Friday, August 27, 2010

August's Daring Baker's Baked Alaska

I've always wanted to try my hand at making a real baked Alaska. I say real, because I've made a baked Alaska once before... a long time ago in my High School Home Economics class... it didn't turn out so well :P But with this month's Daring Baker challenge asking us bakers to try out hand at this finicky dessert I new I had to have my "A-game". My variation for this DB recipe was to make a banana-rum baked Alaska. The cake base would consist of a brown-butter banana bread pound cake, and the ice cream would be a cinnamon, maple, rum flavor.
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”.

Individual Baked Alaska

Vanilla Ice Cream

- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
- A pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup (165g) sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream

- 5 large egg yolks- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- My Variation: substitute 2tsp vanilla with 2tsp rum extract, add 1/2tsp ground cinnamon and 2tsp maple syrupMethod:
1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean (or extract if using) with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If making cinnamon-maple ice cream, add in the powder and syrup now!)
2. Set up an ice bath by plac
ing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.
3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.
4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15
ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine.
Brown Butter Pound Cake
- 19 tbsp (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
-- or if making banana brown-butter cake, use 8 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup mashed banana
- 2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sifted)
- 1 tsp baking powder- 1/2 tsp (3g) salt
- 1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extractMethod:
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 (if making banana-brown butter cake, add mashed banana now), 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.

. 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 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.Meringue (For the Baked Alaska)
- 8 large egg whites
- ½ teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1 cup (220g) sugar

1. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly Instructions – Baked Alaska
1. Line four 4” (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. (For my banana-rum baked Alaska, I sliced pieces of banana and layered it on top of the ice cream after I pressed it into the bowls/cups)

2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.

3. Make the meringue (see above.)

4. Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.
5. Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.

I attempted to use my hand-held long-ended lighter to brown the edges of the meringue but I suppose the flame wasn't hot enough for the browning effect to be properly seen. Note to self: invest in a good quality hand-held torch (justify the need for one by making creme brulee and baked Alaskas at least 2 times a week :P). So, with the failed attempt at browning with my lighter, I decided to just put the baked Alaska in the oven as the recipe had described. In the end, there was a little bit of a mess on my pan. I must have missed a spot during the meringue piping process, leaving a part of the ice cream exposed. This resulted in a little bit of a melty, leakage of ice cream through the meringue layer... but, thankfully, I pulled the dessert out of the oven before any real damage was done. And my sisters, my parents and I decided to just enjoy the dessert communally, straight off the pan. I cannot describe the taste, only that it was deliciously sweet, cakey and fluffy (thanks to the meringue). I will definitely be trying this recipe again.
Mmm... the aftermath of the melty, fluffy, sweet dessert! What a nice treat on a warm summer's day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mac&Cheese... on a stick!

Okay... before you think I've gone completely insane with the comfort food on a stick thing, I'll have you know that I'm simply making this recipe in order to enter a "Food on a Stick Contest". Actually, I've found that competitions are a great way to light a fire under my butt and spark my creativity when it comes to baking or cooking. Without a little challenge, I'd probably just stick with making the same-old, same-old foods that I've tried over and over and over again. But I digress... you guys probably just want the recipe :P

If you like the recipe, you can check it out at And if you really like it, please vote for my recipe. Voting begins August 22.

Macaroni & Cheese On a Stick

Mac&Cheese Ingredients:

- 3/4 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked

- 2 tbsp butter

- 1 ½ tbsp flour

- 1 ¼ cup warm milk

- Pinch of nutmeg and cayenne pepper

- ½ cup grated cheese (I used marble, but you could use any good quality hard cheese gruyere, mozzarella, cheddar)

- Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium sized pot, bring some salted water to a boil and cook macaroni as per instructions on the bag. Once al dente, drain the pasta and set aside.
2. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter.
3. Add flour to butter, whisking vigorously until mixture if of uniform consistency. Remove pot from heat, and slowly add the warm milk (whisking continuously to avoid lumps).
4. Return butter + flour + milk mixture to stove and bring to a simmer. Add cayenne and nutmeg, and continue to stir.

5. Once sauce thickens, remove pan from heat and add in the cheese. Continue to stir sauce until cheese dissolves.
6. In a rectangular casserole dish, combine the sauce and the macaroni. Mix thoroughly until all pasta is coated with cheese sauce. Cover dish, and place macaroni in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
7. Remove refrigerated/day-old macaroni and cheese from fridge.
8. Take handfuls of mac&cheese and form them into balls ~1.5-2inches in diameter.
9. Place balls on a baking tray and return to fridge while you prepare the frying batter.

Batter Ingredients:

- 1 ¼ cup flour

- ¼ cup corn starch

- ½ tsp baking powder

- ½ tsp baking soda

- ¼ tsp salt

- 1 cup cold water (adjust amount of water to produce a batter that is not too runny)

- ½ cup bread crumbs

- ¼ cup grated cheese

- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese

- Pinch of Cajun seasoning and cracked black pepper

1. Sift together the flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. Stir in the bread crumbs, cheeses, seasonings and pepper.
3. Have cold water ready to add to dry ingredients when your frying oil, mac&cheese balls and cooking station is ready to begin the frying process.

Frying the Balls:
1. Complete preparation of batter mixture by adding the cold water to the dry ingredients. Stir until no lumps remain, and batter is nice and thick (add more flour if batter is too runny).
2. In deep wok, heat 2L of canola oil (or 2-3inches of oil) over medium until it reaches 375degrees (or batter-test the oil temperature: drop a tsp of batter in the oil and if ready, the batter should bubble up to the surface immediately).
3. Remove Mac&Cheese balls from fridge. Place one ball into the batter mixture gently. Use a spoon to coat the sides and top of the ball fully. Use that same spoon to gently drop the battered ball into the hot frying oil. Cook for 3-4minutes (or until batter is nicely browned), remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel lined plate to cool. 4. Repeat step 3 for all the Mac&Cheese balls. (Note: again, be not alarmed if the balls fall apart slightly. Remain calm! Slowly scoop up the Mac&Cheese bits with your large spoon, and if the pieces are all coated in batter then the ball is remain whole once deep fried ^_^)

Mmm... nothing like Mac& Cheese with Ketchup :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Black Cherry and Coconut Tart

I had just returned from a 2-day trip to Seattle, and on my answering machine was a message offering me a job as an RN on the unit that I'm currently casual on. "Finally!" I thought to myself, "I'll have a steady schedule, and be able to make plans with friends without having to say 'well, I'm casual and always on-call... so, I may or may not be able to come... we'll have to wait and see'."

Words cannot express my excitement!! And so, to celebrate a wonderfully sunny summer day, and me having a steady job (at least for the next 7 months), I decided to do some baking.

I'd always wanted to bake a fruity, tart-like, butter-cookie based bar... and with my black cherry tree producing an over-abundant amount of tiny, tasty cherries I thought that making a Black Cherry and Coconut Tart (with a shortbread cookie base) would be perfect. My friend works at a bake-shop (in Cloverdale) and they make the best almond-cherry tarts... so, this was my attempt to gain par with their tart... although I'm pretty sure that that would be an impossible feat.

Black Cherry and Coconut Tart

- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup cherries, fresh and pitted
- 1/2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut

1. Crust: By hand, combine the first 3 ingredients until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Press this crusty dough into the bottom of a lined baking pan (8x8 square, or 8-inch round). Bake at 350degrees for 25minutes (watch that the edges do not burn).
2. Filling: Combine the cherries and corn starch, mix until all cornstarch is no longer powdery white and visible. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the cherries and mix until well combined. Beat in the egg, beating until uniform batter forms. Add in the coconut, continue to mix until well combined.
3. Pour the filling mixture over the warm crust, bake the tart at 350degrees for another 30minutes. Allow to cool, remove from pan, slice and serve.

This tart had the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. I loved the beautiful purple color that the freshly pitted cherries gave to the filling component of the recipe. Served with ice cream, this was the perfect treat for my summer-time celebration ^_^

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Cassava Cake (Bibingka)

Well, it's still a swelteringly hot summer day... and you'd think that that would mean that I'd stay away from anything hot and potentially sweat-inducing. However, my addiction to baking has rendered it nearly impossible for me to stay out of the kitchen and away from the heat-producing box known as my oven.
Upon opening the fridge this morning, I discovered that I had about a cup of evaporated milk left over from another dish I'd made (I can't quite recall what though, the heat is seriously melting my brain o_O) and like any normal person I thought that it'd probably be a good idea to use up the milk in another recipe, before the heat rendered it curdled, sour and just plain disgusting.

I put my thinking cap on, and thought long and hard about what I wanted to make... and then it hit me! Cassava cake! Or Bibingka. My dad makes a wicked cassava cake, and I thought I'd try my hand at making one that was as good as (if not better than) his. So, onward with the recipe...

Cassava Cake (Bibingka)

Yields 1 cake
~8-10 servings


- 1 pack (454g) frozen, shredded cassava root; thawed

- 250ml evaporated milk

- 250ml coconut milk

- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar

- topping: shredded coconut + brown sugar mixed together (optional)


1. Mix all ingredients together

2. Pour into two 8-inch round glass pan (or two 8x8inch square glass pans) that have been well greased.

3. Place dishes in a water bath and bake at 350degrees for 1hour.

4. Remove bibingka from water bath and sprinkle on the topping if desired. Continue to bake for another 25-35minutes (without water bath).

5. Set oven to broil and cook for 5minutes (or until the top of the cake is nicely browned).

6. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.

The heat from the oven was unbearable... but the smell that the cake gave off was simply delightful. I couldn't stay away :P And the cake itself, although I'll admit, not as good as my dad's recipe, was pretty darned good. My dad's bibingka is usually more chewy and glutinous than the recipe I made. This bibingka was more like a firm, creamy, egg and cassava pudding... not too sweet, but just sweet enough and with just enough coconut milk to not overpower the cassava taste. I'll have to ask my dad for his recipe... because there's one more pack of frozen cassava in the freezer and I definitely want to learn the secret to his chewy cassava cake recipe.

One thing that I'd probably do differently, is that I'd make the cake a bit thicker. Upon pouring the batter into the glass dish, I realized that I had much more batter than would fit into the glass dish; however, the leftover batter was not enough to make a completely whole, second cake. Perhaps if I had a larger glass dish... maybe a 9x13inch rectangle glass dish would have been just the right size. Well... there's always next time, because this recipe is so simply and easy to make! But, I'll probably wait until the heat dies down before I get back into that blazing hot kitchen.