May 25, 2012

plated dessert project

For the plated dessert project we were tasked with coming up with a single fancy plated dessert (or alternatively, working with a partner and coming up with a mini dessert buffet). While searching for inspiration on I found this recipe for a buttered popcorn ice cream sundae. It was reminiscent of the popcorn/carmalized poundcake/banana/almond dessert I'd eaten not too long ago at AQ. Plus, it reminded me of the ever-popular buttered popcorn jelly belly jelly bean. And the prospect of making a savory sweet ice cream was exciting. So I decided to go for it.

The ice cream flavors I've had experience making have all been flavored with the addition of a spice/extract (cardamom, vanilla, etc.). This was the first time I would be steeping the ingredient (popcorn from the bag, buttered and salted), pureeing it, cooking it, and then straining it out at the end.

food processing popcorn & cream

The popcorn was steeped in milk and cream, puree-ed with corn syrup and sugar, then cooked with a beaten egg yolk and sugar mixture.

Once strained and cooled, I experienced some difficulties with the school ice cream makers (both were the cheap kind where you have to pour in ice and ice cream salt and refill as necessary). One flat out didn't work and the other kept stopping mid-churn. I eventually got the latter to work by taking all the ice and salt out, letting it start to churn first and then putting ice and salt gradually back in.

straining ice cream base

The ice cream I made came out to about 10 scoops (which I prescooped and froze as half-spheres).

Next I decided to make peanut pound cupcakes, which I thought would work as a pedestal for the ice cream to sit on. Pound cake recipe is easy - known in French as "quartre quarts" or four quarters, it's four ingredients (butter, sugar, egg, flour) in equal parts. I did a half pound of each ingredient, which was enough to make 10 cupcakes. Added some roasted peanuts in the batter. They came out nicely but weren't as moist as I had hoped, so I decided to cut them up as pound cake bites so it wouldn't be this whole chunk that one would have to dig into.

peanut pound cake muffins

Besides that the other toppings I had were caramel sauce, chocolate peanut butter halva, peanut brittle bits, and chocolate shavings.

dessert ingredients

The caramel sauce was exciting because it was my first time making it. Basically it's butter and cream added to sugar syrup cooked to the caramel stage (important to remove it from heat as soon as the sugar starts to brown so it doesn't burn).

butter to caramel sugar

Making peanut brittle (another epicurious recipe) was similar to making caramel sauce, except it's adding butter and peanuts to caramel sugar syrup. Oh and baking soda, which makes it foam and... helps it set?

adding peanut & butter to caramel sugar

Whatever the case, I poured the mixture out onto marble so it would cool and harden. I tasted some pretty immediately and it was delicious - crunchy and caramel-y but not too sweet. Reminded me of the sesame peanut candy I had growing up. I passed out some pieces to people around me and they liked it a lot too.

peanut brittle

For the chocolate peanut butter halva I took the peanut brittle and puree-ed it with some melted chocolate and peanut butter. It came out like a gritty paste - hard to dispense so I mixed it with the pound cake bites. I imagine that it made the cake bites a little bit more moist.

Since I made enough for 10 portions but only had to have 4-6 portions for the plated dessert project, I sold the extra portions as a plated dessert in the PCR dining room.

To assemble the sundae I put a handful of the cake bite mixture at the bottom, a few popcorn kernels, then the pre-scooped ice cream, then piped whipped cream, drizzled caramel sauce, then topped everything with peanut brittle bits, chocolate shavings, and a few extra popcorn kernels. (This display dessert that I had to make was difficult because instead of meltable ice cream I had to use shortening, and that was sticky/oily and messy.)

buttered popcorn ice cream sundae

For the project version of the dessert I went a bit further and added bananas brulee. I also decided to practice my plating skills and go beyond the sundae glass to the more traditional flat plate. This version had a whipped cream quenelle on it, which I had to practice making.

traditional dessert plating

This version is a more modernist take, more landscape-y and scattered, with the ice cream even cut in half.

modern dessert plating

I liked the sundae glass the best though. One of the most gratifying moment ever was me watching this girl in the PCR digging her spoon into the glass and scooping everything out from the bottom, so clearly enjoying her dessert.

To see my classmates' plated dessert projects, click here and then on the "<-- Newer" button for more.

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