Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD: Banana-Coconut Ice Cream Pie

I feel like I am a much more adventurous eater since I started baking with TWD. I enjoy things I didn't used to like (coconut, custard), and I have come to appreciate certain flavor combos that I never would have expected. I trust Dorie, I do. She rarely leads us down the wrong road. That said, I have to draw the line somewhere, and a pie that involves banana, coconut, rum and CHOCOLATE ice cream seemed like as good a place as any. Swapping vanilla ice cream for the chocolate was pretty much a no-brainer for me, since my husband wouldn't eat the chocolate version anyway, and vanilla just seemed safer to boring, rule-following, never-did-a-single-crazy-thing-in-her-life me.


(1) I did not make my own ice cream for this recipe
(2) I did not make my own butter cookies for this recipe
(3) I used all "ripe but firm" bananas for the recipe, not some "very ripe" bananas and some "ripe but firm" bananas

I've never made a crust like this before - it's a no-bake crust that contains a stick of butter, a couple of cups of coconut, which get toasted in the melted butter, and crushed up butter cookies. After it's all mixed together, it gets pressed into a pie dish and then frozen. After the crust is ready, it gets topped with slices of "ripe but firm" bananas. The pie filling starts with making a puree of "very ripe" bananas (I used "ripe but firm"), lemon and dark rum in the food processor. Add vanilla ice cream to the puree and pulse to combine, but be careful not to melt the ice cream. My ice cream (which was very hard out of the carton) melted upon first or second pulse, so I'm not quite sure how to pull off that trick, but there was nothing do be done about that but pour it all into the pie crust and hope for the best.

My camera died, so the pie pictures here are iPhone photos taken by my 7 year old. I think he did a good job, even though he only took the pictures as a ploy to take my iPhone from me. Meanwhile, my camera is en route to Canon for fixing. Ever wonder what a shutter looks like when it won't close? It's that tiny bronze-ish dot in the lower right hand quadrant of the black box.

Incidentally, Canon customer service was awesome (so far - I don't have my camera back yet, of course). So awesome, that I almost forgot I was calling them because my 6 month old camera just conked out on me. The guy seemed almost as distressed as I was that my camera was broken, and by gosh, he was going to get to the bottom of it! We went through a whole battery of troubleshooting exercises. At one point he told me to hold down the picturetaking button (he didn't use the phrase "picturetaking button") and asked me to look into the hole (he didn't use the phrase "hole") and tell him if I saw a blue/green shade. I told him that I didn't think I saw blue/green, but more of a nailhead/pinhead against a black background, almost like the back of a small nail. It was at that point that he said: "Oh no. What you are seeing is your shutter. It's not closing" -- as if it personally pained him to have to tell me this. At that point there was really nothing left for us to talk about other than the instructions for sending my camera back to Canon.

The good news/bad news is that I'm not sure I would have done a whole lot better than this even if I had my camera.

David, his parents and I had this for dessert over the weekend. Everybody liked it. It's a nice warm-weather dessert with unquestionably tropical flavors. Tropical flavors tend not to be my favorite flavors, at least not in solid form (i.e., I'm more likely to be effusive in praise about a banana/rum/lemon/coconut/vanilla concoction that I'm supposed to drink) but again, this is a great dessert choice if you are looking for a tropical, cool dessert that requires teeth.

Spike of Spike Bakes chose this pie. You can find the recipe (and lots of other great things!) on Spike's blog. Thanks for the summery pick, Spike!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TWD: Quick Classic Berry Tart

I am going to take my inspiration from this week's TWD recipe, Quick Classic Berry Tart, and submit a Quick (non)Classic Post. As has been the case with all of Dorie's tarts, this one was amazingly good and deceptively easy to make. It involves three components, two of which can be made ahead of time, and the third of which is fruit placement. Even I can't mess that up (although I can make it look less aesthetically pleasing than you). Part one is the sweet tart dough, which I have made and discussed here many times. Same old story -- I think I'm overhandling the dough, I probably AM overhandling the dough, but the taste and texture is of the tart crust ends up wonderful anyway. I can only imagine how great it must be when it is not overhandled. The great thing about the crust is that it actually needs to be frozen for a bit before it is baked, and while the recipe only requires a short stint in the freezer, you can keep the unbaked crust in there for days, weeks, months ahead of time! Perfect for the tart maker on the go!

Dorie's pastry cream is to die for delicious. I can usually take or leave puddings, custards, etc., as I generally prefer for there to be flour somewhere in my desserts, yet whenever I taste this pastry cream I have this crazy urge to tuck the bowl under my arm like a football and protect it from people who might try to strip it away from me. Then I remember, "oh yeah, I bake as a way to show people that I love them!" and I put the bowl down. Anyway, I've made Dorie's pastry cream several times for various recipes and have never had any trouble with it. It thickens easily and is rich, smooth and delicious. And it can be made a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated until it's time to assemble the tart. It's pretty much perfect -- I don't know why I'd ever want to make a different pastry cream.

The fruit placement segment of this dessert is our chance to flex our creative muscles. I went with randomly scattered berries, which seemed to suit my lifestyle more than some kind of orderly pattern.

Then brush the fruit with a jam glaze (I guess that's a fourth component), and you're done!

The result is a beautiful, impressive dessert that is really no more difficult to make than brownies (in fact, for me, it might be easier than brownies, since I'm riding a long streak of underbaking brownies). I made this when we had some friends over for dinner, and it was a huge hit. Dorie says that it's best the same day once it's assembled, but David and I enjoyed it the next day as well. This tart is now my go-to spring and summer dessert.

Cristine of Cooking with Cristine picked this tart. Great pick, Cristine!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TWD:Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

This week's TWD recipe, Burnt Sugar Ice Cream, combines two techniques that have caused me significant angst over the past two years: (1) making caramel, and (2) making custard. I knew this ice cream would be good if I got it right, but the chances of that seemed so remote that I almost skipped it.

My big problem with custard early on was that I didn't have any experience with it, so I really didn't know what it was supposed to look like when it was ready to come off the heat. Therefore, I was overly reliant on my (unreliable) thermometers, which consistently did me wrong. As I failed and failed again, I became an expert on what custard looked like right before the point of failure, so I felt more confident going into this that I would catch it in time and maybe, just maybe, not fail.

My main problem with caramel is that as soon as sugar starts boiling in my house, I think of one hundred other things that I need to be doing. Something about sugar boiling makes me ambitious (to do things other than watch the sugar). This time, I decided that if I needed to glue my feet on the floor in front of the stove, I would not walk away from the boiling sugar.

Keep your eyes on me. Yes, you.

Seriously? The laundry has been sitting in the dryer for two days! It can wait another ten minutes.

Do. Not. Go. Check. The. Mail.

How about you call and make that hair appointment AFTER you don't burn the caramel?

You know, I wouldn't worry as much about other people trying to take pictures while doing this, but you? You really need to put the camera down.

That's deep amber enough - next step!!

The next step is to lower the heat and add milk and cream, at which point Dorie warns us that things will get a little wild, what with all the bubbling and seething and hardening of caramel. All of the above did happen, but just as Dorie says it will, the hardened caramel smooths out as you continue to heat and stir. At that point you temper an egg yolk/salt mixture with the warm caramel/milk mixture, add the rest of the caramel/milk to the eggs, return all of it to the pan and cook over medium heat until the custard reaches between 170 and 180 degrees. I knew better than to rely on a thermometer to test for doneness, so I used the "spoon test" (the custard coated the back of a spoon); the "track test" (when I ran my finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard did not run into the track); and the "instinct denial test" (in which my instincts told me to cook the custard for a few more minutes, and I ignored them).

The results - perfect custard!! Woo hoo!! This ice cream base tasted incredible. I could barely wait for it to chill sufficiently so I could churn it. In fact, I probably churned it a little sooner than I should have - it just couldn't chill fast enough for me.

My husband likes a lot of the desserts I have made, but I think this ice cream might have been his all-time favorite. He just could not take a bite without offering up a new compliment. I bake for praise, so I was all over that. I loved the ice cream too -- I found it to be veeeeeerrrry sweet, so sweet that I added hot fudge to my bowl to cut the sweetness a bit:

You know something is sweet when hot fudge neutralizes the sweetness. Still, this was far and away the best ice cream I've ever made, and possibly the best I've ever tasted. I sure hope that the caramel/custard success wasn't a fluke, because I can't wait to make this again.

Becky of Project Domestication chose the Burnt Sugar Ice Cream. Great pick Becky!

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