Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Caramel Popcorn Ice Cream

 About a month ago, Mitchell sent me a recipe from a South Carolina cookbook that he owns.  The recipe was for Caramel Popcorn ice cream.  Sounds like interesting all in one combination, right?  Caramel...good.  Ice Cream...good.  Popcorn...amazing!  The three things just don't seem to mix when you first think of them.  However, how could these three things together not be good?  Anyways,  Mitchell was in town last weekend and we decided to make the ice cream together.  : )  Below is the recipe and the results of our taste test follow: 

For the ice cream:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, plus more if needed
3/4 cup whole milk, plus more if needed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 bag popped extra buttery popcorn
8 egg yolks

For the caramel popcorn:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 bag popped extra buttery microwave popcorn
Pinch of kosher salt

Special equipment: ice cream maker

1. To prepare the ice cream, combine the heavy cream, milk, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to combine.  The second it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and stir in the bag of popped popcorn.  Set aside and allow the mixture to steep and absorb the popcorn flavor for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After it is steeped, strain the mixture through a fine sieve, discarding the solids.  Measure the strained liquid.  You're shooting for a total of 2 cups liquid.  If what you have is shy of that amount, add equal parts of heavy cream and milk until you get there.  Return the liquid to the sauce pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, being careful not to scorch.

2. Combine the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture is frothy, light, and lemon yellow in color.  As soon as the milk mixture reaches a boil, whisk it, in a slow and steady stream, into the egg and sugar mixture.  Whisk until thoroughly incorporated, then return the mixture to the pot.  Cook the custard mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it reaches 180 F and coats the back of a spoon.  (Be careful here.  If the custard gets too hot or if you stop whisking, you could end up with a pot of sweet scrambled eggs.)  Remove the custard from the heat, strain through a fine-mesh sieve, and refrigerate in a covered bowl overnight.

3.  Meanwhile, prepare the caramel popcorn.  Prepare and ice bath in advance, combining a large bowl of ice with a bit of water, to stop the caramel from cooking once it's prepared.  In a medium sauce pot, heat 3/4 cup sugar over medium-high heat.  Once it's melted, add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar.  Stir gently with a flat-edged wooden spoon, being careful not to burn the sugar.  The sugar is caramelized when it has turned a dark amber or light to medium brown color.  At this point, remove the pot from the heat and immerse it in the water bath for 5 to 10 seconds.  Remove from the bath and stir in the popcorn, gently stirring to fully coat.  Pour the popcorn out onto a parchment lined sheet pan and spread out with a wooden spoon.  Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.  When it's moderately cool (but not cold) remove the popcorn from the pan, breaking into individual kernels and discarding any unpopped corn.

4. To finish the ice cream, freeze the cooled custard according to your ice cream machine's instructions.  After it's done setting up in the machine,  stir in the caramel popcorn, reserving 1 cup for garnish.  Return the ice cream to the freezer to harden.  When it's reached ice cream consistency, serve.  Place 2 or 3 scoops in each bowl and drizzle with the reserved caramel popcorn.

This is a fairly time intensive recipe to be warned.  It was so much fun making it with Mitchell.  He really helped me not miss any steps.  (If you read most of my blog entries, you will see how this happens occasionally to me!  I attribute this more to not reading ahead in the recipe though!)  Anyways, our little adventure in ice cream making went well.

Overall, I give this recipe 4.0 out of 5 stars.  I was surprised how good it tasted with such a weird combination of ingredients.  The ice cream itself tastes a great deal like a custard and the caramel was surprisingly easy to make.  Popcorn in the ice cream is seemingly easy to eat.  You don't have to worry about the ice cream getting hard with the popcorn inside.  The ice cream is soft and easy to eat.  I now want to go to South Carolina and try the real deal.  I wonder whether the real deal is as good as the recreation we made?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Aww Cookies and Cream cupcakes.....  One of my good friend's recommended this recipe from Annie's Eats.  Earlier this year I made a Cookies and Cream cake that was awesome.  I thought creating cupcakes that were of a similar genre sounded like a good idea.  Why not right?

Click link to read more about this awesome recipe...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ultimate Banana Bread

Out of breakfast food, I pondered what I was going to eat.  The decision was made to make banana bread.  Now, my mom makes banana bread quite frequently at home.  I remember many days coming home from school to the smell of the bread coming out of our oven.  When I saw this recipe in the Cook's Illustrated magazine, I wondered how it would differ in taste from my mom's recipe.  I had to make it.  My desire to make this recipe grew stronger as I read the article about the bread in the magazine.  You see Cook's Illustrated goes through great detail of how it experimented to obtain a certain taste.  The author in the article goes through great length to describe how most banana bread recipes don't actually taste like banana.  I always thought my mom's tasted like banana or maybe, growing up eating it, I came to associate the taste of bananas with banana bread.  The mere concept that there were bananas in may have convinced me at an early age that it tasted like banana... I had to know whether I had been brainwashed!  Here's to making BANANA BREAD :)

From Cook's Illustrated July/August 2010

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large very ripe bananas peeled
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F.  Spray 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with nonstick coating spray.  Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.
2. Place 5 bananas in microwave safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife.  Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.  Transfer bananas to fine mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid).
3. Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.  Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
4. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using.  Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Slice remaining banana diagonally into 4 inch thick slices.  Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1 1/2 inch wide space down center to ensure even rise.  Sprinkle granulated sugar over loaf.
5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.  Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Whew...obtaining a banana taste was more difficult than I anticipated.  Microwaving and boiling banana juice... what!   The banana juice was hard work and I am still not sure whether it was worth it.  This was most definitely the fanciest banana bread that I have ever made.  Overall, I give this bread 4.2 out of 5 stars.  Like Cook's Illustrated described it, the bread is moist but not wet.  It melts in your mouth.  Upon cutting the bread did not crumble.  In addition, it tasted more like banana's like the recipe touted it would.  This banana bread recipe was better than my mom's.  This is a hard fact for me to admit.  My mom's recipe is not bad, but it tastes less like bananas and more like butter.  As to whether I would make this recipe again, I am slightly torn.  It was a lot of work for banana bread...I feel like I should have made a gourmet treat in that same period of time.  However, I did enjoy eating the bread every morning for a week.  Happy baking....