The blog is finally ready to don our food handiwork (thanks to great design and programming work by Mara).
My life seems especially busy right now but somehow baking always seems to rein supreme on my list of priorities. Or maybe I feel busy because I am baking to procrastinate the things that I actually should be doing. Some of my best baking happens late at night because of this…past my bedtime. So is true for this recipe . The details are a little foggy but the towers turned out to be quite tasty.
The Officer and I were planning a casual dinner party for all of the cousins (who also happen to be couples our age) on my side of the family. We love having people to our home to enjoy a good meal together. And we are a pretty good team. He cooks, I bake. It’s simple; we know our roles (mostly because he is a fantastic cook…and I would rather bake).
I love occasions such as this because I can choose from all of the desserts in the world to bake. The Officer was making my favorite enchiladas but there wasn’t a Mexican dessert on my To-Bake list. So instead, I picked a recipe from one of the cookbooks I most enjoy baking from, Baked, New Frontiers in Baking, a cookbook written by the owners of Baked in Brooklyn, New York. This is a rustic yet hip cookbook. The recipes are a twist on traditional, slightly challenging but very tasty. The photography is beautiful, although I have yet to make a recipe out of this cookbook look like the photography inside. I quickly solved that problem by deciding to make Icebox Towers, a recipe without photography.
This recipe is very simple; it just requires some assembly, which seems complicated but really is not. The cookies are a traditional chocolate wafer that are the perfect flavor and texture when combined with the rich cream. I used Askinosie Cocoa Powder for the cookies and Askinosie 70% San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador dark chocolate for the cream. The combination was very rich but balanced by the various layers of chocolate cream, light-chocolate cream and whipped cream. I modified the assembly of these towers slightly to yield more desserts, and thus my towers became small shanties (scroll down to the end to see the details). I can’t remember ever eating an Icebox Cake in my years but these Towers remind me in some ways of good ole’ fashioned ice cream sandwiches with the smooth cream layered between the soft chocolate wafers.
- adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
makes 6 towers or 12 “shanties”
- 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (let the butter sit out before baking and then soften if needed)
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate or dark chocolate
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
whipped cream filling
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
make the chocolate cookies
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar at low speed until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the cocoa powder and salt. Add the flour and beat until just combined. Form the cookie dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until firm. This step is very important, don’t skip it.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. On a lightly floured board, roll out each disk of chilled cookie dough to a 10-1/2-inch round, 1/4 inch thick. This is pretty thin; don’t stop before you get there. Using a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter (I used a glass), cut out as many rounds as you can; transfer the rounds to a large rimmed baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps, chill briefly, reroll and cut more rounds. You should have 32 to 34 rounds. You only need 30 rounds for the towers, but a few extras are good to have on hand.
make the chocolate pastry cream
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a simmer and keep warm. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, flour and salt until the mixture is pale, about 1 minute. Whisk half of the warm half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture, the pour that mixture into the remaining half-and-half in the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through the sieve and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Put in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, or until chilled.
make the whipped cream filling
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Transfer 3/4 cup of the whipped cream to a small bowl. Beat in 3 tablespoons of the chocolate pastry cream to make a light-colored cream.
assemble the Icebox Towers
Arrange 30 cookies on a work surface. Fill 3 pastry bags filled with large plain tips with the chocolate pastry cream, the light-chocolate cream and the whipped cream.
the Baked way
Pipe the chocolate pastry cream onto 12 cookies. Pipe the light-chocolate cream onto 6 cookies. Pipe the whipped cream onto the remaining 12 cookies. Stack the towers: start with a chocolate pastry cream-topped cookie, then a light-chocolate cream-topped cookie, followed by a whipped cream-topped cookie, another chocolate pastry cream-topped cookie and finally a whipped cream-topped cookie. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Pipe a small dollop of any remaining chocolate pastry cream onto the top of each whipped cream-topped tower. Transfer the cookie towers to a serving platter and refrigerate for at least 6 hour, preferably overnight, before serving. The towers can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
The Baked recipe yields 6 towers. My guest list equated to a greater number than this, plus it included a few hearty men, so I modified the assembly a bit to ensure I had enough treats for everyone. My towers ended up being more like small shanties. Instead of 6 layers, I chose to do one layer of each cream, using 3 cookies for each “shanty”. I prepared my 3 pastry bags using tip 16. I piped 12 cookies each with the various pastry creams. Then I layered the cookies starting with the chocolate pastry cream cookie, topped by the cookie with light-chocolate cream, followed by the cookie with the whipped cream. I did this for each set. Then I finished my shanties off with a dollop of chocolate-pastry cream. These desserts were rich and filling. Although I am sure the towers are beautiful, this was the perfect size dessert for after dinner.