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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pre-Labor Day Labor in the Kitchen

Hello again! If you read my earlier post about the delicious Mexican sweet potato and black bean potato salad, thanks! That's a great make-ahead tastes great warm or cold and would be an excellent Labor Day edition. If you're looking for Labor Day desserts, here ya go! A few exciting recipes that will wow your crowd (or special treat for you and your significant other).

If you have a blow torch handy...

Baked Alaska
Food Network Magazine

For the Ice Cream Cake:
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  • 1 pint raspberry, passion fruit or other sorbet, softened
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 quart chocolate ice cream, softened
  • 1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs (about 17 crushed wafers)
  • 1 loaf pound cake
For the Meringue:

  • 1 cup egg whites (about 6 large), at room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Make the ice cream cake: Brush a 3-quart metal bowl with vegetable oil; line with plastic wrap. Fill the bowl with scoops of the sorbet, vanilla ice cream and half of the chocolate ice cream, alternating small and large scoops to create a mosaic of colors and shapes. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the ice cream; press down to close the gaps between scoops and even out the surface. Remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle the ice cream with the wafer crumbs and re-cover with the plastic wrap, pressing gently. Freeze until set, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the wrap and spread the remaining chocolate ice cream in an even layer on top of the crumbs. Cut the pound cake into 1/2-inch-thick slices; completely cover the ice cream with the slices, trimming as needed (you'll use about two-thirds of the cake). Cover with fresh plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  3. Make the meringue: Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar on high speed until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.
  4. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap, then invert the cake onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If necessary, let the cake stand overturned until it slips out.) Remove the rest of the plastic wrap and cover the ice cream completely with the meringue, making the dome-shaped top slightly thicker than the sides. Form swirly peaks in the meringue using the back of a spoon. Freeze for at least 3 more hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bake the cake until the meringue peaks are golden, about 4 minutes, or brown the meringue with a blowtorch. Let the cake soften at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Freeze any leftovers.

For the gourmet lover...

Fig and Chocolate Bars
The Washington Post adapted from "Sweet!" by Mani Niall 

For the ganache

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the dough and topping
  • 1 cup flour, preferably unbleached and organic
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (do not use quick or instant oats)
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups finely chopped dried figs
For the ganache: 
  1. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over low heat until it has warmed through. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Let stand for 3 minutes, until the chips have softened, then stir to incorporate.
  2. Add the liqueur and butter; stir until the butter has melted and a smooth ganache is formed. Let cool for about 20 minutes; it should have a pourable consistency.
While the ganache is cooling, make the dough and topping: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking oil spray, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 cups of the oats and whisk to combine.
  3. Combine the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or a hand-held electric mixer. Beat on high speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture in several additions, mixing just until the dough comes together; it should not be absolutely smooth.
  4. Transfer three-quarters of the dough to the prepared baking pan and press it evenly over the liner or parchment paper. Sprinkle the chopped figs on the dough, then pour the cooled ganache over the figs. Use a spatula to spread it evenly.
  5. Combine the remaining dough with the remaining 1 cup of oats in the same medium bowl used for the flour mixture. Use your fingers to work the oats into the dough to form a crumbly streusel topping. Scatter it evenly over the ganache.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes, then use the parchment paper to lift the baked bar onto a cutting board. Let cool completely before cutting into 32 roughly square-shaped bars.

To get those lovely "ooohs" and "aaaaahs"...

Frozen Blackberry Souffle
Los Angeles Times July 15, 2009


  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup blackberry or raspberry liqueur
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 cups whipping cream


  1. Cut a sheet of waxed paper that is long enough to fit around a 1-quart soufflé dish and fold it in lengthwise thirds to make a ribbon about 4 inches wide. Wrap this around the top of the dish to make a collar and tape the ends together. The collar should extend about 3 inches above the rim of the soufflé dish. Secure in place with a rubber band or tape and place the dish in the freezer to chill. Alternatively, prepare 8 (one-half cup) ramekins in a similar fashion, making sure the collars extend about 1 1/2 inches over the rim of the ramekins.
  2. In a large saucepan, cook the blackberries and one-third cup sugar over medium heat until the berries soften and collapse, about 10 minutes. Puree the blackberries in a food mill, blender or food processor (strain the seeds if using a blender or processor); you should have about 2 cups. Stir in the blackberry liqueur and chill.
  3. Heat remaining two-thirds cup sugar and the water in a small saucepan over medium heat to a temperature of 235 to 240 degrees, soft-ball stage, about 15 minutes. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves, then stop stirring but keep handy a brush moistened with water to wash down the sides of the pan should any sugar crystals form.
  4. While the sugar mixture is cooking, beat the egg whites in an electric mixer to stiff peaks using the whisk attachment. With the mixer running, pour the sugar mixture into the egg whites down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream (avoid hitting the whisk with the sugar or it will spray over the bowl). When the hot sugar syrup first hits the whites, they will swell tremendously. Continue beating until the whites have cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the whipping cream to soft peaks with a whisk or hand mixer.
  6. Stir about one-third of the egg white mixture into the blackberry puree to lighten it. Then pour the blackberry mixture over the remaining egg whites and fold gently until well combined. These cooked egg whites are more stable than uncooked, but you still need to be careful not to deflate them.
  7. Gently fold the whipping cream into the egg white mixture and spoon the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish or ramekins. It should come at least halfway up the paper collar. Smooth the top and freeze until very firm, at least 4 hours. If you freeze it overnight, transfer it to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to soften before serving. If you make it more than 1 day in advance, once the mixture is frozen solid, cover it with plastic wrap and gently press the wrap against the surface of the soufflé.
  8. When ready to serve, carefully remove the collar and serve the ramekins or cut the large soufflé into thin slices.
Note: If the sugar crystallizes while cooking in step 3, try the step again in a clean saucepan and add one-fourth teaspoon corn syrup before cooking the sugar, but proceed with the rest of the step as written.

Happy baking!

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