Friday, April 29, 2011

April Dessert Wars Challenge -
Vanilla Dreams

This month’s theme was Vanilla Dreams
and we were challenged to use the vanilla beans that we won from Beanilla in our dessert.

The twist this time from Dessert Wars was that we were required to use vanilla in three different ways in our dessert.

The April prize package includes:

Beanilla Sampler Pack of Vanilla Beans
Lenox Personalized Musical Cupcake
1,000 ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies & Cakes
Organic Valley $50 Gift Certificate
Organic Prairie $50 Gift Certificate
Theme Kitchen $50 Gift Certificate
BEKA Cookware Crepe Pan
Whisk and cupcake necklace from Moon & Star Designs

And a cook book from King Arthur Flour.

At long last, two of the Foodie Girls’ favorite desserts come together.

I have always loved pound cake and the Foodie Daughter is obsessed with vanilla bean ice cream.

In this household, only a fool dares come between her and her vanilla bean ice cream. It’s just that serious. And while I love the richness and flavor of a good pound cake, I’m not quite that territorial. Just in case you are interested, pound cake got that name because older recipes called for a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs and a pound of flour. Now, that’s one heavy cake!

There are thousands of orchid species in the world and over a hundred thousand hybrids,
but Vanilla planifolia is the only orchid that produces food for humans. The vanilla bean, or pod, comes from the Vanilla orchid. There are over one hundred species of vanilla that are native to the tropics in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The Vanilla orchid grows as a vine that can reach more than 300 feet in its natural habitat.

Historically, workers would have to climb trees or cliff faces, risking serious injury or death in order to harvest the vanilla seed pods. Now, on commercial farms, the Vanilla orchids are grown over large frames in bright sunlight.

After harvest, the seed pods must be cured before they can be used. Curing can take up to nine months. First the seed pods are soaked in hot water before they are spread out on a blanket in the hot midday sun and left out to dry. At night they are rolled up in the blanket, causing the pods to sweat. This process is repeated every day for three to four months or until the pods are cured. This is a labor-intensive process, but this is what helps to develop the complex flavors in the vanilla. And now you know why your vanilla beans are so expensive.

Do yourself a favor and only get the good stuff – the real stuff when it comes to vanilla extract. The imitation vanilla extracts on the market may have been made from wood pulp or even from by products of the coal-mining industry. Yum! Only not.

And here’s a tip for you: once you have split that vanilla bean and extracted the precious seeds, don’t toss the empty bean away. Instead, get a container with a tight-fitting lid and place the bean in it. Then fill the container with granulated sugar. Close the container and mark the container “Vanilla Sugar”. Use this in recipes that require both vanilla and sugar (you can either skip the vanilla or add both to add extra vanilla flavor), and remember to add more sugar to the container each time you use the sugar.

Now, let’s get to the food.
First I made the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.*

I tweaked a recipe for vanilla ice cream that came with the ice cream maker for this Dessert Wars Challenge.

The recipe:
3 cups Half and Half
¾ cup vanilla sugar
Vanilla seeds from vanilla bean

*The freezer bowl must be placed in the freezer at least 24 hours prior to starting recipe.

In a mixing bowl, mix the Half and Half, the vanilla sugar and the vanilla seeds with a hand mixer on low speed until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Turn the machine on and carefully pour the mixture into the freezer bowl through the ingredient spout and let the machine churn until the mix is thickened, about 25 – 30 minutes.

Turn off machine and scoop out with a non-metallic spoon into a freezer container. Store in the freezer for at least 2 hours to harden.

Next up was the
Honey Vanilla Pound Cake.

For this I turned to an Ina Garten recipe.

The ingredients are:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at cool room temperature**
1 ¼ cups vanilla sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
Vanilla seeds from one vanilla bean
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder

**Cool room temperature means that you have allowed the butter to sit out at room temperature for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease the bottom of a loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Then grease and flour the pan.

Cream the butter and vanilla sugar with a hand mixer on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture is light.

Put the eggs, honey, vanilla seeds and lemon zest in a measuring cup but do not combine. While running the mixer on low speed, add the egg mixture, one egg at a time. Scrape the bowl down and make sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
Add the flour a little at time with the mixer running on low speed. Finish mixing it in with a spatula to avoid over mixing-the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 15 minutes and turn out on a baking rack to cool completely.

And now for the finishing touch:

Vanilla Glaze.

2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon Half and Half
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together and pour over the cooled pound cake.

The Divine Vanilla.

Oh yeah, the Foodie Girls are happy.
Very happy.


Rosie Hawthorne said...

Oh my. Exquisite.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Wait a minute.
I just went back and looked at the picture with the honey in it.
Pray tell. What honey are you using?

Marilyn said...

Of course it was sourwood honey. Only the best for this dessert, Rosie. I save that honey for the good stuff. It's liquid gold.

C&C Cakery said...

I love the info you gave on the bean itself - I always love a little bit of background before cooking. Ice cream and cake are a better pair than peanut butter and jelly. Your looks like quite the pair! Good luck with Dessert Wars!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Mar, glad you appreciate the honey.

I have a question: Did you do a Sandy job on the money shot and have MV come in with a Sharpie and make the layers?

Marilyn said...

None of that monkey business here, Rosie. That was old fashioned trial and error. How hot to have the grill pan and how long to keep the pound cake slice on. Not to worry though, as the rejects did not go to waste.

Mr. P said...

I enjoyed the history of the vanilla bean plant. The ice cream looked delicious.

Reeni said...

What a delectable dessert! I love the honey and vanilla pound cake! Grilling it and adding ice cream is genius. Thanks for entering!

Elizabeth said...

Yum, that looks great!