Saturday, August 28, 2010

Daring Bakers : August 2010 : A Brown Butter Cheat?

I think I cheated. I fully intended on building a tower of baked alaska amazingness, yet, somwhere in the process what you see above is where I ended up. With a bit of a deconstructed baked alaska mess. . .

This whole process started with me picking apples from the front yard. I've been watching them from my kitchen windows, growing in size and color over the last few weeks. I feel they've ripened far quicker than normal this year, I attribute it to the mixture of rain and sun we've had here in the northwest this summer. It seems that every few days of 80 degree weather we get are followed by a few grey rainy days. That's been the pattern this year.

 I really have no clue what variety of apple they are, they were in our yard long before we were. Yet, they are quite possibly the best apples I've ever tasted, rivaling the pink ladies and honeycrisp kings, a perfect mixture of tart and sweet. Perfect for eating straight from the branch, or piled high in pies (blackberry apple being one of my favorites).

After picking them, I introduced them to my mandoline. Afterwhich they took a long bath in cast iron skillet filled with copious amounts of cinnamon, sugar, and butter. They bathed for a good half an hour, until they were completely sticky, gooey, and caramelized.

While the apples simmered away on the stovetop, I melted and cooled a batch of brown butter, whipping it together with the usual cake suspects of sugar, eggs, vanilla, and flour. Baking it to a golden perfection and allowing it to cool by an open window (I have yet to tempt any cake or pie burglars, like those featured in many a cartoon). 

This is where things went south for my baked Alaska. After the brown butter pound cake cooled, as I sliced two large pieces away from the loaf, my plans changed. I fully intended to stack slices of cake with slabs of homemade vanilla ice cream, sandwiching caramelized apples throughout. I also entirely intended upon slathering the whole thing with fresh made meringue and toasting it until perfectly golden. Yet, as my knife sliced through that cake something came over me. I can't tell you why exactly. I was fully committed to the baked alaska tower. But, at that moment, the moment the slices fell from the cake, I was hit with the desire to make a deconstructed baked alaska. I'm not sure I love the looks, but the taste was spot on. Nutty, crumbly, sweet, creamy, with a hat of crunchy meringue to top it all off. The brown butter pound cake is a must try for your fall menu. It's incredibly unique in flavor, so nutty, buttery, but sweet. It would make the perfect end to a autumn inspired sunday supper. Top it off with apples and ice cream (the meringue could easily be skipped) and you've got yourself a certifiable mouthgasm on your hands.

I know I could've gone with summer flavors, seeing as it's still summer. But the brown butter and the apples dripping from the branches outside begged to be made into something Autumn in flavor and inspiration. 

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”.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (See “Note” section for cake flour substitution)
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
                          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 (I baked mine in a traditional loaf 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 minutes (45 minutes for the loaf pan).
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.

David Lebovitz's Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.
2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.