Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mississippi Mud Pie

So, I lied. I did not post any of the delicious desserts I made as promised last time, but it is not my fault! I have discovered an evil greater than that of hot chocolate chip cookies calling your name straight from the oven: the bar. I'm not talking about lemon bars, or cookie bars, or yummy blackberry pie bars, I'm talking about the big, ugly, California Bar Exam. It has taken over my life! I have not even peeked under the cover of a cookbook for weeks. Luckily, my equally food obsessed friend (you know who you are) managed to (unintentionally) guilt trip me into posting this recipe today. If she can go cheese tasting at Trader Joe's, and can manage to bake from her Cowgirl Cookbook while studying for the bar, then I can at least write about one of the desserts that I promised in my ice cream sandwiches blog post - the one I still reminisce about while I'm eating my preservative-laced, non-homemade (I'm so spoiled!) pepperidge farm cookies in the wasteland of bar study: Mississippi Mud Pie.

This will be a short post, since nearly everything I remember about making the mud pie has been pushed out of my brain and replaced with contracts, property, and torts (not tortes, haha I wish! I'd ace that test). I do remember, however, that this was one of the most delicious custard pies I've ever had or made. Picture creamy, dark chocolate filling, nestled in a crumbly-sweet pate sucree (sorry, I don't know how to add the funny little accents to the "a" and "e's"), and piled high with pillows of freshly whipped cream. Cream pies made with Jello-pudding would taste like old socks next to this one, and seriously aren't that much easier to make. If you make your cream pies with Jello-pudding mix, you are just plain lazy (sorry if I've offended you Jello-pudding fans. I guess it's not your fault that you haven't developed taste buds. It's probably genetic).

Next time you want a Mississippi Mud Pie, put down the Jello-pudding mix, do NOT call Marie Callender's, and instead give this recipe a try! The picture might not look that appetizing, being half eaten and all, but that's only because everyone was too busy devouring to worry about pictures, I swear.

Crust Ingredients (makes 2 crusts unless you tend to eat half of the dough while you cook, like me. You only need one crust for this recipe so freeze the unused dough.)
2.5 c. flour
4T. crisco (vegetable shortening)
pinch of salt
1T. sugar
1.5 sticks of cold cold cold (even frozen) butter
5-6 T. ice water
A bag of beans (for blind baking)

The easiest way to do this is with a food processor. In fact, I won't make pies unless I have a food processor (again, spoiled). Just dump everything except the water in the food processor, and pulse until it forms fine-medium sized crumbs and bits. Then with the food processor running, slowly add the ice water a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together in a ball. Stop adding water as soon as the dough comes together, or it will be too sticky. You might not use all the water.

Form two equal sized disks with the dough, wrap them in plastic wrap, and stick them in the freezer for 15 minutes, or the fridge for at least 45 minutes. Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 325. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out to a size that is a little larger than your pie dish. Dust the rolling surface and the dough with flour as you go to prevent the dough from sticking. Transfer the dough to the pie dish by laying the rolling pin in the center of the dough (dust everything with flour), and folding the dough over the rolling pin on both sides. Lift the rolling pin and put it over the center of the pie dish. Unfold the dough into the pie dish. Don't worry if your crust tears into a bunch of annoying little pieces. Just patch it back together! Remove (eat) the excess dough from the edges.

Because this recipe calls for a custard filling, you must blind bake the dough or it will be soggy and undercooked in the final pie. To blind bake, line the pie dough with parchment paper and pour the beans into the lined crust. Pop the crust in the oven and bake at 325 for about 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is light golden and partially baked. Set aside while you make the filling.

Filling Ingredients
5oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips)
3.5 T. unsalted butter
2T light corn syrup
6 eggs
1.5 c. packed light brown sugar
1t. vanilla extract

Topping Ingredients
1.5 c. heavy whipping cream
2T. Sugar

Keep the oven at 325. Put the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over low heat, and stir continuously until melted and combined. Be really careful not to burn the chocolate, i.e. don't leave the stove and don't stop stirring. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Very slowly drizzle the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, beating continuously as you drizzle (if instead you pour a big glob into the eggs, the heat from the chocolate will probably curdle them and you will have Mississippi Scrambled Mud Pie). Once all the chocolate has been added, beat until thoroughly combined. Pour the chocolate batter into the crust and bake for 35-40 minutes. The baked pie should be firm to the touch, but should wobble slightly in the center when you shift the pie plate. Let the pie cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to serve the pie, make the topping. Pour the whipping cream into a medium bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Add 2T granulated sugar, and beat on low speed for a few more seconds to dissolve the sugar. Mound the whipped cream onto the pie, and serve!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Peanut Butter Cookies with Honey Ice Cream

Last week, I went on a baking binge.  In a span of five days, I baked a mascarpone cheesecake, a Mississippi mud pie, and two kinds of ice-cream to sandwich between two kinds of homemade cookies.  I had to throw a party just to get rid of it all! Ok, that's a lie, the party was the excuse for the baking (but baking can be a great excuse for a party!).  Miraculously (or perhaps due to my baking prowess?), every dessert went off without a hitch and attained blogworthy levels of deliciousness.  Pretty good track record for a total of six recipes (five new and never tested!).  I shouldn't gloat though... the universe will undoubtedly punish such pridefulness by causing my next six attempts to burn and curdle.  If I've exhausted my baking karma, the following four posts (oozing with chocolate, swimming in whipping cream, extolling the velvet textures of cheesecake and ice cream alike) should suffice until the divine deity of deliciousness warms up to my efforts again.

Let's start with the ice cream sandwiches... in particular, with the peanut butter cookie, honey ice-cream sandwiches.  For years, Peanut Butter has cheated on Jelly with Honey (including threesomes with Banana behind Jelly's back!).  Jelly's old hat, and this ice-cream sandwich needed something fresh, something special.  We're not talking Eskimo pies here, people (worst dessert.  Belongs in the same category as the tootsie roll - the cookie portion of the Eskimo pie purports to be chocolate but tastes like "brown").  I wanted a frozen treat to put It's It's, Klondikes, and even Haagen Dazs bars to shame.  I wanted an ice-cream sandwich that would seduce you into eating several even if you were too full for a single bite.  Peanut butter and jelly-ice-cream sandwich?  I don't think so.  Gloppy Jelly, tart and mottled with nagging seeds couldn't hold a candle to smooth, golden-sweet Honey.  Jelly was toast, and Peanut Butter (cookies) embraced Honey (in a billowing ice-cream gown bedecked with golden toffee-nuts).  They lived happily ever after ("until dessert do us part!").  At least, that's the romanticized version...

Both the ice cream and the cookies are fantastic by themselves as well.  The honey ice-cream is very rich, and the crunchiness of the toffee-nuts contrasts nicely with the silky cream.  I'm not a fan of crunchy cookies, however, so I specifically opted for a recipe that claimed to produce soft ones.  The key is to bake the cookies for just the right amount of time - if they start to brown, you've gone too far and they'll be on the crunchy side.  A perfectly baked batch of peanut butter cookies will still look a bit like melted balls of dough when you take them out of the oven.  Don't worry they'll firm up (without turning crunchy!). Thomas Keller, reigning King of Deliciousness, says that if you want soft cookies you should mist them with water before popping them in the oven, instead of under-baking them.  I can't vouch for that method, but go ahead and try it if you're willing to eat crunchy cookies should the mist method go awry. 

You may want to start the ice cream a day or two early to give the "batter" plenty of time to chill before you freeze it in your ice-cream maker.  Make sure to freeze your ice cream drum ahead of time!

Honey Ice Cream
1 vanilla bean
2c. heavy whipping cream
1c. whole milk
1/2 c. clover honey
1c. toffee peanuts

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, cream, and honey.  Slice the vanilla bean in half, carefully scrape the seeds into the pot, and then toss in the whole pod.  Stir over medium heat to dissolve the honey, until the cream is scalded (begins to form little bubbles around the edges).  Remove from heat and steep, covered, for one hour.  Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (overnight is best).  When you're ready to make the ice cream, remove the vanilla pod, stir the mixture to recombine the ingredients, and then pour into an ice-cream maker and proceed according to the ice-cream maker's instructions (usually the mixture churns for about half an hour).  After about fifteen minutes, pour the toffee peanuts into the ice-cream machine.  Continue churning according to the manufacturer's instructions (another 15 minutes) and then transfer the ice cream to a container and put it in the freezer to firm up (I recommend overnight, but a few hours should do the trick).  Meanwhile, make the peanut butter cookies. 

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies
1 c. creamy peanut butter (not the oily natural kind)
1c. packed dark brown sugar
1c. white sugar
1c. softened butter
2 eggs
1t. baking soda
1t. baking powder
1t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat the oven to 350.  Cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugars together.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the baking powder, baking soda, and flour.  Stir the flour mixture into the rest of the batter until completely incorporated.  Shape the dough into balls (1 to 1.5 in will give you 40-50 cookies... more than you'll need!  The ice cream recipe makes enough to fill about 20 ice cream sandwiches depending on how big you make your cookies, and how thick you want your sandwiches) and roll the balls in sugar.  Place the dough-balls on cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie (I never follow this instruction, and my cookies always run together so that I end up with one giant cookie that I have to cut into squares... oh well, squares taste just as good as circles).  Use a fork to flatten the cookies by making a crosshatch pattern on each ball.  Dip the fork in sugar between each cookie to prevent it from sticking.  Bake the cookies for 6-7 minutes (resist the temptation to bake them longer if you want soft cookies!). Let the cookies cool completely before making the sandwiches.

When the cookies are completely cool and firm enough to handle, take the ice cream out of the freezer.  If you're ice cream has been chilling overnight, let it sit at room temperature for ten minutes so it will be more pliable.  Grab a cookie.  Dollop your desired amount of ice cream onto the underside of the cookie and gently press and spread it a bit with the back of a spoon.  Top with another cookie and pop the sandwich in the freezer while you repeat the process with the remaining cookies and ice cream.  When you run out of ice cream, remove the sandwiches from the freezer and either wrap them individually in plastic wrap, or do like me and toss them in a big Ziploc bag.  They will keep in the freezer for a few weeks (probably longer, but mine were eaten before I could test that theory out...).  Serve with a more ice cream sandwiches, a cheesecake, a pie, and party!

Up next... Brer Rabbit ice cream sandwiches (Molasses Cookies with Brown Sugar Ice Cream)