For this month's Daring Bakers' challenge, hostess Elissa asked us to use beurre noisette (more commonly known as browned butter) to make a cake. But there is nothing common about browned butter. It's butter that has been heated until its milk solids turn brown. The browned milk solids impart that toasty, nutty flavor and scent that is characteristic of beurre noisette.
Elissa wanted us to use the browned butter cake in one or two ways: baked Alaska and ice cream petit fours. Baked Alaska is basically a disc of cake topped with ice cream, covered in meringue which is then lightly toasted with a flame. The ice cream petit fours are tiny ice cream sandwiches covered in ganache. We could use any flavor of ice cream as long as it's homemade from scratch and the cake part of the dessert must be the browned butter cake. I decided to just make the baked Alaska.
Even before I made the browned butter cake I knew that it would be super-duper rich since there are almost 1o ounces of butter in this one 9x9-inch cake. That's a whole lot of rich. To combat the richness I decided to combine it with tart ice cream. The super lemon ice cream from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop" sounded just perfect. It was super lemony as the name promised, but since it was an eggless recipe, it wasn't as creamy as the custard based ice creams I am used to. But of course the dessert would not remain eggless for long. The sweet and fluffy meringue would soon join the party.
I've always associated browned butter with the colder months. Summer is not the season for browned butter. Or so I thought. The cake was practically (well, figuratively) dripping with butterfat. But it's so delicious that I didn't care about the season or the calories.
The only issue with the cake being all about the butter is that it wasn't the right cake to use in a frozen dessert. Cold butter is solid so a cake chocked full of butter would be quite solid when chilled. And normally that wouldn't be a problem. Just take the cake out of the cold and let it come to room temperature before serving. But this was not an option with the baked Alaska since it was topped with ice cream. The ice cream would've been a puddle if I waited for the cake base to come to temperature. So we thought the frozen cake actually tasted like a stick of butter.
My husband said the only way to enjoy the baked Alaska was to eat it in parts. So we first ate the lemon ice cream and the meringue off the cake base. Then we popped the cake base into the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up. Whatever lemon ice cream was still clinging to the cake had melted and soaked into the now warm disc of cake. It was freakin' delicious! So even though we had to deconstruct the baked Alaska to work around the texture issue, it worked out nicely in the end.
Blog-checking lines: 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”.
Browned Butter Pound Cake
(adapted from Gourmet Magazine October 2009)
19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 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 a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square baking 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 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square 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.
Super Lemon Ice Cream
(adapted from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop")
3 lemons, preferable organic and unwaxed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups half-n-half (or 1 cup 36% fat heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk)
Pinch of kosher salt
Finely zest the lemons directly into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add the sugar and blend until the lemon zest is very fine. Add the lemon juice and blend until the sugar is completely dissolved. Blend in the half-n-half and salt until smooth.
Chill for 1 hour. Then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Meringue (for the Baked Alaska)
8 large egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.
Baked Alaska Assembly
1. Line four 4-inch (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.
2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4-inch (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.
3. Make the meringue (see above.)
4. Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.
5. Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.
6. Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaskas on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.