Ice Cream Flavor of the Week: Sweet Potato with Maple-Glazed Pecans

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For Thanksgiving, I was in charge of responsible for bringing the rolls and dessert. My family knows I’ve been learning how to cook and bake for most of the year and were excited to try some home-baked goodies.

I used Peter Reinhart’s formula for white bread variation #2 (made with buttermilk) from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for the rolls.  I’ve made these rolls a few times already and they are now my go-to recipe for party rolls. They’re fairly simple and are always a big hit.

As for dessert, my mother requested traditional pumpkin pie. This did not excite me. I don’t like pumpkin pie. I made a recipe for Pumpkin Cream Pie I found in the November 2008 issue of Everyday Food. People seemed to like it. I also made a brown-sugar apple cheesecake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking…From My Home to Yours. It was a past Tuesdays with Dorie selection and one I could cross off my list of completed recipes. It was very delicious and a big hit, but it was the ugliest cheesecake I’ve ever seen.

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I also brought ice cream. Rather than bring plain vanilla ice cream, I decided to make Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Maple-Glazed Pecans. One thing (out of many, many) I love about David Lebovitz is his descriptions at the beginning of {almost} every recipe in The Perfect Scoop. In the one for this ice cream, he encourages the reader to use brightly colored sweet potatoes with a vibrant orange color. He mentions that sometimes he will even scratch off the peel a bit with is fingernail before purchase to ensure the color quality. So there I was in Trader Joes, scratching the surface of sweet potatoes looking for brightly colored ones.

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The ice cream was a  success. At first my mother was skeptical about the flavor. She loved it and talked about it the next day, the next day, and maybe again today–I haven’t talked to her yet. Too bad she never tasted the Basil Ice Cream I made over the summer. :P

{DB} Do you want some caramel with your caramel?

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Fleur de Sel Caramels

I love caramel as much as the next person. Or maybe I love it even more than the next person. Caramel sundaes, caramel macchiatos, creme caramel, caramel apples, chocolate covered caramels, caramel candy. You get the picture…

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The Daring Bakers

This month marks my initiation in The Daring Bakers, an online baking group. The purpose of the group is to once a month challenge bakers by selecting recipes or baking techniques that are seemingly difficult, non-traditional, or unusual. Over 1,000 bakers from around the world are members and each month rotating hosts select the recipe(s). The recipe is known only to the membership until the posting date for the month. In addition to traditional bakers, the group also supports a large contingent of alternative bakers–vegan and/or gluten-free bakers.

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And its a good thing I like caramel. Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, along with Alex of Brownie and Blondie and Jenny of Foray into Food were the hosts of November’s Daring Baker’s challenge and they chose a cake which showcases  caramel and a bonus dessert which is, well, caramel. Assisting the hosts with alternative baking is Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

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Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

The hosts picked Shuna Fish Lyndon’s infamous Caramel Cake for November’s DB Challenge. -You can find the recipe here.  I decided to make cupcakes instead of a cake because they are easier to share.  I made the caramel syrup needed for the batter and the frosting. It tasted great but looked like–well, I’ll just say a specimen collection.

Caramel syrup or specimen collection?

Caramel syrup or specimen collection?

The cake batter came together fine with no issues. I used an ice cream scoop to place the batter into the muffin tin. I had left over batter after making 12 cupcakes. I baked the extra batter in my madeleine pan. Although my caramel cake madeleines didn’t look pretty, it was a great way to taste the finished product without tearing into a cupcake.

Ugly Caramel Cake Madelines

Ugly Caramel Cake Madeleines

And we tore into the cupcakes. I made the frosting as directed but 1/2’d the recipe and ended up using only about 6 oz of powdered sugar. P, my husband, loved them. He said they were pure cupcake joy. Not only was the frosting moist, he said, but the cake was moist too. His big complaint about cupcakes is when the cake is dry and the frosting is moist.

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I sprinkled the cupcakes with grated caramels to tie the recipes together. Actually, I tried to make caramel ribbons like I do with chocolate and it didn’t work. So, sprinkles it is.

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I bought the cupcake liners at Crate and Barrel. They’re from their holiday line and are not too “christmas”, so you can use them after the holidays.

Update: I just had a co-worker walk into my office with a crazed look in his eyes saying: “I just had one of your cupcakes. It was like a religious experience. OMG. I thought you should know. I broke down and had one. OMG. It was a religious experience.” I think that means he liked it. ;)

Golden Fleur de Sel Vanilla Bean Caramels

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The hosts picked an additional recipe for extra-credit from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert. This was a great choice because (1) I’m never one to back away from a challenge and (2) I bought this book a while ago and haven’t had the opportunity to make something from it.

The recipes in the book highlight flavors in pure and simple forms–milk, sugar, chocolate, nuts, and flours. The pictures are amazing and the recipes sound delicious. The caramels were great and relatively straightforward to make. A candy thermometer is a must. I know of people who don’t use a candy thermometer and it amazes me.

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Rustic Olive and Thyme Loaf

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The next recipe from The Art and Soul of Baking was the Rustic Olive and Thyme Loaf. This was perfect timing (or thyming ha ha) because I had some left over thyme in my refrigerator. I also had a jar of kalamata olives in my pantry.

The only thing I had to run out and buy was a banneton. A banneton is a special basket used to proof bread prior to baking. It gives rustic bread nice looking ridges. This recipe made enough for two loaves, but I only bought and used one banneton. At $$ a pop, I wasn’t going to buy two. Well, maybe I would have bought two but there was only one left at Sur la Table. :P Oh, no I wouldn’t have. I don’t need two. I really don’t.

A fancy bread proofing basket

A fancy bread proofing basket

As it turns out, the loaf I proofed in the banneton deflated when I dumped it out gently removed it. I’m going to have to work on that technique. Also, I should dried my olives a little more than the cursory pat with a paper towel. My loaves have a sickly shade of grey and loaves aren’t as crunchy as I imagined they would be. I think the dough was a little too wet with olive juices.

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And although my bread looks like sickly E.T., it tastes delicious. That’s what counts, right?

If you haven’t already discovered the companion blog to The Art and Soul of Baking, I urge you to check it out here. This week Cindy Mushet, the book’s author, is discussing pumpkin pie.

{TWD} Thanksgiving Twofer Pie-ettes

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I was prepared to hate this recipe. I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie and pecan pie was never my thing. I’m an apple pie lover. I’m indiscriminate in my love, any kind–old fashioned, Dutch, turnovers, tarts–it doesn’t matter. Add vanilla ice cream and welcome to heaven. :P

See the chunks of buttery goodness? It's the secret to GREAT pie crust.

See the chunks of buttery goodness?

This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, A Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, was created by Dorie Greenspan to appease lovers of either pumpkin pies, pecan pies, or both kind of pies.

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Instead of making one big pie, I decided to make tiny pies in a cupcake/muffin pan. This involved a lot of hope and faith on my part because I wasn’t sure the pie-ettes would release from the pan without breaking or falling apart.  I was willing to risk it, to try a new pie baking method, because if I failed it would have been no big loss. I wasn’t going to like this recipe.

Blind baking the pie-ette crusts

Due to the smaller size, I had to play around with the baking times both when I pre-baked the crust and when I baked the filled pie-ettes.

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The secret to a great pie crust is butter. Specifically, very cold butter. When you make the pie crust, you want to keep the butter as cold as possible. I always freeze my butter and use ice-cold water. When you roll out the dough, you should still see chunks of butter. It’s also important to chill the dough prior to baking to make sure that the butter chunks are still cold. When you bake the crust, the butter chunks melt and create pockets of flakiness and the cold butter delays the melting until the baking crust can support the air pockets.

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A 9-inch pie crust was enough to mold each cup in the muffin tin. I made the fillings as directed, but ended up with too much. I ended up pouring the extra pumpkin pie filling into custard dishes and making a couple of crustless pumpkin pies.

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The pie-ettes turned out wonderful. I may not be a pumpkin or pecan pie fan, but I am now a pumpkin and pecan twofer pie fan. YUM!

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Thank you to Vibi of La casserole carrée who chose the Thanksgiving Twofer Pie for this week. This was a great choice because I wouldn’t normally pick something like this to bake.

Update: These were a BIG hit at work!

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Steel-cut Oatmeal, two-ways and Wild Rice Flour Pancakes

The next two recipes in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking was Steel-cut Oatmeal, seven-ways and Wild Rice Flour Pancakes.

I only tried the oatmeal two ways. My usual way to eat oatmeal–the boring, traditional way–with raisins, brown sugar, and a little bit of milk. And one way suggested by Heidi–with pomegranate molasses and toasted walnuts. Both were delicious.

Brown sugar, raisins, and milk

Brown sugar, raisins, and milk

Pomegranate molasses and toasted walnuts

Pomegranate molasses and toasted walnuts

You can find pomegranate molasses in  Middle-Eastern or gourmet/specialty grocery stores. I found it at my local, non-chain gourmet grocery. I liked it as an addition to oatmeal and I think it would be great on plain vanilla ice-cream. The tart flavor of the molasses would complement the sweetness of the ice cream.

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The wild rice flour pancakes were another story. I won’t make this recipe again. I don’t like wild rice, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t like pancakes made with wild rice flour. Even with only  a 1/2 cup to the 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour, I could still taste the woodsy flavor of wild rice. Yuck! At least I tried it…

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