Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sister!

My sister came to visit for her birthday!  Yippee!  She lives in Kansas City which is WAY too far from Houston for us to see each other as much as we would prefer.  Which would probably be about once a week at least, if we had our druthers!  Phooey.  So when I found a great sale on flights, I jumped at them!  An opportunity for us to spend her birthday together?  SOLD! 

One of my sister's favorite flavors is almond, so we picked a couple of recipes to put together for her birthday dinner celebration...  Almond Cake with Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry Ice Cream!  YUM.  The cake recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis.  While it was super tasty, it was a bit dry... maybe I could have cooked it a tad less.  The top was golden and the cake was pulling away from the sides of the pan, as the recipe suggests, but I thought it needed a little something.  If you were to make JUST the cake recipe, I would poke some holes in the top of the cake and drizzle over some sort of glaze when the cake came out of the oven.  A powdered sugar/milk/amaretto glaze would be quite tasty... 

However, the day after actually celebrating my sister's birthday, I had another slice of cake and drizzled the candied cherry sauce from the ice cream recipe over the top.  PERFECTION!  Why didn't I think of that for the birthday night?  Ugh.  Yum, yum, yum.

The ice cream recipe comes from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  Zowie.  That book has yet to steer me wrong!  This ice cream was SO good.  It was so creamy and the flavors were spot on.  Mmmmm. 

Are you ready for the recipes?  Here you go:

Almond Cake
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal (I whizzed my stone ground cornmeal in the food processor to get it "fine", which seemed to work!)
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup almond paste, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, plus more to dust cake if desired
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream

Place a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 350F.  Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl.  Beat the butter and almond paste together on high speed with an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until smooth.  This will take approximately 3 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar.  If the sugar is puffing up in clouds around your mixer, add the sugar slower and drape a tea-towel over the top of your mixer to help keep the sugar in the bowl and your kitchen safe from pesky white sugar dust.  Mix until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Increase the mixer speed to high and add the egg yolks and eggs, one at a time.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the sour cream and flour/cornmeal mixture.  Mix only until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Bake for 35 minutes, or until cake is golden on top and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Transfer (in pan) to a rack to cool.  Remove from pan and dust with powdered sugar if desired.  Drizzle with some sort of glaze or candied cherry sauce before serving.
Printable Recipe

Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
5 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup Candied Cherries, coarsely chopped (recipe follows) (I used about 1/2 cup)

Warm the milk, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan.  Finely chop 1 cup of the almonds and add them to the warm milk.  Cover the pan, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for at least one hour.

Strain the almond-infused milk into a different medium saucepan.  Press the almonds with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to extract as much flavor as possible.  Discard the soaked almonds.

Reheat the almond-infused milk.  Whisk the egg yolks together in a medium bowl.  Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, and then pour this mixture back into the saucepan.  Stir this mixture over medium heat with a rubber heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom of the saucepan as you stir, until the mixture thickens and  heats to 170-175F.  The mixture should coat the back of the spatula.

Pour the remaining cup of heavy cream into a large bowl sitting in an ice bath,and set a mesh strainer on top.  Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.  Add the almond extract and stir until cool.  Refrigerate the mixture until completely cool, overnight if possible.  Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's  instructions.  Once the ice cream is finished churning, fold in the remaining 1 cup of chopped almonds and the chopped cherries.  Freeze to desired consistency.

Candied Cherries
makes 2 cups

1 pound cherries, fresh or frozen, stemmed and pitted
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 drop almond extract

Heat the cherries, water, sugar and lemon juice in a large saucepan until the liquid starts to boil.  Reduce the heat to a low boil and cook the cherries for at least 25 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the cherries cook evenly and do not stick.  The liquid will reduce to a light syrup consistency.  The syrup will become thicker after refrigeration.  Remove from the heat, add the almond extract, and allow to cool completely.  Drain the cherries for about an hour before chopping for use, reserving the syrup for other uses (like drizzling over almond cake!).  NOTE: I did not drain the cherries for an hour before chopping, I just took them out of the syrup, squeezing out as much syrup as I could before chopping and adding to the Toasted Almond ice cream. 
Printable Recipe

My sister loved her birthday cake and ice cream!  It was a delicious treat!  If you enjoy almond flavor too, give these recipes a try!  They are worth it!  Mmmm.....

1 comment:

  1. It was delicious! This birthday girl loved it and is lucky to have such a clever sister!


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