Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A new addition, a new hope , & how NOT to make an ice cream cake.

August is always marked with my philosopher's birthday, and this year was especially worth noticing. It marks the last year he'll spend as a twenty-something before he hits the dreaded 3's and officially becomes an old boring man.  This year was special, and this years cake had to be especially enthralling consider the track record of his last few birthdays in my company. Unfortunately, my philosopher is not a big decision maker when food is involved, and so I was forced with thinking about something quintessentially him, and completely delicious. Something that could beat chocolate brioche pain perdu in Paris, and a peanut butter mint hybrid. What I devised was a melding of passions, and so came about the invention of a red velvet and maple ice cream cake, with spiced pecans. It was delicious, but it was also crucial learning experience in how NOT to make an ice cream cake. You get to learn from my mistakes.   You get to judge precisely what failure is. It was swoon worthy still, even if not the greatest looking cake.

In more successful news however, more directly related to my changing trajectory....

The times they are a changing, I landed a job at the new Eataly that is opening by the end of this month, put in my two weeks notice, began looking for apartments, and brought home a little hellion of a kitten that goes by the name of Murdock. Named for his comic book counterpart, Mr. Matt Murdock. He has a nasty habit of attacking whatever he can't see, which is everything. My hands look like I was playing with rabid squirrels now.

This is our new addition. 

And this is a delicious if not ugly birthday cake. The Red Velvet was adapted from Bakerella's recipe.  And the Maple ice cream I snatched from Cupcake Project. Both are delicious on their own, but together, they're even better.

Maple-Red Velvet Ice Cream Cake with Spiced Nuts.


Red Velvet Cake

Maple Ice Cream 
3/4 cup grade B maple syrup. 
2 cups of heavy cream
1 cup of whole milk.
4 egg yolks, at room temperature.
3/4 teaspoon of maple extract or "flavoring". 
One very heavy pinch of salt.

Spiced Nuts
1-2 pounds of pecans.
4 tablespoons of butter.
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt.
2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

Red Velvet Cake 
2.5 cups AP flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon dutch process cocoa

i very heavy teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs

1.5 cups vegetable or safflower oil (I prefer safflower for texture, but it's not on hand in most kitchens.)
1 cup buttermilk (don't freak out looking for full fat, it doesn't exist)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Red (or any other color) gel food colouring, about 1 half to a full canister.

Two 9 inch cake pans
Plastic wrap and tin foil.
A baking sheet
Parchment Paper

And Away We Go!

First and foremost make your ice cream. In a small sauce pan, reduce your maple syrup until it's lost about a quarter of it's original volume. I went for about 8 to 10 minutes on a low, low simmer because I was terrified of scorching it. Then, stir in your dairy and the salt and bring it just under a boil. Stir constantly-ish to prevent a skin. 

Once it reaches it bubbling point, slowly pour (WHILE STIRRING) about an eighth of the mixture into your egg yolks (Which you've set aside in a bowl of course), then a quarter, and then half, and then the rest. You could be risky and do it in two additions, but my first custard ice cream disaster has made me wary of curdling yolks.

Return the custard back into the pot while straining through a sieve, cheese cloth, whatever the hell you may have to remove any errant cooked egg bits. Add your extract if you have it. Cook over medium low heat, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (run a finger down it, does the line get filled in? It isn't finished.) 

Place into a bowl with plastic wrap set straight down on the custard, and chill for 12 to 24 Hours. In the mean time, make your cakes. 

Red Velvet is literally the easiest cake in the to make. Here's how you do it. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit, and grease and line the bottoms two 9 inch cake with parchment paper.  Take all of your liquids, eggs, buttermilk, vinegar, oil, and combine in one vessel. Then take all of your dry ingredients and mix them together in a big bowl with a wire whisk. Combine the two together! Then add food colouring to your desired hue. 

Divide between the two pans, knock against the counter a few times to get rid of any extreme air bubbles, and then bake for about 20 to 40 minutes depending on your oven. Check in between with the toothpick test. 

Allow to cool about 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack (covered with plastic wrap) to cool completely. Then...

This is what I DIDN'T do that I should have to avoided that terrible black hole in the middle. When they are finally cool. Totally cover the cakes with saran wrap and foil and then freeze until you're ready to assemble your cake. 

While those freeze up you can finish your ice cream! Take the chilled custard and churn it according to your ice cream maker's instructions. While it churns line a 9 inch cake pan with plastic wrap.  When it's finished pour the ice cream into the pan, cover and cure in the freezer for at least 12 hours. 

For the nuts. Chop and toss the pecans in the melted butter, cinnamon, sugar, and salt until thoroughly coated, and then place them on baking sheet in a 400 degree oven to roast and toast and dry out. You really just need to keep an eye on them and when they smell like nuts and feel relatively dry pull them out, give on a taste. If it's not right, stick them back in for another minute or so. Allow to cool on the pan.  While that cools you can make your whipped cream. 

THEN....You can finally assemble. Take your favorite cake plate (that will fit in your freezer. Unwrap your cakes. Smear a bit of whipped cream and then layer the red velvet cake, an eighth to a quarter of the nuts and then the ice cream*, more nuts, the rest of the cake. Then frost with the whipped cream, garnish with the rest of the nuts and freeze.   

In my original preparation I used whipped cream in between layers which I think may have caused a bit of a vaccum as well. 

Remove from the freezer 20-30 minutes before serving.


And leave a comment to let me know how yours turned out.

Trains, strain, and chocolate pudding.

One might think that when one begins going to school for baking and pastry there would indeed be a lot more time for...said baking. That had been my presumption, that was...until I started actually going. Perhaps if the commute was less harrowing, or the feelings of complete and utter exhaustion upon returning home confined to a day or so per week it would be a tad different. I could maybe find time to pop out a cake or cookie in between the rush...but fact remains that I don’t, and haven’t.
There is however, one small dessert that can typically be made in no time flat, that is delicious and beloved by all, and that in times of dire exhaustion and soul crushing depression that follow late nights on the train and the ache of having to finally send your childhood pet across that Rainbow bridge(by the way, does anybody know where the fuck that saying came from?) can lift the spirits and make the world right again.
  That little thing, is chocolate pudding. Devastatingly under appreciated in our adult years, forgotten to the small snack packs that lay in our lunch boxes or came at the end of a particularly good school lunch. Can be revamped, and beloved again. In an entirely grown up sort of fashion. I don’t remember what magazine I tore the recipe from, I think it may have been Food Network, but it has been committed to memory since. This is quintessential, easy to make, and sure to impress at any pot luck. 

Dark Chocolate Pudding with Spiced Whipped Cream

5 oz. 50%-62% dark chocolate (Only real honest to god chocolate, melting chocolate, chocolate chips will not work..they have weird stabilizers added to them.)
3 cups of milk (whole or 2% is fine)
1/2 to 1 full  teaspoon of salt (the amount depends on your tastes really, you can always add more in the final stage)
1.5 tablespoons of vanilla puree
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (optional)
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
Half cup of sugar.

A medium sauce pan.
A retaining vessel.

And Away We Go...

Chop up the chocolate and add it to the milk with the salt in the sauce pan and put it over medium heat, while this is melting down pull out a bowl and whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Then incorporate the egg yolks so it becomes one big yellow blob. Set it aside and pay attention to the milk.

Stir occasionally until the chocolate has entirely melted into the milk and it’s at a hot cocoa kind of temperature. Then add a little bit to the egg mixture so it loosens up and the eggs get tempered, continue this little bit at a time process until about half of the milk is incorporated and the lumps and sugar have dissolved. By this time you should be able to add the rest, whisk it all together and then return to the sauce pan.

Over low to medium heat simmer the pudding stirring constantly until it’s thick and ribbony, this is the time to add your extracts and any additional salt if necessary. When it reaches a loose custardy consistency pour into your waiting vehicles of choice. I tend to make this in multiple batches and so use a low metal cake pan to help it cool faster and to incorporate other batches. But one batch will fill about 8 of those little pot de creme cups.

Put in the refrigerator to chill. Top with homemade whipped cream that you’ve spiced with a tablespoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

An important note: When making more than one batch, do NOT double up the recipe and cook twice as much at one time. it takes FOREVER to thicken up on the stove top and then you’re stuck there stirring and panicking for a full half hour or so. Just make each batch individually and add it to one big vessel. When they are all combined, whisk the whole bunch together for consistency. Let cool on the counter for a bit, and then chill.