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Cinnamon Lovers Delight {Cinnamon Ice Cream w/ Cinnamon Raisin Bread Praline Crunch}

I often like to play "what would I do?".  As in...what would I do if I was a contestant on Chopped.  Or maybe Next Iron Chef.  What would I do if I opened up the basket and had to make something from gherkins, marshmallows, turbot, and ouzo.  Ya know?  Something that's gonna shine.  And taste good.  No, taste AMAZING.  Or perhaps I've somehow stuck my foot in it and landed in the bottom two.  What do I make with that mystery ingredient that is hiding under the deep red cloak!?  How would I showcase those boxed crackers and bottles of wine?  From time to time my ideas overlap what somebody else has thought of.  Other times I'm on a whole different wavelength.  And there's also the times when I'm inspired by what is made because I was ABSOLUTELY STUMPED as to what I would have done with that loaf of fruitcake.

So.  My efforts were rewarded.  All of those WWID scenarios popped into my head when I accepted the challenge of taking part in an Iron Chef Challenge past-Winners Competition.  Little did I know that when I created my Lazy Girl's Cassoulet eleven months ago, I'd be dukin' it out for a winning spot in one final competition of the year.  This month's challenge was a bit different, though.  In past months, we were given an ingredient and challenged to make something fantastic with it.  This time, however, we were given a recipe that we had to follow exactly.  A recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Bread (a quick bread).  We were to make the recipe as written, and then turn it into something else.  

So, let's begin by taking a look at what we were working with...
 Cinnamon Raisin Bread 
recipe source: Taste of Home  
yield: 2 loaves (12 slices each)

4 c. all-purpose flour
1½ c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk
½ c. canola oil
½ c. raisins

for swirling:
½ c. sugar
1 Tbs. ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1½ cups sugar, soda and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in raisins. 

Combine cinnamon and sugar for swirling; set aside.

Spoon half of the batter into two greased 8" x 4" loaf pans.  Sprinkle with half of the reserved cinnamon-sugar; repeat layers.  Cut through batter with a knife to swirl.

Bake at 350° F for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. 
 Now.  I was a bit stumped at first.  I just imagined Alton pulling aside that cover and revealing whole loaves, cut loaves, and slices of Cinnamon Raisin Bread towering over and around each other.  So, my brain started churning and clanking...maybe even smoking a bit...and I did what anybody who was in it to win it would do. I went to the ice cream machine!  I mean, everybody knows you're serious when you start whipping up a custard, right?  

Inspired by the swirls of cinnamon that twist throughout the moist, tangy loaves, I went with a rich, creamy custard that is infused with that same bold warmth.  The ice cream itself is inspired by and adapted from a recipe I'd been wanting to try for some time now from the book The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  But the bread really begged for a starring role here.  So what I did was to cut it up into chunks and make a caramel to coat it with.  Once folded into the hot, amber sugar, it is spread out on a sheet to cool.  Then chopped it into smaller bits and folded it into the smooth ice cream as soon as it was churned.  It's like little crunchy bites of praline or brittle!  You get a sugary-cinnamon crunch in the midst of every creamy bite.  Occasionally you'll be surprised by a fruity raisin.  If you don't mind me saying's pretty blissful.

And now to step in front of the judges and await my fate...
Cinnamon Lovers Delight Ice Cream
{Cinnamon Ice Cream w/ Cinnamon Raisin Bread Praline Crunch}
 from the kitchen of girlichef
yield: 1 quart + 1 cup

ice cream:
1 c. whole milk
¾ c. superfine sugar
pinch of sea salt
Eight 5″ cinnamon sticks (or the equivalent)
2 c. heavy cream, divided
5 large egg yolks

3 slices Cinnamon-Swirl Raisin Bread
6.75 oz. superfine sugar
¼ c. + 2 Tbs. water
one 3" cinnamon stick
 ice cream:
Place cinnamon sticks in a paper bag or a baggie and smash with the side of a heavy pot until you have broken them into shards...some big and some small.

Place them in a heavy, medium-sized pot and warm with the milk, sugar, sea salt, and 1 cup of the heavy cream over a medium-low flame.  Heat until just before it starts to simmer, then turn off the heat and let it sit and steep for 1 hour. 

Strain the cinnamon sticks out then pour back into pot and set it over low heat.  

 Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour about half of the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper.  Pour the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan while whisking.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as your stir, until napé (when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon)

Set a strainer over the bowl of cream and pour the custard through.  Stir into the cream.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming).  Place in refrigerator until completely chilled.

 Break the bread into chunks and place on a baking tray in an oven that has been preheated to 350° F.  Cook until just dried out and starting to turn golden, ~20 minutes.  Set aside.

Put sugar, water, and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir a few times until it comes to a boil, then just let it cook over medium heat until it turns light amber in color.  Stir in the chunks of bread and swirl to coat.  Turn out onto a silpat or parchment lined sheet tray.  Remove cinnamon stick.  Let cool, and then break or cut into small bits.

to finish:
 Pour chilled cinnamon custard into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When the ice cream maker stops, pour into a large bowl and fold in the praline (set aside a little for garnish and crush it up smaller, if you wish).  Pack into a freezer-safe container; cover and place into freezer for a couple of hours.  
*This is my submission to Ott,A's Iron Chef Challenge Bake-Off sponsored by Taste of Home

*Update 12/26/11: Winner!  I'm the Winner!  So excited to be "crowned" the 2011 Iron Chef Champion! Many Thanks...I'm honored.

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