Spring is a busy birthday season at our house. My eldest daughter just celebrated her 27th birthday. She also just discovered she has a gluten intolerance. I think we're all asking ourselves... why didn't we figure this out sooner? Now, I will need to be extremely aware of the ingredients I'm using whenever she comes over for dinner.
My daughter's birthday cake was a flourless chocolate cake I've made for years. We all like this little dense, fudgy cake; but the stand-out at this birthday party was the Salted Caramel Ice Cream that was served alongside. We often treat ourselves to salted caramel at a local ice cream shop in St. Paul. This was the first time I've made it at home. I found this recipe through the Barefoot Contessa. After I made the salted caramel, combined it with the ice cream base, and put it in the refrigerator to chill, I started scrolling through the "comment" section of the on-line recipe. Honestly, had I read the comments first, I probably never would have attempted this ice cream. Everyone agreed it was the best salted caramel ice cream they had ever eaten, but the majority also said it had its challenges -- number one being, it was practically impossible to get a frozen ice cream with a scoop-able consistency. This is what I found (and did)... 1. I made the ice cream base and let it set at room temperature while I immediately made the salted caramel. Be patient with the caramel. You will need to stir the mixture continually for some time before all of the caramelized clumps dissolve and give way to a smooth texture. After it's off the heat, stir the caramel over an ice bath until cool enough to add to the ice cream base. At that point, I used a whisk to combine the two until smooth with no lumps of caramel remaining. 2. I was more concerned with the finished ice cream having time to firm up in the freezer than I was with chilling the ice cream mixture before freezing in the ice cream machine. So -- I put the liquid mixture in the freezer for about two hours. It was just starting to freeze along the sides of the bowl. At that point, it was good and cold! I poured it into the ice cream machine's container and ran the ice cream maker for at least 45 minutes. It actually set up beautifully. Keep in mind, it is a soft ice cream. When I pulled the finished ice cream from the freezer the next day to serve, it scooped up beautifully and tasted delicious. It is not an ice cream you would want to leave unattended. It does start melting rather quickly. So eat up right after you've filled your dish!
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
• 2 teaspoons sea salt, such as Maldon ( I used Fleur de Sel)
• Ice Cream Base (recipe follows)
• 1 tablespoon good quality pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the sugar in a dry heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Stir with a fork just until the sugar starts to melt. At that point, do not stir, but instead, lift the pan to gently swirl the liquid so it melts evenly. Cook until the liquid is an dark amber color.
2. Pour the heavy cream into the mixture while stirring (it may splatter, so be careful). Continue to stir over medium to medium-low heat until there are no lumps remaining. Be persistent. The lumps will disappear. Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl, stir in the salt, and place the bowl into an ice bath. Stir until the mixture has cooled down. At that point, combine it with the Ice Cream Base. Gently whisk the mixture until there are no visible caramel lumps. Be persistent with this and the lumps will eventually disappear. Add the vanilla.
3. Chill the mixture until very cold. This can take several hours. I placed my covered bowl in the freezer for about 2 hours. The mixture was just beginning to show signs of freezing around the edges. At that point I poured the mixture into the ice cream maker and "churned" the cream for about 45 minutes. It will become very thick, but will still be soft. Transfer to a freezer container and for best consistency, freeze overnight.
ICE CREAM BASE:
• 1 cup whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 2 cups heavy cream
1. Heat milk in a heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat.
2. Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice water. Rest a medium-size bowl on top of the ice water and place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.
3. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk the mixture until it is pale yellow in color and the sugar has dissolved. While whisking, slowly pour the warmed milk into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the sauce pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon -- about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook or you will scramble the eggs!
4. Strain the custard into the top bowl of the ice bath to cool. Set aside. Stir the caramel mixture into the custard (see instructions above), cover, and chill.
TAKE a LOOK:
The first time I ever had a Baked Alaska, I must have been 8 or 9 years old. My mother served it as the dessert to our mid-day meal. I didn't know very much about cooking or baking at that age. I occasionally stood in the kitchen watching my mother at work, but that was rare. I would rather be outdoors with friends, running and playing games, knitting in a lawn chair under a shade tree, or drawing. My mother was a great cook and loved doing it. Why did I need to know how to cook and bake when she was so capable of doing exemplary things in the kitchen? I honestly thought she was nuts (can I say that?) when she told me what she was going to do. Who in their right mind would put ice cream in a 500˚F oven? When the golden brown meringue emerged from the oven and wasn't floating in a pool of milky liquid, I thought my mother was a genius. I wonder, when she did something like this, if she had any clue she'd be creating such wonderful memories for me?
I used a brownie base for the peppermint ice cream in my individual Baked Alaskas. I initially wanted salted caramel ice cream, but soon realized I didn't have enough time to make my own. I then decided peanut butter ice cream was what I wanted on top of the brownie. I would sprinkle candied peanuts on top of the torched meringue. Another disappointment; peanut butter ice cream was not to be had that day. Peppermint won by default. Feel free to experiment with any flavor ice cream, sherbert or sorbet that inspires you.
. . . with peppermint ice cream
Serves 6 - 8
• Brownies (recipe here
) Bake in a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper extending 1-inch over the long sides of the pan. Check frequently after 20 minutes, and remove from the oven before becoming dry.• 1/2 gallon peppermint, peanut butter, salted caramel, or any flavor ice cream you prefer, softened (you will probably not use the entire half gallon).FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:• 1/3 cup heavy cream•
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips•
Italian Meringue (recipe here
)Steps 1 and 2 will need to be completed the day before you plan to eat the Baked Alaskas.1. Bake the brownies. When cool, grab the parchment overhanging the sides of the pan, and lift the brownies to a work surface.2. Line 6 small custard cups or 8 timbale molds with plastic wrap.
Using a spoon, pack the containers full with ice cream. Cover the tops with the over-hanging plastic wrap and press gently to remove any air pockets in the ice cream. Place the containers in a shallow metal pan and place in the freezer.3.
Using a round cookie/biscuit cutter, cut brownie discs the size of the base of the custard cups or timbale molds. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream until bubbles just start to form on the edge of the surface. Take the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Let the mixture set for about 3 minutes then stir until smooth. Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Spoon a dollop of the the chocolate ganache onto each of the brownie discs. Pull the formed ice cream from their molds and place on top of the brownie. The chocolate gananche will work as a "glue" to hold the ice cream in place. Return ice cream and brownie Alaskas to the freezer.4. Make the Italian Meringue following the recipe above. Take the ice cream from the freezer. At this point, you can either spoon meringue onto the individual ice cream and brownie desserts and spread decoratively with a knife, or place the meringue into a pastry bag and pipe the meringue onto the ice cream. Just be sure to cover the ice cream and brownie completely. Do not leave any part exposed.
Return the meringue covered desserts to the freezer until ready to serve (they can be left in the freezer for up to one day).5.
Remove desserts from the freezer and either use a butane torch to brown the meringue or place the Alaskas in a pre-heated 500˚F oven and bake until browned. WATCH CLOSELY
if you use the oven!
TAKE a LOOK:
My family has a lemon addiction. Given the choice, we will always choose a lemon dessert over chocolate. One family member in particular was making me feel extremely guilty for not having made anything lemony for quite a while. That disgruntled family member would be quite happy if I gave her a spoon and a jar of homemade lemon curd. I chose instead to make this wonderful lemon loaf cake with a sauce of wild blueberries and dried tart cherries, and topped the two off with homemade lemon-poppy seed ice cream.
If you don't have enough time to make all three, make either the lemon loaf cake that bakes up with a beautiful, delicate crumb, and is delicious toasted for breakfast... or the lemon-poppy seed ice cream which I predict after tasting, you will make often.
I could also see the blueberry sauce drizzled over a stack of lemon-cornmeal pancakes... Yum
:: LEMON LOAF CAKE ::
a recipe by Norman Love-- from the book BAKING WITH JULIA
written by Dorie Greenspan
• 4 large eggs, room temperature
• 1 1/3 cups sugar
• Pinch of salt
• Grated zest of 3 large lemons (I used 6 small organic lemons)
• 1 3/4 cups cake flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
• 5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan and dust with flour, shaking out the excess.
2. Working in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt for just a minute, until foamy and smoothly blended; the mixture should not thicken. Whisk in the grated zest.
3. Spoon the flour and baking powder into a sifter and sift about a third of the dry ingredients over the foamy egg mixture. Whisk the flour into the eggs, mixing lightly--do not beat. Sift the flour over the eggs in two more additions and whisk only until everything is incorporated. Whisk the heavy cream into the mixture. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently and quickly fold in the melted butter.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for approximately 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake to a cooling rack to rest for 10 minutes, then unmold. Cool to room temp.
WILD BLUEBERRY-DRIED CHERRY SYRUP
• 1 cup fresh or frozen Wild Blueberries
• 1/3 cup dried sour cherries
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Place the first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Take from the heat, add the vanilla extract. Cool.
LEMON POPPY SEED ICE CREAM
adapted from a recipe by Susan Weaver
• 1 cup milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 6 eggs yolks
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
• Zest of 3 small organic lemons
1. Mix milk and heavy cream together in a saucepan and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks, 3 tablespoons of the milk and heavy cream mixture, and sugar together in a bowl and set aside.
2. Bring the milk and heavy cream mixture to a boil. Remove pan from the heat and slowly whisk into the egg yolk mixture. Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until the mixture coats the spoon. Remove pan from the heat. Strain the custard into a bowl. Stir the poppy seeds and lemon zest into the custard. Place in refrigerator and cool. Freeze according to ice cream machine directions. Makes about 2 cups.