Sunday, May 8, 2011

Something Special

Oh so pretty and fancy-looking.
By now you should know that I've been on an ice cream kick lately. Making ice cream is a lot of fun and very rewarding. I knew I wanted to make another ice cream, but I wanted to take it one step further and make something really special.

Every now and then, I like to make something special just because. Mostly because it makes me feel good. It makes me feel especially good to come up with an idea and make it into reality. But I also like to treat myself. Hey, I'm a single girl, so I'm aloud to make myself feel special once in awhile. Though, I must say, my nephew made me feel pretty special today. He gave me a card for mother's day because even though I'm not a mother, I'm a pretty cool aunt. But also, he gave me a hug and kiss goodbye because he wanted to make me happy.

So, for my special treat, I knew I wanted to make a chocolate hazelnut ice cream. In addition, I wanted to involve a brownie. I also thought about chocolate-dipped ice cream, so I came up with an idea for a brownie base with hazelnut ice cream on top, enrobed in bittersweet chocolate, and topped with a little white chocolate and a roasted hazelnut.

The execution of this dessert was somewhat tricky. Next time, I will use a softer chocolate cake recipe, as the frozen brownie is a bit hard to get through (though mighty tasty). The hazelnut ice cream is incredibly addictive. Seriously. I could just sit there and eat all of it in one sitting. But my willpower is much stronger than that, thankfully.

So, without further ado, here is my recipe for a very lovely dessert. This is one I'll keep in my back pocket for the future, when I want to make something extra special for someone.

A little frostbitten, but still pretty.
Gianduja Gelato
from The Perfect Scoop

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp coarse salt
4 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
5 lrg egg yolks
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Roast the hazelnuts in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove the hazelnuts from the oven and rub them in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the skins as possible, then finely chop them in a food processor.

Warm the milk with 1 cup of the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Once warm, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Put the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set a mesh strainer over top.

Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan, squeezing the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts.

Rewarm the hazelnut-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and let cool.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Chewy-Dense Brownies
from The Perfect Scoop

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 lrg eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8-inch square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly with a whisk over very low heat until the chocolate is melted.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs one at a time, and the vanilla. Stir in the flour and the salt. Beat the batter vigorously for 30 seconds, until it begins to form a smooth ball.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 30 minutes, until the center feels just about set. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Chocolate Coating
adapted from the Tartufi recipe in The Perfect Scoop

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp corn syrup

Melt the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a medium bowl placed over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly.

To assemble my dessert:
1. Spread the freshly-churned ice cream over top of the brownies in the pan. You will not use all of the ice cream. Place in the freezer until firm.
2. Cut the brownie/ice cream combo into 16 pieces. This will be difficult as the brownies will be hard. Place these pieces on a line baking sheet, then place in the freezer until firm.
3. Dip the brownie pieces into the chocolate coating, then place back on the baking sheet and stick it back in the freezer until set.
4. Melt a little bit of white chocolate in the microwave, then spoon little dollops on top of the brownie pieces, placing a peeled roasted hazelnut on top. This makes it look fancy.

Note: This was a very messy and time-consuming process, but the end result was worth it. At one point, I though the brownies were to hard and it would not turn out, but I think they're at least beautiful. Plus, if you let the desserts thaw a little, the brownies part isn't so hard.

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