Archive for ‘semifreddos & ice box desserts’

July 2, 2011

Bombes Away On Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July!  Sure, I may be a few days early, but that’s part of the beauty of this dessert… that it can be made days ahead of time.  Another part of the beauty of this dessert is, well, the beauty of the dessert!

I’ve known for months that this year’s Independence Day treat would be inspired by everyone’s favorite patriotic popsicle, the Bomb Pop.  The ice-cold striped snack, layered with bold, crisp flavors of blue raspberry, lime, and cherry left me with many possibilities.  The more I brainstormed, the more excited I got, leaving me with way too many dessert ideas.  I finally narrowed it down to two red, white, and blue desserts, and decided to make both of them.  Luckily, I will have an apartment full of visitors for the weekend who, I’m hoping, will help tear through these dishes (and the refrigerator full of other dessert leftovers, too!).

As I have two fabulous, patriotic desserts to share, I decided to post one a few days early (possibly giving an inspired reader a chance to make a quick copycat before Monday?).  During the bulk of my brainstorming, I focused mainly on dishes that showcase color, as it was important to me to display red, white, and blue in an exciting, attractive way.  As I was scribbling notes in my recipe journal, I glanced at where I’d written “Bomb Pop” on the page and noticed an accidental flourish resembling an “e” at the end of the word “Bomb”.  A bomb explosion went off in my brain.  A layered ice cream cake, or a “bombe glacée,” would be a perfect way to playfully mimic a Bomb Pop, showcasing the three flavors and colors, and also playing off the title of the treat itself!

Bombes are mainly made up of ice cream or sherbet, but some versions include a cake layer, mine included.  I layered homemade lime and homemade sweet dark cherry ice cream and enveloped both in a layer of bright blue raspberry cake.  I chose Swiss cake roll slices because I thought that the white buttercream swirls would pop against the blue cake.  And maybe also because I was somewhat hesitant as to how, exactly, a blue raspberry flavored cake would taste and wanted some vanilla buttercream to fall back on in case the cake wasn’t as pleasant-tasting as I’d hoped.  Luckily, the flavors of the cake and both ice creams came out wonderful, the cohesive dessert creamy and refreshing…  a perfect tribute to the Bomb Pop and a sweet way to celebrate (two days before) the 4th.

Patriotic Ice Cream Cake Bombe

Inspired by: Red, White & Blue Bomb Pops

Blue Raspberry Swiss Cake Roll

Adapted from Heather Baird’s Pink Velvet Roulade,” SprinkleBakes

4 eggs                                      ¼ teaspoon raspberry extract

¾ cup superfine sugar              ¾ tablespoon blue gel food coloring

3 tablespoons vegetable oil      1-2 drops purple gel food coloring

1½ tablespoons whole milk       1 cup all purpose flour

½ tablespoon lemon juice          1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cider vinegar           ¼ teaspoon salt

1½ tablespoons blue raspberry syrup

–recipe yield: 9-12 slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9½x13½ pan with buttered parchment paper.  Beat eggs for five full minutes, then,  slowly beat in superfine sugar and vegetable oil.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, lemon juice, vinegar, raspberry syrup, and extract.  Gradually add the liquid into egg mixture while continuing to mix on a high speed.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  In small batches, add the sifted dry ingredients into the batter, mixing after each addition.  When completely combined and smooth, pour the batter into the prepared pan, tilting the pan to evenly distribute the batter.  Tap the bottom of the pan against the counter top to allow any air bubbles to escape before placing into the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cake is spring-y to the touch.

Lay out a pastry cloth or tea towel next to a wire cooling rack.  Sprinkle cloth with a confectioner’s sugar and smooth it into an even layer.  Immediately upon removing it from the oven, turn out the cake onto the sugared cloth.  Remove paper from the cake and gently roll cake and cloth into a tight log, starting at a shorter end of the cake.  When cake log is rolled with and wrapped in the cloth, place it on the wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Best Vanilla Buttercream

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¼ teaspoon salt

2½-3 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1½-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

–recipe yield: about 2 cups frosting

In a large bowl, beat together butter and salt until soft and creamed (about 2-4 minutes).  Add in about half of the sugar and the almond milk, and beat until combined.  Add in the remaining sugar, as well as the vanilla, and beat until smooth.  Drizzle in heavy cream while continuing to beat until desired fluffy consistency is reached.

Swiss Roll Assembly

When cake roll is cool, gently unroll it and pull away the cloth.  Spoon frosting onto the surface of unrolled cake and smooth in an even layer, leaving a thin, border unfrosted.  Gently roll cake back into log and wrap securely with plastic wrap. Freeze for 4 hours before cutting into slices with a serrated knife.

Lime Ice Cream

Adapted from Key Lime Ice Cream,” Food.com

10 ounces frozen limeade concentrate, thawed

zest and juice from 2 limes

14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract

1 teaspoon key lime extract

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  In a medium bowl, whisk together limeade concentrate, zest, juice, and condensed milk.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whip the cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Add both vanilla and lime extracts while continuing to mix.  When medium soft peaks form, fold in condensed milk mixture.  Spoon the combined mixture into prepare pan and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Sweet Black Cherry Ice Cream

Adapted from Spumoni Ice Cream,”
The Prepared Pantry

½ pint dark sweet cherries

2 tablespoons cherry preserves

2 cups whipping cream

½ cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure cherry extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon red gel food coloring

Line a 9×9-inch pan with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer.  Rinse and remove pits and stems from cherries.  Pat dry and give cherries a thorough, rough chop, or pulse a couple times in a food processor.  Combine chopped cherries and preserves in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the whipping cream on a low speed until just slightly thickened.  Gradually pour in the condensed milk and both cherry and vanilla extracts, and continue to whip until soft peaks form.  Add food coloring until desired color is reached.  Gently fold the cherry-preserve mixture into the cream.  Spoon the combined mixture into the lined, chilled pan and freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm.

Assembly

Line a round-bottomed bowl (preferably aluminum) with plastic wrap.  Using a serrated knife, cut chilled cake roll into slices about 1-1½ inches thick.  Arrange slices in the lined bowl into a layer at the bottom of the pan and up the side of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm, at least 30 minutes.

Remove the lime ice cream from the freezer to allow it to soften for about 10 minutes.  Then, take the cake-roll lined bowl out of the freezer, remove outermost layer of plastic wrap and smooth the lime ice cream on top of the cake slices.  Spread ice cream into an even layer to cover the bottom third of the inside of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.  Repeat the softening process with the cherry ice cream, and spread it into the bowl onto the chilled lime ice cream and cake rolls.  Allow the cherry ice cream layer to reach another third of the way up inside the bowl, leaving the very top third portion of the bowl empty for the last layer.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for another hour or so until firm.  Repeat the softening and smoothing process with the third and final layer of lime ice cream.  Smooth it into an even layer reaching the very top of the bowl and sides of the cake slices.  Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze til completely set and firm, 4-5 hours or overnight.

About 10 minutes before ready to serve, remove the bowl from the freezer and discard plastic wrap.  Invert the dessert onto serving plate and peel away and discard plastic wrap.  If the dessert doesn’t release from the bowl with ease, run a kitchen towel dampened with hot water across the sides of the bowl before attempting to pull it away.  To serve, submerge a sharp knife into hot water before cutting into slices.

Advertisements
June 27, 2011

Marshmallow-Toffee Combination Creation

Marshmallow and toffee.  Sounds a little strange, right?  Sounds like a  sugar-shocked, sticky sweet, caramel covered cavity waiting to happen, right?  Wrong!  Turns out, marshmallow and toffee are a match made in candy-coated Heaven.

I first discovered the divinity of this delicious combination on a trip to Dairy Queen, of all places.  I was experimenting with Blizzard flavors, trying to decide what would pair well with marshmallow topping, which I always request to be mixed into my DQ treats.  I decided to try the Heath Blizzard with my usual swirl of mallow, and since then, haven’t ordered anything but that exact dessert.  There’s just something about the nutty flavor of the almond and the sharpness and crunch of the burnt-sugary English toffee that pairs so beautifully with the silkiness of the smooth vanilla marshmallow cream, it’s melt- in-your-mouth irresistible.

I haven’t yet visited Dairy Queen this summer, but the delightful duo of toffee and marshmallow has still been ever present in my mind.  I decided to create my own frozen dessert using these flavors and textures in a different way.  I made a semifreddo/ice cream base, split it in two layers, and incorporated marshmallow and toffee flavors in both layers in different ways.  While DQ’s concoction uses the chocolate-covered version of Heath’s toffee pieces, I decided to use plain toffee pieces and add chocolate in other ways throughout the dessert.  A marbleized marshmallow swirl runs through rich, chocolate-mocha ice cream, and the almond flavors of the English toffee are found in the crust, along with more chocolate and ground toffee.  Marshmallow can also be found in the second ice cream, which is speckled with crunchy toffee pieces and topped with a chocolate-toffee crumb topping to finish off this tempting treat.  No hot ovens to turn on and no ice cream machine needed, just an hour or so of free time and a persistent sweet tooth!

Toffee-Marshmallow Ice Cream Cake

Inspired by: Dairy Queen’s Candy Lover’s Heath Blizzard” with Marshmallow Topping

 Adapted from Martha Stewart’sFrozen Mocha Toffee Crunch Terrine

8 ounces English toffee pieces
(ex. HEATH “Bits ‘O Brickle” Toffee Bits)

7 ounces chocolate wafer cookies

¼ cup almond flour

3 tablespoons melted butter

6 ounces of cream cheese

½ tablespoon vanilla extract

1½ cups heavy whipping cream

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons instant coffee granules

2½ tablespoons cocoa powder

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup marshmallow fluff (recipe below)

–recipe yield: 9x5x3-inch loaf; 12-15 slices

Line a large loaf pan with plastic wrap.  In a food processor, grind ¼ cup toffee pieces and 20 wafer cookies.  Add almond flour and melted butter and pulse until crumbly.  Press crumbs into bottom of loaf pan and place in freezer. Grind together 15 more wafers and ¼ cup toffee.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat room temperature cream cheese and vanilla extract until smooth.  On a low speed, mix in ½ cup heavy cream until the mixture has reached medium soft peaks.  In a separate large bowl,  whip remaining heavy cream until it has just reached stiff peaks.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the whipped cream cheese mixture and place into the freezer to chill.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together granulated sugar and ¼ cup water and place over medium-high heat.  Allow liquid to rapidly boil for 5 minutes.  In the meantime, whisk together coffee, cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons boiling water in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  While sugar syrup continues to boil, place egg yolks in a large bowl and beat on high for 3 minutes.  When sugar syrup has been boiling for full 5 minutes, remove from heat and pour a small amount of the syrup into the yolks, continuing to beat.  Gradually add in the remaining hot syrup to the yolks while beating the mixture.  Beat for 8-9 minutes, or until the mixture has tripled in volume.

Divide yolk mixture in two equal parts, pouring one half into a separate large bowl.  Remove loaf pan and chilled whipped cream mixture from freezer.  Divide whipped cream mixture in half with a spatula, and fold one half into to one of the bowls of the yolk mixture, along with the cocoa-coffee mixture.  Continue to fold until mixture is streak-free and chocolate-y.  Pour this mixture into the loaf pan on top of the crumb layer.  Add heaping teaspoons of marshmallow fluff into the loaf pan onto the surface of the chocolate layer until about 1/3 cup of fluff has been dotted into the pan.  Run a butter knife through the fluff and chocolate layer to swirl the two together.  Place loaf into freezer to chill.

Add ½ cup of marshmallow fluff to the remaining half of the yolk mixture.  Beat well until combined and fluffy.  Fold the fluff-egg yolk mixture into the remaining chilled whipping cream, along with 1/3 cup of plain toffee pieces.  Remove loaf pan from freezer.  Sprinkle half of the chocolate wafer-toffee crumb mixture into the loaf pan on top of the swirled chocolate-mallow mixture.  Once the crumbs have been sprinkles in an even layer, pour into the loaf pan (on top of that layer) the marshmallow-toffee ice cream mixture.  Place loaf pan in freezer to set up overnight.  Remove semifreddo by pulling up on the plastic wrap on the sides.  Peel away and discard plastic wrap and sprinkle any remaining chocolate wafer-toffee crumbs on top of the loaf, along with bigger toffee pieces if desired.  Cut the ice cream loaf into slices and serve.

Marshmallow Fluff

1 egg white

¾ cup corn syrup

pinch of salt

¾ cup confectioner’s sugar

½ Tsp vanilla extract

–recipe yield: lots of fluff!

In a large bowl, beat together the egg white, corn syrup and salt for 10 minutes (set a timer).  The mixture will be very thick.  After ten minutes, gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar on a low speed.  Mix in vanilla extract until incorporated.  To store, cover the bowl of marshmallow fluff with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the fluff so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Store in the refrigerator or freezer for 2-3 weeks.

June 23, 2011

Pineapple… Frozen, Torched, Grilled, & Honey Ice Cream Filled

My mom and I recently visited a small downtown thrift shop filled with hundreds of  little treasures, including a very wide selection of vintage kitchen supplies.  I somehow even got my hands on a beautiful embroidered apron from the 1940’s that I’m in love with, despite the fact that I can’t bring myself to wear it while baking and risk dirtying it.  My mom generously treated me to quite a few goodies after our hunt through the baking supply section.  Among the many retro tools and trinkets I ended up taking home was an Anne Willan cookbook, costing Mama Lew a whopping 99¢.

Leafing through the pages of my new French cookbook, there was one recipe that immediately caught my eye.  It was a frozen dessert topped with a browned meringue, a play on a Baked Alaska, except with a hollow pineapple shell taking the place of the cake layer.  The finished product made for a very dramatic presentation, one that may even be considered a slight bit tacky (Anne Willan is a legend, and the book is from 1980…  so, we’ll give her a break).  For whatever reason, I felt very compelled to recreate this dish.  And that’s exactly what I did.

While Anne filled her pineapple shell with pineapple sherbet, I chose to go with a “Honey-Pineapple Semifreddo,” inspired by the increasingly popular summertime treat of grilled pineapple drizzled with honey.  I decided to grill and glaze the pineapple pieces in the dessert, which added a caramelized sweetness to the final product.  I assembled the dessert in Anne’s extravagant pineapple boat, and also did my own version in a smaller pineapple “bowl,” which turned out to be a little easier to handle and serve out of, and less messy.  Both the bowl and the boat turned out very delicious and super cute… the type of thing that looks like lot of work went into it.  In all honesty, the most difficult part of this dessert was trying to figure out what to call it.
I brainstormed lots of ideas, including “Baked Hawaii” (instead of Alaska), or anything else suggesting a tropical honeymoon.  I bounced a few off Whitney, who admitted that every time I brought up “the pineapple,” all she could think about was Doody calling Frenchy a “beautiful blonde pineapple,” in her favorite childhood movie, Grease.  I loved the Grease reference!  I also loved the fact that she called it her favorite childhood movie.  I, too, loved the movie as a kid, but my mom decided maybe it wasn’t the best childhood movie after my sassy 8-year-old self starting saying things like “Eat your heart out,” and asking what a “hickey from Kinicky” was.  Anyway, as the dish came from a French cookbook published right around the time of the premier of the movie, and the “beautiful blonde pineapple” reference was describing French-y, I decided it was a perfect fit.

The “Beautiful, (Honey-)Blonde Pineapple”

Inspired by: Grilled Pineapple, Baked Alaska, “Ananas en Surprise”

Adapted from Anne Willan’s “Ananas en Surprise,” LaVarenne’s Basic French Cookery

Honey-Pineapple Semifreddo

Adapted from “Honey Semifreddo,” Tasty Palettes

20 ounces crushed pineapple, plus juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold

zest and juice of two lemons

pinch of salt

1 egg, plus 6 egg yolks

1½ tablespoons cornstarch

1¼ cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup honey

–recipe yield: about 8-10 servings

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine crushed pineapple, juice, brown sugar, ½ tablespoon butter, zest and juice of one lemon and salt.  Whisk ingredients together over medium-low heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and, stirring occasionally, allow mixture to simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by half and pineapple is caramelized.  Remove from heat and pour mixture over mesh strainer, reserving all the liquid and replacing it back into the saucepan, along with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the strained crushed pineapple shreds.  Discard the excess dry crushed pineapple.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 of the egg yolks and the cornstarch.  While whisking, pour in a few tablespoons of the hot pineapple juice mixture into the yolk mixture, slowly warming the yolks without cooking them.  When yolks are brought up to temperature, pour them into the saucepan containing the pineapple juice mixture.  Heat mixture over medium-low heat while constantly whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon.  When mixture has thickened (about 2-4 minutes), remove saucepan from heat and stir in juice and zest of remaining lemon, along with the remaining ½ tablespoon cold butter.  Once butter has dissolved, transfer pineapple mixture to a small bowl and continue to stir until cooled.   Once the mixture has cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin.  Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

Line the inside of a 9×5 inch large loaf pan with plastic wrap In a large, chilled glass bowl, beat the heavy cream until it just reaches stiff peaks.  Place the bowl in the freezer and allow it to chill while preparing the rest of the ice cream.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a very large glass bowl.  Combine the remaining 4 egg yolks, the whole egg, and the honey in the large bowl of the double boiler over medium-low heat and beat the mixture for 8-10 minutes, or until pale yellow and tripled in volume.  Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat on high to cool and thicken the mixture.  Once the thick yolk-honey has cooled to lukewarm, fold it into the chilled whipping cream until there are no colored streaks visible in the mixture.  Gently pour the ice cream base into the lined loaf pan and place it in the freezer to set.  Once the ice cream has been been freezing for about an hour, remove the pineapple-honey mixture from the refrigerator.  Discard the plastic wrap and stir the set custard to loosen it up.  Remove the loaf pan containing the semi-frozen ice cream from the freezer and dollop pineapple custard in heaping tablespoons onto the ice cream.  When all of the custard has been dotted onto the cream, insert the tip of a butter knife into the cream and run it through the cream a few times to cut and swirl the custard into the cream, creating a marbleized effect.  Replace the loaf pan back into the freeze allow swirled ice cream to set up and freeze overnight.

Rum Scented Meringue

This meringue shouldn’t be prepared until about 20 minutes before serving time.  The rum extract adds a nice depth of flavor to the meringue, but can easily be replaced by vanilla extract.

4 egg whites

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½-¾ cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon rum extract

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl over medium-low heat.  Using an electric mixer, mix egg whites and salt until slightly foamy.  Add in cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks have been achieved.  Gradually add tablespoon after tablespoon of superfine sugar, continuing to beat on medium speed.  Continue to beat mixture for 7-8 minutes.  Remove bowl from heat and mix in the rum extract.  When the meringue has been brought to stiff peaks, the meringue is ready.

Assembly

To prepare the pineapple shell, the pineapple must be sliced and hollowed.  For a bowl-shaped shell, simply slice across the width of the pineapple below the leaves, leaving only the bottom portion to be hollowed out.  For a boat-shaped shell, slice across the entire length of the pineapple (my cookbook sliced through the leaves as well in order to make two boats with the halves, I chose to make one boat and leave the leaves in tact for a prettier presentation).  Using a sharp paring knife, slice around the inner perimeter of the halved pineapple (boat or bowl).  Cut the inner portion into cubes and, using a spoon or the knife, remove the cubes.  Scrape the inside of the hollowed pineapple to smooth out the inner-surface.  Place the hollowed bowl or boat shell(s) into the freezer to chill.  Any leftover pineapple should be cored and sliced.

In a small bowl, whisk together the following ingredients:
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ tablespoon lemon juice

Pour the glaze over the sliced pineapple pieces and toss until coated.  The pineapple can, at this point, be grilled (over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes, turning once) or used as is.  If choosing to grill the pineapple, be sure to brush the pieces with the leftover glaze afterward as well.  Sprinkle the glazed pineapple pieces into the chilled pineapple shell(s) in a even layer along the bottom.  Scoop the set, frozen semifreddo into each shell directly on top of the layer of pineapple pieces.  The shell should be completely filled by a mound of the scoops of semifreddo.  Place filled shell(s) back into the freezer and prepare the meringue.

Transfer meringue into a pastry or plastic zip-top bag, (fitted with a large star tip, if desired).  Remove filled pineapple shells from freezer and pipe meringue  onto the top of the shell, completely covering any semifreddo or sliced pineapple pieces.  Brown the top of the meringue-covered pineapple shell using a kitchen torch, or place the dessert in the oven directly under a preheated broiler for 6-8 minutes, or until desired golden brown color has been achieved.  Serve immediately.

To serve,  scoop directly through the meringue down to the bottom of the shell to include pineapple pieces, ice cream and meringue into each serving.  It will be messy!  Garnish with an extra slice of grilled and/or glazed pineapple and a drizzle of honey.

May 9, 2011

Turkish Java & Molten Lava

This past Holiday season, upon opening a Christmas card from a family that I’d gotten to know shortly after moving to the area, I was surprised to discover a gift card to their favorite place to get Middle Eastern food.  When Evan and I visited the little Lebanese restaurant, we were very strategic in placing our appetizer and entree orders and made sure to leave room for a dessert selection as well.  On impulse, I decided on a chocolate molten lava cake, mainly because the menu described it as being served alongside homemade  marshmallow cream.  Little did I know, although the pair was absolutely delicious, it was neither the lava cake, nor my beloved marshmallow fluff that would turn out to be the star of the dessert (as well as the entire dinner experience).  There was another component to this little dessert trio, and that was a dollop of an unbelievable pistachio and orange ice cream.  Sounds strange, a chocolate “Turkish Coffee” cake served alongside marshmallow, pistachio and orange flavors, I know.  But, when gathered onto one spoon, the combination of the different flavors, textures, and temperatures seemed as deliciously obvious as a pairing of spaghetti and meatballs.

This unforgettable dessert has very frequently been the topic of conversation between Evan and I since our visit to that restaurant.  Clearly, I had to recreate this dish, but very delicately.  There was no way I was going to tweak any of the perfect flavors in the slightest degree and risk compromising the divinity of this dessert.  I decided, instead, to deconstruct the assembly of the cake.  The result is what I’m calling a “semifreddo lava cake,” composed of a rich, spiced chocolate sheet cake wrapped around a pistachio-orange semifreddo creme.  The “hot lava” took the form of a hot-fudge sauce and was drizzled atop the dessert, and with the obvious inclusion of my favorite marshmallow frosting, the reconstructed dish was complete and just as euphoric as we’d remembered it the first time.

Semifreddo Lava Cake

Inspired by: “Molten Chocolate ‘Turkish Coffee’ Cake”

-Lebanese Taverna (Arlington, VA)

Mocha-Spice Sheet Cake

Adapted from “Mocha Cake,” Gourmet – August 2009

Rich and chocolate-y with a subtle hint of coffee and spice, this flourless cake stays fluffy, moist and soft when frozen… perfect for a semifreddo dessert.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

3 teaspoons  espresso powder

6 eggs, separated

½ cup granulated sugar, separated

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and line a 13×9 inch pan.  Prepare a double boiler fitted with a small glass bowl to melt the chocolate.  Before turning on the heat under the double boiler, dissolve the espresso powder by stirring it into 3 tablespoon of hot water.  Once dissolved, strain the espresso into to bowl of chocolate, turn on the heat, and melt the chocolate together with the espresso.  Once almost completely melted, remove bowl from heat, stir to melt completely, and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, the salt and the cardamom until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 8 minutes.  Beat in the cooled chocolate.  In a separate bowl, beat the room temperature egg whites until they’ve reached soft peaks, gradually add in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue to beat until the meringue just creates stiff peaks.  Gradually and gently fold the egg whites in small batches into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the batter as evenly as possibly (without deflating it) into the prepared pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until it has puffed and is dry and springy to the touch.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cover the cake with two layers of damp paper towel.  Let the covered cake rest for about 3 minutes, remove the towel (allowing the crispy top layer to peel away with it), and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.  Once the cake has completely cooled, loosen the edges of the cake with a knife and invert onto a large cutting board or sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Transfer the cake (still covered with parchment atop the cutting board) to the freezer for 2-3 hours for easy slicing and assembly.

Pistachio-Orange Semifreddo

Adapted from Tim Nugent’s “Pistachio Semifreddo,” Top Chef

This semifreddo is simply divine and can stand alone as a truly delectable dessert.  The flavors are amazing, but it’s the texture that makes this semifreddo so special.  Make sure to whip each layer of ingredients carefully as directed and fold as gently as possible for a beautiful, airy-light finish.

4 eggs, separated                               1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup superfine sugar, separated       zest from half an orange

1/3 cup pistachio paste*                      1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl and, over medium-low heat, whip together the egg yolks and ¼ of the caster sugar.  Continue to whip on a high speed until as much volume as possible has been achieved, about 5-8 minutes.  At this point, remove from heat and, while still warm, add the pistachio paste and gently swirl it into the yolk mixture.  Set bowl aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whip the room temperature egg whites until they’ve reached soft peaks.  Gradually add in the remaining superfine sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks have been achieved.  In small batches, gradually fold the stiffened egg white meringue gently into the yolk-pistachio mixture.  In a separate bowl, beat the cold whipping cream to soft peaks, add in the orange zest and juice, and continue to whip slightly until they’ve reached medium-stiff peaks (do not over-whip or the cream can turn into butter).  In gradual batches, gently fold the whipped orange cream into the fluffy pistachio mixture.  Once the semifreddo base has been combined and poured into properly lined pan (as directed below), allow to freeze overnight before serving.

*I made my own pistachio paste for this dessert, but it actually ended up being quite a bit of work and not as easy as the recipe makes it seem.  I would suggest just purchasing some pre-made pistachio paste and adjusting the amount of sugar in the semifreddo accordingly, as it may not be quite as sweet as my homemade paste turned out.

Hot Lava Fudge

Adapted from the Old Occidental Hotel’s “Hot Fudge Sauce,”  -Muskegon, Michigan

1 cup superfine sugar          1/3 cup cocoa powder          2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour              1 cup milk                             1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-recipe yield:  1 ¾ cups sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and unsweetened cocoa powder.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine and stir together the milk, butter and vanilla just until the butter has melted.  Add in the dry ingredients to the milk mixture, constantly whisking.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth, about 5 minutes.  Remove from stove and transfer to serving cup or gravy-boat to allow to cool.  Refrigerate unused portion.   Leftovers be reheated in a double-boiler or microwave as needed.

For the marshmallow fluff, make a half-batch of my favorite marshmallow frosting recipe.

Assembly:

Once the sheet cake has chilled in the freezer, remove it and peel back the top layer of parchment paper.  Using a large loaf pan as a guide, trace onto the removed parchment paper the shape of the top, bottom, and two longest sides of the loaf pan.  Cut the shapes out of the parchment paper and arrange them on top of the sheet cake.  Using a sharp paring knife, slice the cake in the shapes of each of the parchment paper to (eventually) fit along the inside of the loaf pan.

Line the large loaf pan with two large pieces of parchment paper, allowing the paper to drape outside of the pan, creating “tabs” that can eventually be pulled up to remove the dessert from the pan.  Handling the cake very gingerly, place into the bottom of the lined loaf pan the slice of cake that fits accordingly and gently press it so that it’s lying across the entire bottom of the pan.  Place both long side pieces of cake into the lined loaf pan along the matching sides and gently press.  Pour the semifreddo base into the cake-lined loaf pan and cover the semifreddo with the final slice of cake fitting the very top of the loaf pan.  If the semifreddo doesn’t reach the top of the pan, slice this piece of cake to fit into the pan atop the semifreddo accordingly.  Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and allow assembled dessert to freeze overnight.
To serve, remove the dessert from the freezer and lift the parchment tabs to loosen the dessert from the loaf pan.  Place plate or serving tray on top of loaf pan and flip to invert the dessert onto server.  Peel back the parchment paper.  Cut dessert into slices, drizzle the hot fudge, and spoon a dollop of marshmallow fluff on or next to the dessert or slices.  Serve immediately.

April 30, 2011

Semifreddo Spin on a Food Truck Treat

If you live or work near a big, metropolitan city, chances are you’re familiar with the growing Food Truck Trend.  And if you’re a food-lover, like me, you’re not only familiar with the term “Food Truck,” but you regularly spend your lunch hour tracking down your favorite trucks, regardless of how close (or how very, very far) they’re parked from your office that day.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, allow me to explain.  The idea behind food trucks is that while they are essentially miniature restaurants on wheels, they allow for all of the downtown employees who’ve grown sick and tired of the same old, overpriced sandwich shop chains that surround their office building to enjoy exciting and delicious gourmet cuisine, made fresh to order, all at a pretty reasonable price.  The reason they’re able to serve their high-quality dishes at such a low price?  Because their kitchen and staff has been immensely scaled down to fit into a tiny truck, also scaling down their menu to only a few of their specialty dishes, and, never having to worry about over-purchasing ingredients or excess food going bad since its guaranteed they’ll sell out by the end of lunch (as all the hungry employees are ecstatic to have a new addition to their lunch selection).  These food trucks are, to food-loving adults, what ice cream trucks are to children.

As enthusiastic as I am about my favorite food trucks, I must admit, I’m still just as overjoyed to see an ice cream truck cross my path.  I caught a glimpse of one earlier in the week… the first one I’ve seen this year.  Hearing the familiar tune of the friendly truck brought me right back to my childhood, during which I would’ve been thrilled to run down the sidewalk, calling after the truck until it stopped, at which point I’d place my order for a strawberry-shortcake popsicle.

This time, instead of chasing after the truck (and potentially frightening the young children surrounding it), I came straight home and formulated my own recipe for a gourmet version of this tasty treat.  After a few tweaks and some unexpected pop-ups, I’m in love with the final product: a creamy and tangy strawberry-vanilla semifreddo (meaning semi-frozen) that can be made and served as either a icy parfait or a handheld popsicle, both complete with an almond-shortbread cookie crumble.  They’re a sure-to-please treat for ice cream lovers of any age, and include all of the delectable elements of the familiar treat from the original “food truck.”

Strawberry Shortcake Semifreddo Pops

Inspired by: Strawberry Shortcake Popsicles

Adapted from Tartelette’s  “Fresh Cheese & Raspberry Semifreddo”

1 ½ cups fresh strawberries                               2 ½ tablespoons water

¼ cup plus 1½ tablespoons honey, divided        3 large egg yolks

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar                           ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

¾ cup heavy cream                                             200 grams Greek yogurt

-recipe yield: about 8-10 servings                      1 half-batch of shortbread*

Prepare your serving glasses.  For desserts to be eaten with a spoon, simply set out some tall shot glasses or parfait dishes, as no further preparation is necessary.  For popsicles, cut 2 long, thin strips of parchment paper per each tall shot glass and push the centers of each of the strips down into the bottom of the shot glasses, allowing the ends of the strips to fall outside the glass.  The excess parchment paper on the outside of the glasses create little tabs that allow for easy removal of the popsicles once they’ve frozen, without the risk of pulling out the popsicle sticks.  I also like to further line the popsicle glasses with a square cut of parchment paper to further assist in the smooth removal of the treats.

Give the strawberries a thorough rough chop and toss them in a small bowl, along with 1 ½ tablespoons of the honey and the balsamic vinegar.  Toss the mixture together and break up the strawberries with the back side of a fork.  Allow the berries to macerate into the liquid for about 10 minutes, or until the berries have broken down somewhat and the liquid has thickened into a syrup.  Spoon a small amount of the berries and syrup into the bottom of each of the serving dishes, setting aside a small amount to later be swirled into the semifreddo base (if desired).  Set serving glasses and remaining strawberry mixture aside.

In a separate, large bowl, empty the heavy cream.  Beat the cream until they’ve just barely reached soft peaks.  Refrigerate the bowl of cream while preparing the remainder of the semifreddo base.

In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together the ¼ cup honey and the water.  Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally and allow the syrup to reach 238 degrees (the “soft-ball stage”).  As the syrup heats up, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl until the yolks have broken up and combined.  Once the syrup has hit 238, turn off the stove heat, remove the saucepan from the stove top, increase the electric mixer speed to high, and beat the egg yolks while pouring in the hot syrup in a slow but steady stream.  Once all of the syrup has been added to the yolks, continue to beat the mixture on a high speed until it’s light and airy and  has completely cooled.  Mix in the vanilla bean paste.

Remove the chilled cream from the refrigerator.  By hand, whisk the yogurt into the cream, followed by about 1/3 of the yolk mixture.  This will loosen up the cream slightly.  Fold the remaining yolk mixture into the cream.  Spoon the creamy semifreddo base into the glasses on top of the macerated berries, leaving a little extra room on the top of those glasses that will be used as frozen parfaits.  If desired, spoon in a very small amount of the strawberry-syrup mixture onto the top of the cream in each (or some) of the glasses.  Using a toothpick or skewer inserted just slightly into each glass, swirl the berry mixture into the cream, creating a marble effect.  For popsicles, place popsicle sticks into the center of each dessert.  Allow desserts to chill on a flat surface in the freezer (I like to put the cups into cupcake or mini-muffin pans to prevent slanting or tipping) for 3-5 hours, or until firm.

When ready to serve, remove glasses from the freezer and allow them to sit at room temperature for 5-8 minutes.  While the desserts rest at room temperature, break up about half of the prepared shortbread cookies into crumbs with your hands.  For semifreddo parfaits, top the rested desserts with enough shortbread crumbs to reach the top of the glass.  For popsicles, remove the desserts from the glasses by pulling gently on the parchment paper “tabs.”  If the popsicles don’t easily pull out of the glasses, submerge only the bottom half of the cold glasses into a cup of warm water for a few seconds to slightly melt the berry portion of the popsicle, and then attempt to remove the dessert again.  As each popsicle is removed, lay it on a cutting board and, using a sharp paring knife, slice off the very tippy-top of the red, rounded tops of the popsicles so that they’re completely flat on top.**  Lay out the shortbread crumbs into a skinny strip on a flat surface, and roll the popsicles through the crumbs so that the center of each popsicle is coated in the crumbs.  Serve the semifreddo parfaits with spoons and simply hand over the popsicles.  Enjoy!

*I split the recipe from my shortbread post in half.  I also altered the halved recipe by substituting the two cups of all-purpose flour for  1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour plus ½ cup of almond four, as I was aiming to replicate the crumbly almond-like topping from the ice cream truck popsicles.  The addition of the almond flour did just that and really turned out amazing.

**I don’t suggest skipping this step… just trust me.