Wednesday, August 29, 2007

E is for Extra Effort

In fourth grade I participated in my first science fair. I had no clue what I was doing. The instructions were to do a science experiment and then to demonstrate and explain the results to the teacher. I cast about in my mind for the Nobel prize winning science experiment and came up from the science textbook.

I clipped a piece of paper over a geranium leaf to show that phototsynthesis couldn't take place when the leaf didn't receive sunlight. My plant cooperated beautifully, producing a limp, yellowed leaf for me to show off. I proudly carried my potted plant into the science fair and realized I'd come up seriously short on the effort meter. Other students (or their parents) had booths they'd constructed filled with colorful charts and graphs diagraming their experiments, the variables, and the outcomes. The most attention getting display was a papier mache volcano with a working pump that pumped out red, oozing "lava." Man, I was sunk.

The teachers / judges went around to each station and asked the student to describe their experiment. When they asked me I said something brilliant along the lines of, "You should know. It's in the book!" Hmmm. For some strange reason I didn't win any prizes at that science fair.

I have since learned that extra effort counts. Any fifteen year old can mow a lawn. It's the one who edges, rakes, sweeps up the debris, and puts away the tools who'll get a tip and get invited back again. The restaurant waiter who is attentive, refilling glasses, quickly bringing your order, remembering who ordered the lamb and who got the cashew chicken, and keeping a quiet eye on your table so that he's there if you need anything is the waiter who goes home with fat tips at night. The sullen server who slops food on the table and must be chased down at the end of the meal for the check is not.

Likewise, in baking, attention to detail and a little extra effort make all the difference. Finest ingredients, scrupulously following the recipe, and care taken in the finishing and presentation make the difference between a nice treat and drop-dead gorgeous, taste sensation.

When I first got my own copy of The Perfect Scoop one of the recipes that called to me was the Tin Roof Ice Cream. That's one of my favorite ice cream flavors. I was put off, though, by the steps involved. While many of the Perfect Scoop recipes are as easy as dropping ingredients into a blender, chilling, then freezing, this one had many componenets that had to be made prior to actual ice cream making. Such was my compusion to make ice cream that I plunged ahead, regardless of the time, cost, or difficulty. It ended up not being difficult, just a bit time-consuming, and totally worth it. Smooth creamy ice cream laced with ribbons of dark chocolate syrup and studded with dark chocolate-coated nuts. Wow! My family was all impressed and delighted with the tasty results.

We took these pictures on a very hot day so the ice cream was melting into a delicious puddle as we shot. We ate it anyway. Oh, how we suffer for the blog!

Tin Roof Sundae
adapted from The Perfect Scoop
by David Lebovitz

3/4 cup (180 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
Pinch salt
1-1/2 cups (375) ml heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup Chocolate-Covered Peanuts (recipe below)
Chilled Fudge Ripple (recipe below)

Warm the milk, sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the cream in a medium saucepan. With a sharp paring knife, scrape the small seeds from the vanilla bean and add them, along with the pod, to the hot milk mixture. Cover, remove from the heat, and lt steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Rewarm the vanilla-infusted mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Set this bowl on top of a rubber glove to keep it from scooching along the counter. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constanly, 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 cream to cool. Remove the vanilla bean, wipe it clean of any egg bits, and add it back to the custard. Stir in the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Before freezing, remove the vanilla bean (it can be rinsed and reused). Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is freezing, chop the chocolat-covered peanutes into bite-sized pieces.

Fold the peanut pieces into the frozen ice cream as you remove it from the machine, and layer it with Fudge Ripple. Start with a puddle of Fudge Ripple in the bottom of the storage container and then alternate layers of ice cream with layers of sauce.

Chocolate-Covered Peanuts

4 oz (115 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (150 g) roasted, unsalted peanuts

Put the pices of chocolate in an absolutely dry heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water to melt th chocolate, stirring until smooth. In the meantime, stretch a piece of plastic wrap over a dinner plate.

Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the peanuts, coasting them with the chocolate. Spread the mixture on the plastic-lined plate and chill in the refrigerator.

Fudge Ripple (makes 1 cup)

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) light corn syrup
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
6 Tbsp (50 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.

Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator before using.


Blue Zebra said...

I swanny-swear Lynn! I've gained ten pounds from just reading your blog each day!!! :D

That looks delicious and I bet it's so worth the steps it takes to create it.


Sarah C. said...

I'm surprised Grandpa let you get away with such a lame science thing. He gets so excited about science I would picture him pretty much running your booth just for sheer joy of being able to do something like that.... or maybe that's MY dad I'm thinking of.

Patricia Scarpin said...

This is luscious, Lynn! And I love the name, too.

I had a problem too when I took part in my first (and last) Science fair - just for the record, I was 7. My experiment was to place a razor blade on a plate full of water and show people that even though it had a hole in the middle it didn't sink. When the principal asked me why it did not sink I told him "I don't know, my teacher never explained it to us". :)

Anh said...

Oh Lynn, how much i enjoy reading this post! yes, so true, attention to details is one of the key quality of a fine baker. And I am sure you have it!

Anne said...

Lynn, you are torturing me whenever I visit your blog. That ice cream looks awfully good! I'm craving for it right now :)

Cookie baker Lynn said...

BZ - If you think you gain weight just by reading, you should see what I gain from making and eating it all!

Sarah - It could be that fearing that reaction, I didn't even tell Grampa about the science fair.

Patricia - Ha ha. Good story. Did you know Ina Garten loved science fairs? She says cooking is the same kind of experiment for her. I think it's much more enjoyable when you get to eat your experiment.

Anh - Sadly, not always. There are those days when I have kids clamoring for attention, the phone rings, and someone's at the door. And then I wonder what the heck happened to my cake!

Anne - I thought of you writing this post. You are the queen of attention to details with your lovely bakes!

WokandSpoon said...

Oh wow. You've really outdone yourself here! This looks like an absolutely muffin-top generating dessert!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Is there any left? I could use a small bowl of that. So fantastic!

Kelly-Jane said...

I need some to please, looks fab!