Choc-Banana Ice-Cream Cake

A few days ago Alex celebrated his 9th birthday. We’ve stumbled upon a plan in our family that the kids get a big birthday party hoo-ha every second year, and on the alternate years we have a family dinner AND they get to choose the cake they want.

In past years the older kids have pored over my birthday cake books to choose things like blue dinosaurs or cupcakes ‘posies’.

This year when I asked Alex what kind of cake he wanted, there was no reaching for a cake book, no umming and ahhing, no hesitation whatsoever.

“A chocolate banana ice cream cake please”.

Okay mate, no worries. Such a specific request needs the utmost commitment and careful research, so I was on the case quick smart. Thanks to Mr Google I stumbled across this magnificent creation at Sweetapolita and decided to use it as my inspiration.

This cake had a chocolate biscuit base, a chocolate glaze, and two layers of banana ice cream with a brownie layer in the middle. Oh.Em.Gee. That’s a whole lotta chocolate and icecream for one little family dinner!

I modified it, spent quite a few hours on each step, and somehow got it all together in the end. It was actually quite an unattractive cake – but it’s all about what’s on the inside, right!

It’s quite a time consuming cake – there are lots of ‘waiting periods’ in between steps. I was in the kitchen making a ton of other things the day I made it so it didn’t bother me, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re pushed for time.

Choc-Banana Ice Cream Cake

Adapted from Sweetapolita‘s recipe here

Chocolate Crust

  • 115g butter
  • 220g dark chocolate
  • 380g chocolate cookie (eg Oreo) crumbs

Ice-Cream filling

  • 7 cups vanilla ice-cream (just under 2L)
  • 3 large frozen bananas

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup thickened cream
  • 1/4 cup liquid glucose
  • 170g dark chocolate
  1. Crust: Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, or in the microwave if you feel game. Stir until smooth.
  2. Whizz the biscuits in a food processor until they are reduced to fine crumbs, then gently mix them with the chocolate mixture until just combined. Put 1 cup aside for later. Press remaining crumbs onto base and sides of a round springform pan (mine is 23cm across & 6cm deep), and place in freezer until firm.
  3. Glaze: Melt cream and glucose in a small saucepan over medium heat until just bubbling, then add chopped chocolate and stir through until smooth. Allow to cool fr around 45 minutes.
  4. Ice-Cream filling: Wait for your ice-cream to soften slightly, then add to a large bowl. Allow frozen bananas to thaw on the bench for around 30 minutes, then process in food processor until smooth. Mix banana puree into ice-cream.
  5. Assembly: Spoon half of your ice-cream over the frozen crust and spread out evenly. Gently press your reserved crumb mixture over the ice-cream, then pour on the cup of cooled chocolate glaze. Level gently with a palette knife, then return to freezer for around an hour.
  6. Spread remaining ice-cream over glaze, then freeze again – for 4 hours at the least.
  7. Warm glaze gently over simmering water until slightly runny, then spread over top of ice-cream (I spread mine over the sides in lieu of the crumb crust, but this was difficult and didn’t look too pretty!).
  8. Sprinkle with decorations, then freeze overnight.
  9. When ready to serve, remove gently from springform pan then carefully transfer to serving plate. Use a large knife rinsed under hot water to slice.

Notes

  • This American recipe uses wafer biscuits for the crust…I’m only now realising that US wafer biscuits must differ from Aussie ones. The ones I bought were ‘Chocolte Cream Wafers’ and when mixed as directed, resulted in a thick and sludgy mixture quite unlike the biscuit crumb bases that I make for cheesecakes (which is what I’m assuming was required here!). There was no way my sludge was going to stick all the way up the sides of my springform pan, but I didn’t realise this until too late! I made the decision to use the entire mixture on the base and coat the sides with the glaze at the end. Not a good move – the base was very thick and although tasty, was just too overpowering. I would suggest using oreo cookies for the base to get the crumb consistency.
  • My springform pan has a slight incontinence problem, so I line it with baking paper to prevent leaks. Because I didn’t have a nice crumbed side, my ice-cream set straight into the folds of the baking paper leaving uneven surfaces. This made it even harder to frost – now I have a really good excuse to buy a new springform pan!
  • I omitted the brownie layer that featured in Sweetapolita’s cake, and just used a thin layer of chocolate crumb and then glaze instead. This gave a nice crunchy layer inside the ice-cream, but a soft brownie layer would have been nice too.
  • I had to put the chocolate glaze on over several sessions, freezing in between. I did this on a mild Autumn day, and still found melting was a problem – I wouldn’t attempt this on a QLD Summer day unless I had fantastic Air-Conditioning!

I was so glad this cake was all prepared the day before Alex’s birthday. It meant I could serve up dinner (Enchilada’s, as requested!), take it out of the freezer as we cleared the table, then it was ready for candles and singing.

There was some assistance needed with cutting – that centre layer slows you down, then you really need to put in some elbow grease when you get to the bottom crust – but once those slices hit the plates it was every man & child for themselves. Nom nom nom…

Banana ice-cream is amazing on it’s own…if I never bother doing this layered baby again, I will definitely be doing banana ice-cream in the future…a lot.

I tried to sway Alex into a caramel glaze…I was envisioning a banoffee pie flavour, and think the caramel would work fantastically with the banana…but he was adamant it had to be chocolate. He knows what he wants!

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Mocha Brownies..not to be neglected!

Those who know me well know that I’m a serial coffee neglecter.

It’s nothing against coffee – I neglect my tea too. I take care to store coffee the ‘correct’ way, and I have a lovely segregated tea box complete with labels for all the different varieties. I can even make tea relatively well – as much as dunking the tea bag and adding a splash of milk is considered praisable. Coffee is Mr B’s forte though – coffee is his thing.

The problems arise for me once the hot drink is made and placed on the bench/coffee table/desk. I start off with good intentions, sipping my way through the first few hot mouthfuls, and then without fail, I’m distracted…

The washing machine beeps, the phone rings, the children start bickering, the dishwasher beeps, the doorbell rings…or I just get up to do something I’ve suddenly remembered, and completely forget to get back to my tea or coffee in a timely fashion.

I’m constantly being reminded by someone ‘Your coffee is getting cold”. “Yes, I know, I’ll get back to it” I reply. And when I do, it’s always cold, or lukewarm at the very least.

It’s ironic because I’ve only been a coffee drinker for the past 5 years or so, and before that I despised iced coffee. I can’t tell if I’ve become accustomed to it cold now, or I’m just so addicted to caffeine that my taste buds don’t care what the temperature is!

Last night I made mocha brownies – partly because I was looking for a caffeine hit that didn’t mind sitting on the bench waiting for me to remember it (hardly a problem in this case!), but also because I wanted to try a ‘Pioneer Woman’ recipe.

Being Australian, I grew up with Margaret Fulton and Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks. As the years went on I discovered Stephanie Alexander, Donna Hay and now a whole host of ‘home cook tried their hand on tv and produces cookbook’ cooks, but there are still so many cookbooks out there whose authors are completely unknown to me.

One name I see popping up all over the place is The Pioneer Woman. Everyone seems to be raving about PW recipes, so I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I have to admit, I was expecting a demure Little House on the Prairie bonnet-wearing type, so after I borrowed one cookbook from the library and had a little squiz at her website, I’d changed my tune.

Ree Drummond is not only hilarious, but leads a pretty full-on ranching life in Oklahoma, home-schooling her four kids and being a pretty impressive baker/photographer/blogger.

Her recipes feature step-by-step instructions with plenty of photographs along the way, and her cookbooks show a glossy ranching life, her family, dogs, horses, and the cattle, of course.

Obviously many of her recipes are heavy on the meat…no problem, I’ll make something sweet. What’s that I see, mocha brownies? Sweet and caffeine in one go? I’m onto it.

The brownies were quick to whip up, but need time to chill completely before topping with the mocha icing. If you’ve got a morning tea deadline, make them the night before. I’d also recommend inviting around your neighbours, postman and long-lost cousins to help you eat them, or take a very large plateful to your workplace, otherwise you’ll be buying bigger sized jeans next week – they are sinfully delicious and contain a truckload of sugar and butter!

I also halved the icing recipe because I literally felt ill looking at the quantities of icing sugar & butter in that alone – it still provided a very thick layer of icing so I’ll stick to my quantities in future too.

Mocha Brownies

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 115g unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 ¼ cups plain flour

Mocha Icing

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups icing sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 to ½ cup coffee, cooled to room temp
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. In a medium bowl/stand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, then drop mixer to low speed and add melted chocolate. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour and mix until just combined.
  4. Pour brownie batter into a greased or lined baking pan* , even out the surface with a spatula, and bake in oven for 40-45 minutes. The centre should be just firm.
  5. Set aside to cool – at least an hour.
  6. Icing – Combine butter, icing sugar, cocoa, salt and vanilla, and mix until just combined. Add 1/3 cup cooled coffee and whip until it reaches a light, fluffy consistency. If it’s too thick, add more coffee.
  7. Spread icing over brownies – it should result in a very thick layer! Refrigerate until firm, then cut into slices.

Notes

* Original recipe uses an 8-inch square baking pan…I used my 32 x 22.5cm deep pan lined with baking paper and it was the perfect size.

* PW recommends a slice of this with ice-cream and hot fudge sauce for dessert – agahhhh I’m drooling already….

Any other notable caffeine recipes I should know about?

Lunch in Paris book review – with chocolate!

I was feeling apprehensive when I began reading my copy of Lunch in Paris- a delicious love story, with recipes. Having recently read both Julie & Julia (Julie Powell) and My Life in France (Julia Child), I was hungry for more tales of French cooking (and eating).
‘Foodie Fiction’ and ‘Foodie memoirs’ as I call them, have long been favourite genres of mine; really, who can resist the opportunity to salivate over ‘Rice Pudding with drunken raisins’ whilst tucked into bed at 10pm in your PJ’s, with not an ounce of calories to worry about!
The apprehension was due to my memory of another blogger-expat-recounts-her-struggles-in-France memoir – Petite Anglaise, which I’d read a few years ago. The author, Catherine Sanderson, bristled me the wrong way, and I found it very hard to identify with her or enjoy her French journey.Elizabeth Bard, however, is charming and paints a picture of her new life in France as not only exciting but full of struggles that are so easy to relate to. A new cross-cultural romance sees this American finding her feet in Paris, and her daily worries revolve around things such as feeling like a giant on the beach next to the petite French women, unemployment and finding a Parisian flat.

Elizabeth discusses food at great length – the importance of the meal as a cultural ritual for the French, choosing the correct line to wait in at the butcher, and modestly requesting the petite slice of dessert all form part of the larger picture of living in France. 

Her book is described as ‘part cookbook, part love story’, and contains 22 chapters and around 60 recipes. Her first chapter describes not only the delicious green tea concoction made by her new lover, but the post-coital dessert and impromptu pasta he made – and then finishes the chapter with recipes for each. As each chapter progresses, the recipes continue – 2-3 at the end of every chapter. The recipes are mostly French dishes with a few ‘family’ recipes thrown in.

It’s not your typical cookbook – there are no glossy photographs, and I feel the recipe instructions are somewhat vague at times, which might prove difficult for novice cooks. The writing is great however, there is a good variety of tantalising recipes, and her memoirs leave you wanting more…luckily she has a blog which you can follow, complete with more recipes, yippee!

When it came time to road test one of Elizabeth’s recipes there was never a question as to what I would make – the Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes were a clear winner. Although I’ve seen these doing the rounds of the cooking shows for years (also known as Chocolate Lava cakes) I’ve never attempted them – until now!
Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes
Moelleux au Chocolat ‘Kitu” (French for Death by Chocolate!)
Adapted from Elizabeth Bard’s ‘Lunch in Paris
Ingredients
150 g unsalted butter
150 g good quality dark chocolate – 70% cocoa
good pinch of sea salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup castor sugar
1 Tablespoon plain flour
1. Preheat oven to 220º C. Generously grease 6 x ½cup-capacity ramekins with softened butter.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Add sea salt.
3. Beat egg yolks, eggs and sugar with your handheld beater/whisk/stand mixer until light and slightly foamy – this will take a few minutes.
4. Add the egg mixture to the warm chocolate and whisk quickly to combine – it should be quite thick.
5. Divide room-temp batter evenly amongst ramekins – approximately 3/4 full, and carefully place into oven.
6. Bake for 7 minutes for a thin outer shell with completely molten interior, or 8 minutes for a slightly thicker crust and gooey heart (I did mine for 7½ minutes!)
7. Remove from oven and allow to sit on bench for 1-2 minutes – restrain yourselves people! Slowly upturn onto serving plate and watch as it effortlessly glides out looking absolutely perfect! Serve with dusted icing sugar, cream, ice-cream, strawberries or whatever else you so desire. Bon appétit!

 Notes

* These can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the fridge until you’re ready for dessert. Leave on the bench for a good half hour or so before putting into the oven as they need to return to room temperature before baking.
* Even better, the batter can be frozen directly in the ramekins and cooked straight from the freezer! Elizabeth recommends giving them 10 minutes on the bench, then cooking at 200º C for 15-17 minutes. This is perfect if you don’t have 6 people to impress in one sitting – simply freeze the ones you don’t need for another night – perfect!
Mine did sink a little on top – I’m guessing some degree of this is normal judging by how many photos I see of these with a strawberry or dollop of cream sitting on top to hide it! The chocolate is so very rich and decadent, and really does ooze out of the centre like gooey molten….mmmmmm! It’s a very impressive dessert for minimal effort really.
I wish we’d had ice-cream left in the freezer to serve but alas not this time…luckily there are more molten cakes in my freezer for another night, so no guesses for what I’m putting on my shopping list this week!
These were so much easier to make than I’d expected and I’ll be trying a few more ‘French’ recipes with less trepidation now.

Anyone reading any good foodie-fiction or foodie-memoirs at the moment?

Salted spiced Caramel Slice

A week or so ago Better Homes & Gardens featured a variation of a caramel slice on one of the cooking segments (I think it was actually a repeat, but I don’t watch it often enough to remember, and wouldn’t own up to it even if I did!)…now the caramel slice is already pretty close to perfection, so I wondered how they could possibly make it any better.
This version is salted and spiced – I watched in wonder as Karen mixed not only the spices into the caramel mixture, but also threw in an Early Grey teabag. The finishing touch was a sprinkle of sea salt over the chocolate…I could barely wait for the newsagency to open the next morning in order to find myself a copy of the magazine with enclosed recipe. The look on the newsagent’s face when I impatiently paid my money over the counter revealed I wasn’t the first crazed housewife to rush in for the mag.
With visitors arriving yesterday afternoon, it seemed the perfect excuse to try the slice and have someone to share all those delicious calories with.

Salted spiced Caramel Slice
Adapted From Better Homes & Garden magazine, 05/12
Ingredients
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
120g unsalted butter, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Filling
50g unsalted butter, chopped
1/4 cup golden syrup
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 Earl Grey tea bag
1 tin condensed milk
Topping
220g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon Maldon (or other good quality) sea-salt flakes

1. Preheat oven to 160 °C and line base of a slice tin with baking paper.

2. Put flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a food processor until combined. Press mixture evenly into prepared tin. Smooth surface and bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly golden.

3. Put golden syrup, butter, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and tea bag in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted. Gradually bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Your mixture will be a lovely dark colour. remove and discard tea bag.
4. Add condensed milk to pan and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until mixture has thickened and slightly darkened again. Remove cinnamon from pan and discard. Pour mixture over cooled slice base. Bake for 8-10 or until bubbling and lightly golden. Set aside to cool until caramel is firm.

5. Place chopped chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Heat until almost melted, then remove and stir until smooth. Spoon over caramel filling and smooth surface with the back of a spoon.

6. Sprinkle sea salt flakes over topping, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Once firm, cut into slices and enjoy!

The spices add a subtle depth to the caramel, and the salted chocolate leaves your tastebuds tingling and wanting more! I was hoping the flavours would be too much of an odd combination for my children to tolerate, but they gobbled it up and asked for more!

Only at Easter…

...does chocolate at breakfast seem perfectly normal. Of course one can’t scoff a few handfuls of Easter Eggs before 7am and then sit down to a bowl of cornflakes…all that chocolate needs to be balanced out with a much bigger load of empty carbs to get the day started. And let’s be honest, if you’re already stuffing yourself silly with chocolate you may as well go the whole hog.

Hot Cross Buns are pretty popular ’round these parts, and our standard Sunday brekkie is pancakes, but this year I thought I’d try something different. Of course I’ve been pinning away a gazillion tasty recipes lately so there were plenty of options for me to ‘chocolatise’ – my sights lay on the Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast, found via Pinterest on the gorgeous Spoon Fork Bacon.
The website has a funky animation of the dish being assembled – it was really quite simple to prepare, but if you’re making this for breakfast, I’d suggest allowing yourselves plenty of time to get it on the table. Lets just say my kids were not happy abut the hour it needed to sit in the fridge, then the 45 minutes it needed to cook…they got over it pretty quick though once they saw breakfast had chocolate all over it.

And while you’re at it kids, have some more sugar for breakfast – pour some custard all over it!

Luckily my kids eat healthy breakfasts the rest of the year (except for Christmas, and birthdays and Mother’s Day and…most of the time, really!) – it was a really tasty breakfast though, totally worth the wait. Leftovers made a scrummy dessert too. I’m sure glad Easter only happens once a year though…