Thursday, July 29, 2010

Green Tea Ice Cream Cake



July is usually one of the busiest months for me. Apart from the fact that it's summer and I'm crazy about all things summer, it is also the month with so many birthdays. This particular friend of mine knows exactly what he wants for his birthday and that is a green tea ice cream cake, heck he sent me a reminder a few times starting from 3 months before his actual birthday, I couldn't even pretend to forget even if I want to.

It was simple enough that I actually wasn't worried about it. One of the hardest things I encountered when making cake for other people is to decide what cake to make, so many choices, so many combination, but yet only one that's supposed to be the right one, it's sort of the same as finding your soulmate... in a way (cheesy I know). So this time, I was so glad that I didn't have to go through that phase. The cake coincidentally falls into the theme of the month of July, National Ice Cream Month, how perfect!


Now, believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever made an ice cream cake. The reason? hmm.... I don't know, maybe I thought ice cream cake is just a boring cake with layer of sponge cake and ice cream alternating, nothing interesting? Besides, I don't normally eat that many frozen stuff due to my sensitive teeth, so it never occurred to me that making ice cream cake can be a challenging project especially if you're making your own ice cream.

It may look simple, but there were actually a lot of consideration going on to make this cake happens. Since this is my first time making an ice cream cake, I wouldn't know if the ice cream would be able to stand on it's own if I put it around the cake, would it melt under California heat, how do I decorate ice cream cake? The last question might be the most challenging one, I am so used to use fruits to decorate cakes, especially in the summer but I don't want the cake to be frozen if I decorate with it. Chocolate would be a good thing to use but again, it is so hard to work with chocolate during summer, unless you have a temperature-controlled kitchen. I did use white chocolate to decorate the sides, which was pretty messy too, but I've always wanted to brush something on chocolate and I'm loving the look of it.


There wasn't many interesting layer in this cake, I used two layers of matcha chiffon cake, and two layers of green tea ice cream. And since texture is so important to me, I was planning to put a layer of Valrhona crunchy chocolate pearl in the middle but it got left out! I was so in a rush to finish the layering before the ice cream melted and became a mess everywhere that by the time I finished the last layer, I remember the chocolate. It was too difficult to scrape the layer off to put the chocolate in, so I gave up that idea although I still think it would make a pretty awesome addition with the added crunch.


The green tea ice cream cake however, was delicious by itself! I used a recipe from "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz, it's pretty much a basic vanilla ice cream cake with addition of matcha. Luckily, the recipe makes enough for 8" round with enough leftover to enjoy on its own. I'm not usually a fan of matcha everything just because often times, I would buy a matcha cake or matcha ice cream that taste anything but matcha. Some of them have a fake or cheap matcha taste, some of them look so green but the matcha flavor is hardly there. I did however tasted a really good matcha ice cream in a cafe a few weeks ago with strong matcha flavor and was in love with it. I added a few more tsp of matcha powder than what the original recipe calls for and I think it's just perfect.


I'm submitting this green tea ice cream cake post to Matcha Madness event hosted by Catty for the month of July. You can go over to her site after the event ends to find out how mad people playing with matcha and you'll be surprised to find so many matcha goodness out there.

Green Tea Ice Cream Cake
Yield: one 8" round cake

Green Tea Chiffon Cake
4 eggs (separate the yolk from the white)
100 g sugar (divided)
75 g cake flour
10 g green tea powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
50 g milk
50 g vegetable oil

Green Tea Ice Cream
adapted from "The Perfect Scoop"

500 ml heavy cream
250 ml whole milk
150 g sugar
6 egg yolks
6 tsp green tea powder (original: 4 tsp)

Decoration (optional):
Heavy Cream, whipped
Matcha paste (made with matcha powder and a little water to form a paste)
  • To make the chiffon cake: Preheat the oven to 350 F and prepare two parchment-lined 8" round pans
  • Whisk the egg yolk and 25 g sugar until it becomes a little pale.
  • Add the milk and the oil and whisk well
  • Combine together the flour, green tea powder, baking powder, and salt and sift them. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy, then add the remaining 75 g sugar gradually and continue whipping until it forms a glossy stiff peak
  • Add the flour to the yolk mixture and whisk well
  • Fold in the egg white in addition (about three), making sure there is no big lumps of meringue and don't overfold either.
  • Divide the batter between the two pans and bake it for about 20 minutes or until done.
  • Let cool until ready to use
  • To make the green tea ice cream: Combine the sugar and the milk in a saucepan and bring it to simmer
  • In a large bowl, combine together green tea and heavy cream, whisking lightly, then put a strainer on top. Don't overwhisk it as you would have whipped cream instead
  • In another bowl, whisk the egg yolk and temper it with the hot milk, return it back to the heat
  • Heat the mixture to about 85 C on a gentle heat, stirring non-stop
  • Once the mixture reaches the temperature, take it off the heat on pour in over the strainer.
  • Whisk the cream+milk mixture vigorously until the matcha powder dissolves (it will be frothy)
  • Chill thoroughly and churn in the ice cream maker.
  • To decorate: Whip the cream and the matcha paste
  • Cover the cake with the matcha cream and decorate.
  • If you decided not to use the whipped cream to cover the cake, you can also cover the cake in green tea ice cream just like a mousse cake.
Note:
I followed the method stated in the recipe, but personally, I would do it differently next time. The matcha powder is harder to dissolve in a cold liquid. Even after you added the hot milk mixture, the matcha didn't dissolve completely. I whisked the mixture for quite a while until most of the green tea has dissolved and I warmed it a little.

I think it would be better to use the normal "creme-anglaise method":
  • Combine the cream and the milk together in a saucepan and bring it to simmer
  • Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and the matcha powder, and temper it with the hot milk
  • Bring it to 85C, stirring constantly
  • Strain to remove any lumps (if any) and chill thoroughly
  • Process in an ice cream maker
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Mango Passion Fruit Cheesecake


I think you've realized by now that I have a serious weakness over mango and passion fruit. I used to underestimate these two fruits when I was back in Indonesia, we had so many varieties of mango and you can pretty much find all of the exotic tropical fruit there, some I don't even know what to call or if they have any name. It was only after I moved here, especially after I started baking, that I realized how precious they are, but I guess it's a trade off because you can't really find fresh raspberry or blueberry in Indonesia, it is like finding needle among hays if you try. They have strawberries, but nothing like sweet California strawberry in summer time. I think they have this mindset that strawberry is supposed to be that tart. Yes, strawberries in Indonesia are so tart that it is so painful to eat it fresh. People usually use them in smoothie or cake decoration.



It is no secret that it runs in my family for our love for mango. I could probably survive the whole day just by eating mango. Too bad US doesn't have as many variety as in Indonesia for mango, but I think it's a fair trade since we can find all the gorgeous stone fruits and berries here.

I've been in charge for feeding the whole family for the past month because my nephew's and niece's grandma who usually cooks for us, she went back to Indo for a few months. So technically, I was half-mom, sometimes playing the role of a full-time mom these days, that includes taking care of the baby, cook for the whole family and making sure they're well-fed, cleaning up, bathe them, etc on top of my full-time job. So my poor niece and nephew now have to eat dinner at 9-9:30pm because by the time I got home at 8pm from work, I need to start cooking and cleaning up.


I was actually making this to celebrate my brother's birthday two weeks ago. I've been making mango cakes for the last two years for him or the wife or the son. The birthday fell on Friday, which was actually perfect since we celebrated it on Saturday, but the cheesecake wasn't done until Saturday evening and it needed a good few hours in the fridge. So yeah, we didn't have any cake after dinner that night, so we just ate it as dessert, which is good in some way I guess because I can cut them up and decorate them individually to make them look more cute.


I used almond crust for the base, it's actually a mixture of almond powder and graham cracker crumbs. I love this type of crust a lot more than the plain old graham cracker crumbs, and I keep coming back to them everytime I'm making cheesecake. As usual, I kinda mix and weigh at the same time to find out how much stuff I put it. The end result was slightly tart due to the passion fruit pulp addition (it was so tart, remember the story of this cake?). I wanted the cheesecake to have both mango and passion fruit together so I kept tasting it until I was happy with the result.

Align Center
I was really happy with the result though. The texture is not as dense as regular NY cheesecake due to the addition of the fruit puree and I'm loving the tropical flavor! One thing I learn about making baked fruit-flavored cheesecake (at least for mango or mango passion fruit) is that the flavor concentrates and the color becomes stronger after baked. I'm making notes of all the things I need to modify for next time but until I get it perfected, I won't post the recipe just yet.

For those of you who wants to make this, you can use a basic cheesecake recipe, add some mango pulp/puree as well as passion fruit to the batter. Adjust the amount depending on your taste. Ah.. one more item I can cross off my list now, onto the next item... :)
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

4th of July BBQ and Trio of Sorbet


I know 4th of July is over three weeks ago, but I just can't let the occasion pass without any sort of contribution to the event.

When summer rolls around and the hot weather started to soar, all I can think of is BBQ, BBQ, and BBQ, with cold drinks or cold desserts to fight the heat (don't get me started on the fruits). After a slow transition from Spring to Summer, we finally got a feel of what real Summer in California is. The temperature rises to maybe low 90 under the sun, which might be nothing compared to other states, but yeah it was pretty darn hot, but perfect for BBQ!

It's like a tradition to have a BBQ on 4th of July, American way and I was so ecstatic about this. You see, we usually buy ready-grill stuff at Costco or just marinated Korean beef/pork, but this time I wanted REAL BBQ. We made most of our own food this time (well, mostly). So here's the rundown of the menu:



Entree:
- baby-back ribs
- chicken kebab with red onion and bell pepper
- marinated pork (YUM!)
- three different kinds of sausages (store-bought)

Sides:
- roasted-garlic mashed potatoes
- grilled asparagus
- different kinds of chip and tortilla with salsa and artichoke dip
- grilled corn with mayo, lime and parmesan cheese

Drinks:
- mango and orange punch
- sodas

Dessert:
Trio of sorbet (pineapple, strawberry, and white peach)
Fruits (watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon)

It wasn't too hot that day, in fact, it was perfect. We had the BBQ at our house and the way our house is facing, it's cooler in the evening, the sun moves to the front part of the house. We got a warm weather with slightly cool breeze.

I was so excited about the dessert (read: the sorbet) because I think it was the perfect choice. The days were so hot that you're craving something to fight the heat. It happened that I was on a frozen dessert making frenzy after making the previous sorbet. Given that July is a National Ice Cream Month, this makes it even more perfect! I opted for three kinds of sorbet this time, strawberry (made on a previous post), white peach, and pineapple.


I really love the flavor of white peach, it's fragrant and subtle. I tried to use it in a cake once but I don't think that was a good idea, the flavor was so subtle that it gets lost easily among other flavors. So, sorbet was the perfect choice as it capture the pure flavor of the fruit. The only thing I wasn't too satisfied about was the color. I used white peach and it gets discolor rather fast. It turned brown within seconds after peeling, I wish someone can tell me how to keep the white color of the peach. I saw some blogs posted their white peach sorbet with pretty pink color (I'm dying to be able to get that color), or clean white.

The pineapple however was a request from my little nephew. He loves pineapple (I mean, who doesn't?), and as I mentioned before, we share the same love for sorbet over sweet ice cream (disclaimer: he hasn't tried homemade ice cream that's why). He kept asking me when I would make it everytime he saw the two pineapple sitting on the counter to ripen. He was beyond happy when I finally made it and he kept coming back to have a bowl of the soft-serve pineapple sorbet while it's still churning.


The three sorbet turned out really good. I mention about how good the strawberry sorbet was in the previous post, the strawberry flavor was so strong and fresh, the white peach is subtle with floral taste, the pineapple was so good that it was just bursting with flavor when you put it in your mouth, it was that good. One thing I noticed though, the texture of pineapple sorbet was different than the other two. I used the same recipe, adjusting the amount of sugar for each one, and the amount of puree depending on the sweetness of the fruit. It wasn't as compact as the other. I'm not complaining though, but just curious. I flipped through the same book and it has different recipe for pineapple sorbet, hmm.... curious why it has to be different.

For the next few days after the BBQ, me nephew kept asking me for the three sorbet for his dessert after dinner. I have a feeling he will grow with a fine tastebud :)


It was a relaxing and fun time surrounded by family and close friends, really good food; we played game and we even had a small firework in the backyard! Talking about back to the past, reminded me when I was still a kid.

Strawberry Sorbet -- recipe here
White Peach Sorbet -- same recipe as strawberry, but reduced the sugar to 100 g
Pineapple Sorbet -- same recipe as strawberry, but I used about 1000g-1200g of puree instead
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Strawberry Obsession: Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry Sorbet and Strawberry Lollipop


I'm in some sort of strawberry madness lately, as you can tell by all three strawberry desserts in one post. Everytime I go to farmers' market almost every Sunday, I try so hard not to stop by my favorite strawberry stall, I even try not to stare! But when you see bright red color in the corner of your eyes, you just gotta look, and that's very dangerous as I can hardly contain myself from tasting a sample and ended up buying it. It happens everytime, classic. Does it happen to you too? Please tell me that I'm not weird :(


But anyways, here I am, always overloaded with fresh juicy strawberries almost every week. Ever since we went strawberry picking last time, I kept thinking of how to make the best out of the strawberry season this year, and that's when I started writing my list of things to make this summer. At least now I can be glad and proud that I can cross two out of a hundred items (and still growing) on that list.


Started out with strawberry shortcake. If you notice, I make strawberry shortcake every year at the peak of strawberry season. I think this is one of the best ways to highlight the sweet strawberries at its finest. I'm not talking about the all-American strawberry shortcake which is made with flaky scones, but I'm talking what most people referred to the Japanese-style strawberry shortcake, which uses soft genoise or sponge cake instead of scone. Strawberry plays one of the most important role in this dessert, and that it has to be sweet. There's nothing more horrifying that eating strawberry cake with sour strawberries.


I like to use orange liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier with my strawberry shortcake as I love the combination of strawberry and slight orange taste in the background. Many people use Kirsch as well, but I am not particularly a fan of it, it's all a matter of taste.

Before I'm moving on the sorbet subject, I have a confession to make. I own some cookbooks (or dessert books), not so many, but there a couple of them (I should take a picture of them sometimes), but I rarely or almost never followed any recipe from them. I don't know, I've always been put off in trying one of their recipes because I'm afraid that I won't like them or the recipe is just too lengthy. Most of the cookbooks that I own (or all of them) are the kinds that have a very long recipes page with multiple different components, a lot of them has some bizarre ingredients that I've never heard before or the ones that would cost me a fortune.


If I have to choose between ice cream or sorbet on a hot summer day, I would probably opt for sorbet. I don't eat frozen stuff that often (I have very sensitive teeth), but when I do, it has to be good. Sorbet is also one of the best ways to bring out the best flavor of the fragrance of the fruit, so simple and so pure.

When I was looking for a sorbet recipe, I have a few recipes I can try with very similar ingredients from French magazine and from one of my cookbooks, but I finally settle on the later, which is from this book. The picture of the sorbet looks so smooth and has a great texture, but it has some unfamiliar ingredients such as atomized glucose and sorbet stabilizer. This is one of my favorite books together with this and this. The book explains what each ingredient is and what their role is in the sorbet, love it! Luckily, one of my favorite baking sites carries it! I had to order it twice because I missed one ingredient the first time, but now that I got them, I'm all set to go.

The resulting sorbet turned out to be so delicious! It's all I've ever wanted in a sorbet, strong flavor, great texture, just perfect! It's like strawberry explosion in your mouth, just pure and intense strawberry flavor. The strawberries you use need to be tasty, I won't recommend making this using winter strawberries, even in California. I had to make two batches of this sorbet because my nephew loves it and he constantly asked for it. He and I share the same preference in frozen stuff, sorbet over ice cream. I was going to save the sorbet for dessert for something else with other sorbets I'm going to make (more on that later), but I just can't say no to my nephew when he "begged" me for it on a really hot California day. So, I decided to make more using my last fresh and frozen strawberries I have, I guess it can be considered as another Spring Cleaning? :)


So, what's up with the strawberry lollipops? Umm... nothing really. I just thought that they look so cute on a stick :), don't they?

Strawberry Shortcake

Sponge Cake:
4 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
100 g sugar
80 g cake flour, sifted
60 g melted butter

Filling:
100 g mascarpone cheese, room temperature
50 g sugar
250 g heavy cream
Cointreau or Grand Marnier (or Kirsch)
fresh sweet strawberries, sliced (set aside some whole ones for decoration)
  • To make the sponge cake: Preheat the oven to 350F and lined two 8" square pan with parchment paper
  • Beat the eggs (whole and yolks) with the sugar on a med-high speed until the mixture is very thick and pale (ribbon-stage)
  • Incorporate the flour in three addition and fold carefully as not to lose too much air
  • Fold in the melted butter until well-mixed
  • Divide the batter between two prepared pans and bake it for about 20 minutes or until done.
  • Let cool on a wire rack
  • To make the filling: Combine the mascarpone cheese, sugar, heavy cream, and liqueur, and beat until it forms a semi-stiff peak but still has its shine. Use it immediately
  • To assemble: Put one layer of cake on a base and spread the filling on top.
  • Arrange the strawberry slices and top it with the other cake.
  • Spread another thin layer of filling on top and decorate all you want
  • If you don't have enough filling for the top layer or to decorate it with, just simply whip fresh whipped cream with a little sugar (you can add liqueur if you want).

Strawberry Sorbet
adapted from Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries

750 g strawberry puree
60 g atomized glucose
120 g sugar
80 ml water
3/4 tsp sorbet stabilizer
  • Put the water and atomized glucose in a sacepan and bring it to a gentle boil.
  • Mix the sugar and the sorbet stabilizer, and add it to the water mixture and bring it back to a boil.
  • Let cool completely (you can put this mixture in a fridge overnight)
  • Mix the cool syrup with strawberry puree and let it the mixture "mature" in the fridge for 24 hrs
  • Churn it in an ice cream machine
Note:
  • The book says to mix everything (except the strawberry puree) without boiling them first. I boiled mine to dissolved the sugar.
  • The book also suggests another alternative, which is to boil all ingredients to a certain temperature, and cool it for 24 hrs before churning.
  • The mixture needs to sit for a long time to let the stabilizer develop its role, but I also read a few other recipes (not from the book) which only matures the sugar syrup overnight and churn it immediately after being mixed with the puree. Some doesn't even require maturing, just mix and churn.
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