Friday, August 27, 2010

My First Daring Bakers Challenge

Thursday the 26th:

Daring Bakers is one of those online communities I knew about a while back, before blogging was even a twinkle in my eye. I thought of the group as one of those middle school clubs you have to be cool enough to join, because cool people have been in it (like Susan, Deeba, and the first blogger who started me on this food blog bunny trail--Anne). So, in a moment of confidence, curiosity, and just plain loneliness, I applied to join Daring Bakers. And then I promptly forgot about it--not out of apathy. I thought I probably wasn't cool enough to "get in." I didn't want to get too excited.

Two or three months later and I thought about it again in the way I many times do. There was something lurking behind me, something I was supposed to turn around and greet. Ah! There it is! Daring Bakers! I had thought I would receive an email if I got in, welcoming me to the club. And I might have. But like a lot of things, like my recently passed high school reunion, I missed it.

So here I am. The day before the due date (the 27th of each month). The cake is baked. The ice cream is churned. The chocolate is waiting to be made into ganache. What is this month's exciting To Do? Well, let me explain, because I have to:

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 admit I was not enthralled with my first challenge. I have issues with meringue, so Baked Alaska could not do me well; Petit Fours are cute, and I am anything but cute; also, although ice cream is on my list for summer fun activities, I have never made it before on my own. Fear. Trembling.

The browned butter pound cake sounded amazing though--definitely something I could work with.

I made cardamom ice cream. (Now we are talking!) Creamy cardamom with toasty pound cake and a slick, bitter covering of dark chocolate ganache. Yeah, those little cakes don't sound cute anymore. I am fairly sure the use of cardamom takes all the cuteness out and elevates the food to elegant.

I have eaten a little of the cake and it is actually fabulous. I celebrate my excitement with some of the cardamom ice cream and white peaches. I am so totally cool.


Nope, I was wrong.

If components were everything, this would be, by far, my best homemade dessert. Or, this would be my favorite homemade dessert. The cardamom ice cream is my new favorite. The cake is all its cracked up to be, in a pound cake sort of way. But lets be honest here, Petit Fours with ice cream?

Recipe aside, creativity aside, coolness (please) aside--the only way to serve these Ice Cream Petit Fours is to not serve them. To serve, you and your guests have about one minute before the delicate little scrummy begins to melt. If you don't wait at least 30 seconds though, it is a little too cold. So you have then about 15 seconds of perfection once the cakes are removed from the freezer and plated before the whole thing deteriorates into a puddle on a pedestal.

Clearly, serving is totally out. So then what? Petit Fours beg to be served! They are supposed to be beautiful, delicate, even elegant (if you use cardamom, like my cool self). Well, if you are like me, you don't actually have anyone to serve them to and you have already figured out the melting problems by the time they are done. You end up just standing in the 105 degree garage prying them off the rack straight from the freezer while your son is squawking at you from behind the baby gate. You eat one or two in a gluttonous rush before he breaks down in actual tears from your neglectful absence.

Or, you tell your family to eat them all as they wish. You can't stand the sight of them. You spent the morning licking the messed-up, oddly gelatinous ganache from your forearms and stuffing your face with cake and ice cream trimmings because you hate wasting good food, and really, the last thing on your mind is eating more of it. In fact, you were so ill at one point, you had to lie on the couch for a half hour while your mother played with your (once again) neglected child. You ponder the true fact of the matter: you have eaten entirely too much cake, ice cream, and ganache in a very short period of time. You are not made for this kind fussy, high-brow "baking."

Well, it is the damned Petit Fours fault anyway. Who are these people? Daring Bakers. Daring is right. Who makes pretty desserts with ice cream in the Valley? It is hot as hell here and ice cream melts! Don't people know that? I don't understand.

Oh yeah, I remember in a moment of clarity, I am not a professional. I have no mastered abilities in the kitchen. I am no pastry chef, though I hope to be in my next life. I am solidly an amateur: a lover of food, a lover of all things cardamom, browned, and buttery. I love, also, to write. Its all coming back now. Right. I write this blog because I like food so much that I want to write about it sometimes. I write this blog and joined the community of Daring Bakers because I wanted a structure to my cooking, baking, eating, writing insanity.

I'm ok now.

I love this ice cream, make it. I love this cake, make it. I even, after all of it, love them together. They are fun in Petit Fours, but for the less adventurous, I recommend larger ones, like ice cream sandwich size. They are simpler, less cute, less fussy, and they tell the eater immediately what they must know: there is childlike goodness here; there is a melty, summertime, outside snack here; there is more than one bite here. That is how I made the little strip of leftovers after I spent two hours making three photogenic Petit Fours. That is how I would make them again. And I will make them again.

I would have never made the ice cream or the "sandwiches" if it weren't for Daring Bakers. Thank you Daring Bakers for letting this uncool amateur baker into your cool club. Really, I feel cooler already.

Petit Fours-Or-Ice Cream Sandwiches

Cardamom Ice Cream (adapted from Tartlette)

4 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
9 cardamom pods

Stir together the cream, milk, and sugar in a large saucepan. Crush the cardamom pods on a stable surface and add both the pods and the seeds to the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let steep and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, preferably for at least 8 hours.

Strain the mixture and remove the crushed pods. Process mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.

If you do not have an ice cream maker: I hear you can just freeze it anyway. Pour the cream into a freeze proof container and freeze for a couple of hours. Take it out and beat it with a mixer (in a bowl, and with the paddle, don't actually abuse this ice cream) or immersion blender. Freeze for again, beat again, do that four or five times until it is done.

Browned Butter Pound Cake (mandatory recipe from The Challenge)

19 tablespoons butter
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.

2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Assembly Instructions--Ice Cream Petit Fours (from Elissa the host)

1. Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.

2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.

3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.

4. Make the chocolate ganache

5. While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm).

6. Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it.

7. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.

Assembly Instructions--Ice Cream Sandwiches

Same as for petit fours, only cut them into larger pieces and let them freeze for an extra half to full hour.



  1. Sister, you never cease to amaze me! You are so funny!

  2. Love that you are OK, and love the passion you wrote this post with! Did we forget to send you a welcome mail from the DB's? LOL ... you are too funny my dear! I love the petit fours you made. Well done on the challenge, and the ice cream sounds amazing!