Friday, August 27, 2010

August 2010 Daring Baker's Challenge - Brown butter and Ice Cream treats

I *almost* procrastinated myself out of this challenge...almost! And, then, I almost didn't post. I am really unhappy with this picture, BUT I ate the end product (the ones I didn't give away), so I can't recreate it before the deadline in a few hours!

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 Alasa or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I was instantly intrigued with the prospect of a brown butter dessert. While I've had brown butter sauces, and made brown butter sauces, I have yet to try them in anything sweet. That was the main reason I wanted to do this challenge! And, as I saw a few of my fellow daring bakers complete their challenge, I knew I had to try it.

The result was messy, but delicious! The brown butter gave my pound cake a nuttiness that was so nice against the coffee ice cream and chocolate (or meringue).

I chose to make mini versions of each of these yummy treats. Each was about 2 bites, and decorated with colored marzipan. They were the perfect little bites. I have a few of what I call bonbons left in the freezer, and the combination of brown butter, coffee, and chocolate is really nice.

I spent almost an entire day trying to make tiny marzipan butterflies and learned a very important lesson - nori punches and marzipan really don't mix. I have not completely given up on the idea, but the marzipan has to be so thin to fit through the punch, it is extremely fragile then, and more than a little frustrating to deal with. That's why the bonbons have a marzipan circle with a small flower in the middle of them - after spending countless hours and obtaining 6 tiny butterflies, I then accidentally dropped them on the circles it is!

I made coffee ice cream, then the pound cake. My pound cake was a little dry. I think I overcooked it a little, but I knew it would be OK since the end product had so much chocolate and ice cream on it.

I wanted to give a few tips to anyone making these little treats that I learned along the way.

When you are browning the butter, don't use a non-stick pan. It's harder to see the color of the butter in a dark pan, so use the lightest one you have. At first, the butter will sort of "boil". That's just the water evaporating out. Be very careful once the butter stops bubbling, it can very easily burn.

If you want to make the petit fours, or 2 bite Baked Alaska's, the easiest way I found is to use a small cookie cutter. That was the best way for such a small bite. You could also use a melon baller for the ice cream, but my ice cream was frozen too hard for that.

My little bonbons and baked alaska's were so small, I had a few issues with them falling apart. The easiest way I found around that was to hold them together with a toothpick. After I took the picture and played with it a bit, I discovered that you can use a sugar syrup as a sort of glue to keep the ice cream attached to the pound cake.

I only used 2 egg whites for my meringues, so the recipe very easily can be reduced by that amount. I only used a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tarter (and 1/4 c. sugar), and they turned out beautifully.

The pound cake is a lovely recipe, but dries out very quickly. Keep a very close eye on it in the oven. I baked mine in a larger than 8x8 pan so I could have thinner cake, and the edges dried out a bit. They were still very edible, and I was able to make some cake balls with them. Just be careful.

Elisa - Thanks again for such a fun challenge. I got to do a few things I had not done before, and learned a lot. I had a blast!

Coffee Ice Cream

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
2-3 T. espresso powder
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, salt, espresso powder, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean 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 you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)

2. Set up an ice bath by placing 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 [15ml] 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. See instructions from David Lebovitz:

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) (
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. 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.

Chocolate Glaze (For the Ice Cream Petit Fours)

9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.

Meringue (For the Baked Alaska)

8 large egg whites
½ teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
½ teaspoon (3g) salt
1 cup (220g) sugar

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 – Ice Cream Petit Fours

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 glaze (see above.)

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 – 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. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.

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.

6. Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaskas on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.


  1. I had the same problem with the pound cake being dry. You mini baked Alaskas and bonbons are so cute!

  2. Looks wonderful, well done on posting!

  3. Hey, taking pictures is a pain sometimes (smile). I can tell they were good, especially if you ate most of them before snapping! Plus, this was a particularly hard challenge. I've noticed a lot of posts with people talking about different obstacles they had to overcome...

  4. Well I am glad they were delicious, because that is the most important part! I think they look great, too.