(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 is my first official month doing the Daring Baker challenge.  I made the Chocolate Pavlovas from last month, but I wasn’t signed up and I did it a month late, so that didn’t really count. 

 

This month there were two choices, Baked Alaska or Petit Fours.  I’ve made Baked Alaska before – I have a great recipe for a lemon version in a pie crust I need to post some time – so I did the Petit Fours. 

 

This started with a browned-butter cake.  Besides the browned butter, there wasn’t anything particularly different about the cake.  I’ve done some interesting desserts with browned butter before – I have another un-posted recipe for browned-butter Rice Krispie Treats – so I knew better then to leave it alone even for 2 minutes. Once the butter was browned and cooled, it got mixed with the standard cake ingredients and baked:

 

Brown Butter Cake

 

it came out smelling wonderfully nutty, if not particularly photogenic. 

 

The ice cream was next – I did two batches.  One of them was the vanilla bean from the Daring Baker recipe – I’ve also made that before, because my copy of the Perfect Scoop rarely gets back on the shelf in the summer, and this is one of my favorite recipes from there.  It’s creamy and full of flecks of vanilla, and it was too good to wait for:

Vanilla Ice Cream

After that, I made a quick batch of strawberry shortcake ice cream – most of one quart of strawberries in the food processor until it turns into pulp, some cream cheese, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Sort of like this recipe, only with strawberry instead of cherries.

 

I split the cake in half, filled it with the ice cream, and reassembled it in the freezer and left it overnight.  The next day, it got trimmed into squares and then dipped in the ganache:

 

P1040209

Then back in the freezer to set again.  They were good right out of the freezer, but they were better after an hour or so out of the freezer.  When the ice cream was slightly melted, it soaked into the cake, and pulled all the flavors together.

Would I make them again?  Probably not.  I wasn’t really impressed with the cake – it smelled better then it tasted.  The ice cream was already a favorite, and I didn’t think it added much to layer it with the cake.  Next time I want to wrap something around ice cream, I’ll make little thin brownies and call them ice cream sandwiches.

( see the recipes )

Sugar Cookies

I have too many cookbooks. My cookbook rack overflowed, then my cookbook shelf, then my 2 cookbook shelves.  Too many of them sit and gather dust, but there are a few I use all the time. 

This recipe is from one of the ones I use all the time – Martha Stewart’s Cookies. Every cookie I’ve made out of it has turned out well, and I’ve made quite a few of them.

The first time I tried them, I wasn’t sure about the lemon juice.  I’m still not sure how "old-fashioned" it is to put lemon in sugar cookies.  But it is awfully good.

Sugar cookies tent to be boring – the lemon brightens them up enough to make these interesting.  The texture is good – crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle.  I make them like all my other cookie recipes – mix up the whole batch, then use a scoop to make individual balls, which I keep in the fridge or freeze.  These actually benefit from a few hours in the  fridge – it keeps them from spreading out as much, making the middle thicker and chewier. 

They’d probably also work well with orange or lime instead of the lemon.  But the lemon is so good that I don’t have much of an incentive to modify them.

( see the recipe )

Strawberry Pie

Strawberries just aren’t something I think of when I think about fruit pies.  Sure, they get combined with rhubarb for strawberry-rhubarb pie, and our local pie shop has a strawberry cheesecake pie and, when they’re in season, a pie with fresh glazed strawberries on top, but you don’t seem them baked into pies like blueberries, boysenberries, or cherries. So when I saw a post on Willow Bird Baking about a strawberry sour cream pie, I had to try it.

It’s getting late in the season for strawberries, but there were a few nice-looking quarts still in the grocery stores.  I have terrible luck with pie crusts, so I picked up one of the frozen Marie Callender pie shells while I was at at the store.  It’s not that I can’t make pie crusts – I can – but that they don’t turn out significantly better then the store-bought ones.  So I save pie-crust-making for special occasions.

I sliced the strawberries:

Strawberry Pie

The rest of the ingredients – a cup of sugar (the original recipe had more, but I wanted the sour cream to pop a bit), a cup of flour, a pinch of salt, and a cup of sour cream – all go in a bowl to be mixed until they’re completely combine.  Then toss in the strawberries, mix gently, and pour into the pie shell.

Into the oven for 10 minutes at 450F, then reduce the heat to 350F for 30 to 40 minutes.  Mine really needed the full 40 minutes.  I put it in the fridge to cool overnight, then served it with a few more slices of strawberry on top. 

Strawberry Pie

I probably should have whipped some cream to put on top, but it was good just the way it was (and I’m saving my heavy cream for ice cream later this week).  Next time, I’ll bake it 5 minutes longer to firm up the center a bit more. 

I’m thinking it would make a great summer potluck dessert!

( see the recipe )

Chocolate Pavlovas

Sometimes, I bake because I want a snack.  Sometimes, I bake because I see something that looks interesting to try.  And sometimes I bake because I feel like spending a whole day baking.

This is one of those all-day-baking recipes.  It’s originally from the Daring Bakers June Challenge, but I wasn’t a Daring Baker, so I didn’t see it until the end of June, and didn’t made it until the end of July. 

It really was an all-day recipe.  I got up early to get the meringue bases in the oven before it got too humid.  I’ve made meringues before, but usually around Christmas, and never flavored.  Getting the cocoa powder folded into the eggs was a pain, but I got there eventually.  I piped them into rounds, and they went in the oven for 3 hours. 

Even without the rest of the recipe, the meringues were good to munch on their own.  I kept thinking they’d make a great base for ice cream sandwiches.

While they were baking, I made the creme anglaise.  It wasn’t particularly difficult – it’s just basically a custard.  After it cooled, it got thinned with a bit more mascarpone cheese and some heavy cream, to make it suitable for drizzling.

I waited until the meringues were out of the oven and cooling before I started on the mousse.  I didn’t know you could whip mascarpone cheese to soft peaks, but it does work!  Once it was done, it was easy to just pipe the mousse onto the meringues, and dribble it with the cream.

I’d make this again, although maybe not all together unless I was looking for an impressive “having people over for dinner” dessert.  I didn’t think the drizzled cream added much besides looks.  The mousse was wonderful, though, and will become my default chocolate mousse recipe.  And the meringues will make an amazing base for all sorts of things.  In fact, I think I have some leftover vanilla ice cream in my freezer right now…

( See the recipe )