutes to toast the meringue. The meringue (plus the extra freezer time...) insulates the ice cream enough to keep it from melting, despite the 500 degree oven temperature. The resutly was a beautifully toasted Baked Alaska. Little miss was absolutely amazed that I was putting ice cream in the oven, and was more than happy to be a taste tester for the finished product. It got major thumbs up all around.
Baked Alaska completed (and thoroughly enjoyed), I was able to then turn my attention to the second dessert option. In cutting the pound cake for the Baked Alaskas, I had reserved half to be used to create ice cream petit fours.
For the petit fours, I decided to use the leftover caramel ice cream from last month's challenge. I had just enough, and, as luck would have it, had a complimentary flavor-combination idea to use it. The given recipe for petit fours was something like a chocolate-enrobed ice cream sandwich, with the brown butter pound cake as the "bread" for the sandwich. With the combination of caramel ice cream and the chocolate covering, I was really getting "candy bar" vibes, so that was my inspiration for my petit fours. After carefully splitting the pound cake in half, I proceeded to spread chocolate sauce on one half and caramel sauce (the same caramel sauce ipe recthat I had used as the topping for my apple pierogi) on the other. I then put the caramel ice cream in the middle and, as quickly as possible, closed up my "sandwich" to re-freeze in the freezer. As you can see, I had the same problem with the caramel ice cream here as I did in the apple pie bombe - it melts. Fast. And becomes just a little bit messy. As quickly as I could, I wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap and put it back into the freezer. As for the mess on the counter? Little miss was more than happy to help me clean it up... as only a four year old can...
After several hours in the freezer, it was time to cut the sandwich into cubes to be covered in chocolate. The caramel sauce actuall froze to be pretty hard, which made cutting the layers cleanly a little bit tricky, but I soon had about a dozen sandwich squares, ready to be covered in chocolatey goodness. For some reason, my sauce came out very thin, so we actually double-dipped them, hoping for a nice, clean chocolate coating. The result wasn't quite what I had hoped for, but I must say - the combination of melty caramel ice cream and thin chocolate coating made the pound cake extra moist, even after time in the freezer, and the results were super delicious. What was lost in presentation points, I certainly think was made up for in taste points.
Elissa, I cannot thank you enough for such an awesome challenge. Thank you for helping me get over my fear of brown butter, thank you for the amazing brown butter pound cake recipe (oh yes, that will be made again!), and for the fun chance to exercise dessert creativity with both dessert options. This was a really great challenge.
I highly recommend checking out the beautiful, creative and delicious looking desserts made by the other Daring Bakers this month.
4 hours ago