Thursday, September 2, 2010

Favorite things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings

Julie Andrews sang it best- but everyone has their favorite things that instantly bring them calm and happiness.  Some of mine include:

Fall leaves crunching under my feet, warm Chicago summer evenings, laughing so hard it hurts, water flowing through my hair as I'm swimming, daisys, belting out songs while driving, digging my feet into sand, jamming to music while cooking, being enthralled by a great book, and daydreaming...

Obviously these are not food favorites. Had I included food items, well, I'd be sitting here for wayyyyy too long typing away. But if I were to make a "favorite things" food list it would definitely include brown butter and lavender. 

I've extolled the virtues of brown butter before (in my homemade gnocchi with brown butter and sage sauce before) along with those of lavender (in my modified Amish friendship bread recipe).  But one time is not nearly enough for these two flavors.

Luckily for me this month (for Daring Bakers) I had the chance to make a dessert with brown butter and lavender. mmmmmmmmm.... heavenly...

Brown butter pound cake filled with honey lavender ice cream 
and drizzled with dark chocolate

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”.

Before I get into the details of the dessert can I just take a moment to talk to you about lavender and brown butter??

Brown butter is like giving butter an extreme makeover. To make it all you do is cook the butter until it literally turns brownish. (You can even see brown butter specks in the pound cake picture above.) But the flavor changes into something inexplicable. It's nutty and almost sweet. I could literally eat it by the spoonful. But I'd like to live past the age of 35 so I'll refrain from that. (Bummer)

But I need to start using brown butter in place of normal butter more often. The depth of flavor is unmatched.

And lavender. I don't know why I have such a passionate love for lavender. Lavender creme brulee, lavender (orange) biscotti, lavender lemonade, lavender ice cream. I die for anything with lavender. Which is odd because I can't stand rose water or orange blossom water. I don't like their floral-y flavor and yet lavender is one of my favorites. Confusing, I know, but I've given up trying to analyze my taste buds. I just feed them things to make them happy.

Like brown butter and lavender.

Melty ice cream. 
The camera may not love it but my tummy sure didn't mind...

Now, back to my comments about the Daring Bakers challenge. For a second month in a row we had an ice cream + cake combo for our Daring Bakers challenge.

Pro: I freaking love ice cream. One of my favorite desserts ever. And it "forced" me to finally buy an ice cream maker. Yea!

Con: I hate ice cream and cake together. As I said last time, I'm not a fan because the cake gets all dried out and hard when you place the ice cream and cake in the freezer together. Personally, if I'm gonna have cake and ice cream I'll just place a scoop of ice cream on a piece of cake.

I also had some major structural issues with this dessert. As you can see from my photos, my ice cream would NOT stay frozen. I think it might be partly because I used gelato and partly due to my less-than-super-freezing freezer. Either way, the ice cream was just a big 'ole mess so dipping the petit fours in chocolate was simply out of the question. So I decided on a light chocolate drizzle instead.

Why does my attempt at artful plating look like a 
3 year old's crappy finger painting??

So in summary:

Honey lavender ice cream: A++
Brown butter pound cake*: A++
Ice cream and cake petit fours: FAIL!

My suggestion to you: Make this ice cream and this cake (although not necessarily together). Now.

* My friend Tim said this cake was (and I quote) "the best cake I've eaten in my entire life". Granted I made this brown butter pound cake as the top layer of his wedding cake and he just shared a bite with his gorgeous wife on the happiest day of his life. So I'm sure his opinion was totally and completely unbiased...

Buen Provecho,

Brown Butter Pound Cake, from Daring Bakers


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 an 8" x 8" or 9" x 9" 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 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.

Lavender honey ice cream, from The Perfect Scoop


1/3 to 1/2 cup good flavored honey
1/4 cup dried or fresh lavender flowers (or 2 TBSP if not infusing honey, see note below)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks


1. Heat the honey and 2 tablespoons of the lavender in a small saucepan until the honey is fluid. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for one hour.  Jackie's note: I feel this step is a bit unnecessary. I felt there was very little lavender flavor that imparted into the honey. So I think you can save yourself 2 TBSP of lavender flowers and an hour by just using the honey straight.

2. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Pour the (lavender infused) honey into the cream through the strainer, pressing on the lavender flowers to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the bowl.

3. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.

4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon. Jackie's note: this process is very much like making creme anglaise. Click here for my post and pictures on cooking custards.

5. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lavender flowers. Refrigerate overnight. Jackie's note: at this point the liquid will barely taste like lavender. Just wait until the morning. WOW! The flavor will be quite strong the next day. If you're not sure how much you love lavender flavor, or only want a little taste of it, I'd suggest using less lavender, maybe 1 TBSP or so. I love lavender so the strong flavor was perfect for me.)

6. Before churning, strain the mixture again. Press the lavender flowers to extract as much of their flavor as possible. Discard the flowers, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Tamara Marnell said...

It actually never occurred to me that people would freeze the ice cream and cake together, because I always just take out the ice cream and assemble before eating. But I guess if you're going to make crazy chocolate-covered concoctions you'd have to.

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