Friday, March 22, 2013

Graham Cracker Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Frosting

A few days ago I celebrated my birthday, ringing in the beginning of year 27. It promises to be a year full of exciting, big changes.

Each year when the 10th of March rolls around, I always debate what to do about my birthday dessert. Should I enjoy it in a fancy restaurant or bakery? Should I make myself a whole cake? Do I even want something sweet? But each year I wind up craving the exact same flavors of a cake my mom always made on my special day: graham crackers, vanilla pudding, chocolate frosting. I have her recipe for the cake, but it makes far too much for just two people and the cake pan would take up a fourth of our refrigerator space. So instead, each year I daydream of a new way to make the flavors into a new dessert.

This year I settled on creating ice cream cakes, each the perfect size to share with a special someone. These are quick to create, especially, if you like me are short on time, and substitute a really great quality vanilla ice cream for homemade.

Makes 2 cakes

Because my freezer space is so limited, I decided to make these ice cream cakes in individual springform pans. The size is perfect for sharing with your special someone, just be sure to have your fork ready, as this dessert has a way of disappearing right before your eyes!

10 graham crackers, ground into crumbs in a food processor, divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pint vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Reserve 1/4 cup of the graham cracker crumbs. In a small bowl, combine the remaining graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until all the evenly coated. Divide the mixture evenly between two 4 1/2-inch individual springform pans. Using your fingers, press the mixture into a crust over the bottom and about halfway up the sides of each pan. Freeze the crusts for about 10 minutes.

When crusts are set, place two scoops of vanilla ice cream in each pan and smooth with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the reserved graham cracker crumbs over the top of each. Freeze for about 15 minutes. Place two additional scoops of vanilla ice cream in each pan, smoothing again with a small offset spatula. Divide the remaining graham cracker crumbs evenly over the top of each. Wrap each pan in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve.

To make the chocolate frosting, sift together the confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Using a hand mixer, combine the ingredients until the frosting is light and fluffy.

To serve, remove the ice cream cakes from the freezer and unmold. Frost as desired and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chocolate Stout Floats

I will admit that when it comes to St. Patrick's Day, I am quite lazy in preparing a dessert for the holiday. Perhaps it is because I am not Irish or maybe because Mike and I have arrived at the age where we plan to stay in the apartment to actively avoid the bar hoppers. If it is a particularly warm day and the windows happen to be open, we collectively roll our eyes as the cheering and partying starts to turn into yelling and sobbing.

I told you we were old! This year, I decided to at least make an effort and prepare a super easy dessert that still celebrates the main star of the day - stout! With just two ingredients required - plus a cute striped straw - it ensures we will be back to reading our books and shaking our heads at the rowdy youth in no time.

Makes 2 floats

For this easy recipe, you just need two ingredients on hand: your favorite chocolate stout and a delicious vanilla bean ice cream. If you have homemade ice cream on hand, it will be perfect in these floats, but not to worry - a good quality store-bought pint will serve as a great substitute.

12 ounces chocolate stout (I love Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout)
4 scoops vanilla bean ice cream, recipe below (or substitute a good-quality store brand)

Divide the beer evenly between two sundae glasses. Carefully scoop two scoops of ice cream into each glass. Serve immediately.

Makes about 1 quart
Qdapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 cup whole milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided
Pinch of table salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, and table salt in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and also add the bean pod. When liquid is barely warm to the touch, cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until nappe: when the mixture the thickens, coats the spatula, and holds its shape when a you draw a line with your finger across the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, stir in the vanilla extract, and cool over an ice bath, stirring occasionally.

When mixture cools, place in the refrigerator to ripen overnight. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving it for another use, and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homemade Everything Bagels

I remember the first time I realized you could actually make bagels at home. I was in pastry school, near the beginning of our bread module, and I felt silly that it had never occurred to me that this favorite New York food could be created in a home kitchen.

Even Mike seemed wary one weekend morning when, despite being exhausted from my full-time job and student schedule, I woke up and started preparing the dough. “You are going to boil these bagels, right?” he asked with a slight glare over his coffee cup. Apparently he didn’t trust a Virginia girl to be able to create a bagel worthy of a New Yorker’s approval.

But the empty sheet tray later that morning told me all I needed to know. Over the past years, I have stuck with this recipe, as it is so incredibly easy, and happily made batches upon batches for family and friends. Even living in the heart of the city, where we can walk just a few blocks to purchase bagels, I still far prefer making my own as there is no comparison for smearing a bagel, still warm from the oven, with a pad of butter and digging in. These bagels are smaller than those you might be accustom to, but I promise they are far, far more delicious.

Yields 8

Bagels are deceivingly easy to make and the extra effort is immediately rewarded by a warm-from-the-oven bagel. You can use the dough recipe and method as the base of any type of bagel you might wish to create. It is important to note that this recipe uses instant yeast, not active yeast, which can be found at most grocery stores or online. This type of yeast does not need to be bloomed in warm liquid prior to adding to the dry ingredients; instead, the yeast is mixed in with the dry ingredients and then the warm liquid is added to the entire mixture.

4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons, sugar plus 1 tablespoon for poaching
3 teaspoons table salt
2½ teaspoons SAF Instant Yeast
13 ounces water, warmed to 100-110 degrees

Combination of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, dried minced garlic, and dried minced onion

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Start the mixer on a slow speed and begin to stream in the water. Increase speed to medium-high and knead until dough begins to come together.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand until a smooth, barely tacky dough develops, adding additional flour as needed. Form into a ball, cover with the mixing bowl, and allow to rise for 10 minutes.

While the dough is rising, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add 1 tablespoon sugar.

After 10 minutes, divide the dough into 8 pieces (if you are using a kitchen scale, each piece should be about 4.3 ounces). Roll each piece into a log, about 10-12 inches long. Wrap log around the palm of your hand and lightly moisten one end with a dab of water. Squeeze ends together, roll lightly on counter to secure ends, and release from hand. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Drop bagels into the boiling water, up to three at a time. Carefully run a slotted spoon under bagels to release from bottom, if necessary. When bagels rise to the top of the pot, remove and place on prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake until the bagels are well-risen and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
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