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”.
My first reaction when reading this month's challenge was something along the lines of "Didn't we just do cake and ice cream? And, really, more ice cream for the lactose intolerant girl?" I then remembered that the challenge hosts do not know what the challenges around theirs will be, so there was no way Elissa could have known about the Swiss roll ice cream cakes from July. I also thought, "Man... Here is an 18 year old with such great ideas, inspiration and ambition, no whining allowed!!" Of course, being lactose intolerant, I did have some questions/concerns regarding this challenge, but (again,) I wasn't going to whine - I was up for the challenge!
My first concern for this challenge actually had nothing to do with the ice cream element. With last month's challenge under my belt, I felt confident that I could make something work for that. I was actually more worried about the brown butter. I don't use butter in my house. I use margarine. When limiting dairy intake, this is the easiest substitution, and is, usually, not an issue when baking. But margarine does not brown. Butter browns when the milk solids separate and carmelize and turn nutty and toasty and really yummy (this is NOT a scientific assessment of the browning process, just my attempt to wrap my brain around it!). I tried to do some research about vegan alternatives for browned butter, but came up with not too much information. The best answer I could find was that, of the vegan butter alternatives, Earth Balance Buttery Spread came the closest to butter when browned. Encouraged, I bought some to use. I did, however, have some reservations. This is a pound cake. It calls for a LOT of butter. If this didn't work well, I would have a cake that no one would eat. So I called upon my sister, and fellow Daring Baker, Aunty Twin to help me out. I recruited her, her kitchen, and a stick of her (real) butter, and we did a side-by-side comparison. (Pictures will come, and they will help...!)
The Earth Balance did brown, though it took longer than the butter did. It also did not get as dark and toasty looking, but that wasn't so much of a surprise, as there were no milk solids to do the actual browning. By appearances it looked like I had something I could use for my cake. By taste? Not so much. While I did get some of the nuttiness, the browned Earth Balance was much too salty for my taste. For a savory dish, maybe with pasta or veggies, it would work, but for a cake I thought I had better steer clear.
All of that is to explain that my brown butter pound cake was not, actually, a brown butter pound cake... I used margarine. I did melt it on the stove to see if anything would happen, but was not surprised when nothing did. To keep the "brown" theme, though, I substitute dark brown sugar for the light, and light brown sugar for the white (granulated) sugar in the recipe. While it didn't have quite the same depth of flavor and richness as the brown butter cake did, (thank you, Auntie Twin, for letting me taste it!) it was still a VERY good cake!!
It was now time to choose my frozen dessert element... Having made two different non-dairy ice creams last month, I decided to do frozen yogurt this month. I also decided to cut my husband a break. He is a major chocolate addict. Really, he might need a twelve-step program...! And my Swiss roll bombe last month had no chocolate in it at all. So I knew right away that my "ice cream" would have to be for him. I also wanted to have some sort of "nutty" flavor in the dessert, as I didn't have the brown butter's nuttiness in the cake. I therefore chose to make chocolate peanut butter frozen yogurt. I used the basic frozen yogurt recipe from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, added cocoa powder, adapted it for not having an ice cream maker, and added peanut butter towards the end. (Other than that, though, it was exactly his recipe... ;)) I learned after last month that I had to be very vigilant about stirring the mixture frequently at the start of the freezing process. The time and diligence are worth it, though, as my frozen yogurt had a really great creamy consistency which I hadn't thought I could achieve on my own!!
Up until this point, I actually hadn't been sure if I was going to make the baked Alaska or the petit fours. I have made baked Alaska before (though not since I was a child), and thought that would be fun, but the petit fours looked to beautiful!! Come showtime, though, it came down to the fact that I didn't have the time to make the chocolate glaze, so baked Alaska it would be. But. When I made the cake I had used my brownie bites pan. So I had little cakes, which seemed the perfect size for something petit four like... Introducing...
Chocolate peanut butter frozen yogurt sandwiched between two layers of brown sugar pound cake, all surrounded by a cloud of meringue and toasted to a golden brown. They looked like little toasted marshmallows, but with a surprise filling! Everyone was impressed. And Hubby was loving the chocolate peanut butter...! All in all, it was a great success.
Thank you, Elissa, for such a fun and creative challenge! I had a great time playing in the kitchen, learning new techniques, and eating such yumminess! Good luck as you start college. Having seen how hard you worked as our host, and how much time, energy and love you put into this challenge, I know you are going to achieve greatness. Please keep baking!!
If you would like to see what my fellow Daring Bakers came up with, and I highly recommend that you do!!, please take a look here!