A Chopped-Style St. Patrick’s Day

  

Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day! We had an incredibly fun Chopped-style baking contest at work yesterday, and guess what the theme of the mystery ingredients was? That’s right, St. Patrick’s Day.

  

The challenge was to create a dessert using Lucky Charms cereal, Twinings Irish Breakfast tea, and a (slightly less Irish) bar of Hershey’s chocolate. Intriguing, right?

Seeing the cereal, the first thing that came to mind was cereal milk. I’ve been seeing it all over food blogs lately and, while my initial reaction to it was that it sounds gross, as I’ve seen more recipes using it I’ve become more intrigued and have been wanting an excuse to try it out. So that colored my choice of dish a bit. 

It was really fun talking with the other two contestants, as we were all wondering the whole time if we’d all end up doing variations on the same recipe. We didn’t, though. We came up with three very unique ways of using these ingredients. One recipe was a tea cheesecake with a crust made of crushed cereal, topped with the marshmallows and a pretty chocolate drizzle. Delicious. Another was a “tea”ramisu (Loved the name! It’s tiramisu with tea instead of coffee.) with ground-up Lucky Charms marshmallows replacing the sugar in the recipe. Yum. Did you know that if you grind up all of the marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms, the predominant color is green?

Tasting all three dessert entries was fun, too. All three were delicious and so different from each other. Did I mention I had only tasted parts of mine before the day of? It was a bit of a gamble that it would all come together OK. :)

  

So looking at my process as I introduce this recipe, I will preface this by saying that I will never make this recipe again, mostly because I prefer recipes that I can start and finish in a night rather than committing multiple nights to them. But that’s what you get when you freeze things. And when you decide to join a baking challenge while 7.5 months pregnant (I had to take more breaks than I usually do while baking, and I’m sure I moved more slowly). That said, I included some tips in my write-up of the recipe that should make it go more easily for you should you decide to try it. It is pretty delicious, and a great conversation starter. :)

Here’s what my timeline looked like:

  • Monday night: Got the mystery ingredients, feeling inspired and ambitious and looking up recipes to use as starting points for the different components of my idea. Also discovered that no-churn ice cream is a thing (basically frozen whipped cream) if you don’t have an ice cream maker (I don’t). Went grocery shopping. Thought I might start baking early, but felt tired by this point so didn’t. When asked by Corwin why I picked such an involved recipe, answered that it was because I want to win (note: I’m not generally competitive-natured, but when it comes to food contests, I do have a competitive streak in me). :) Also might have been slightly delusional about recipe complexity (brownies + frozen whipped cream + melted chocolate = how hard can it really be?).
  • Tuesday night: Still feeling inspired and energetic. Baked the brownie layer, toasted the cereal, and set the cereal milk to steep. Took longer than it seems like baking brownies should take, so felt tired before reaching the point of making the ice cream and called it a night. Starting to feel some doubts about my choice of recipe. By end of  night, began to say I just hope it comes out tasting ok.
  • Wednesday morning before work: Needed to give the ice cream layer time to set before the cutting/topping stages, so got up early and made the ice cream and added it to the brownies so they could set in the freezer during the day. Starting to think that if I felt tired that evening I could probably stop the recipe where I was and have a finished-enough entry.
  • Wednesday night: Feeling tired, considering not finishing and bringing the dish as-is. Suspected I might not go through with it if I didn’t set something in motion before dinner, so prepared the chocolate shell before dinner. On voicing my thoughts to Corwin about maybe scoping the idea down and bringing the cake as-is, he responded with, “Let me ask you a question. Do you want to win?” Yes. Ok, continue. Discovered that my plan to use the parchment paper to lift out the cake was flawed, as the parchment paper froze to the pan. Had the same conversation with Corwin again. Continued. Corwin remembered that he runs water over containers of frozen stew to get them out easily, so we tried a similar trick. It worked! Yay! Got into the groove again, regained my enthusiasm, and went all out with topping and garnishing the desserts. Even packed up some pretty serving dishes to bring.
  • Thursday at lunch: The competition! Fun day, good food, good conversation. And my dessert won! Corwin claims 25% credit for keeping my motivation up at the end and helping with the dilemma of getting the cake out of the dishes. :)

Irish-Tea and Cereal-Milk Ice Cream Cake Bites

Inspiration recipes:

Ingredients:

  • Irish tea brownie layer:
    • 16 oz extra dark chocolate chips (I used Guittard)
    • 12 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 4 Irish breakfast tea bags
    • 2 C sugar
    • 6 eggs
    • 2 t vanilla extract
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 2/3 C plus 2 T flour
    • (Optional) chocolate bar, broken into pieces (I added this to use one of the mystery ingredients in the baking challenge, but you don’t really need it)
  • No-churn cereal milk ice cream layer:
    • 4 C heavy or double cream, well-chilled (you’ll only get about 2 C of cereal milk out of it)
    • 6 C Lucky Charms cereal
    • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
    • A few pinches of salt
  • Magic shell topping and garnish:
    • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle)
    • 1/2 C olive oil (I ran out of extra light and supplemented with extra virgin and it wasn’t overpowering; in fact, I liked the faint olive oil flavor in the chocolate shell)

Directions:

  1. Bake the Irish tea brownie layer:
    1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
    2. Grease two baking dishes (I used an 8″x11″ and an 8″x6″) with olive oil, line them with parchment paper (make sure it runs up the sides and try to fold the corners neatly so that they don’t get caught in the brownie batter), then grease the parchment paper with olive oil.
    3. Melt the butter in the microwave in 30-second increments.
    4. Tear open the bags of tea, stir the tea leaves into the butter, and let sit for at least 10 minutes for the tea to steep (I ended up leaving mine for closer to 30-60 minutes while we ate dinner). Note that since the tea leaves are small, you can just leave them in after this and continue with the recipe (no sifting/separation needed).
    5. Add the chocolate chips to the tea butter and heat in the microwave in 30-second increments until the chips melt completely, stirring a bit each time.
    6. Let the chocolate/butter mixture cool while you whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a separate bowl until it’s a light color with some froth.
    7. Add the chocolate/butter mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
    8. Fold in the flour.
    9. Pour into the lined baking dishes.
    10. (Optional) Top the brownie batter with the broken-up chunks of chocolate bar.
    11. Bake the brownies for about 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
    12. Let brownies cool.  
  2. Add the Lucky Charms no-churn cereal milk ice cream layer:
    1. Pick several of your favorite marshmallows out of the cereal to use as garnish and set them aside.   
    2. Lightly toast the remaining cereal on a parchment/lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  
    3. Transfer the toasted cereal to a bowl and pour the heavy cream over it.  
    4. Cover the bowl and let the flavors soak into the cream overnight (or at least 20 minutes) in the refrigerator.
    5. Pour the cream mixture into a fine mesh strainer (you can use your flour sifter as long as you clean it immediately after, before the milk and cereal residue harden on) to separate the cream from the soggy cereal. Gently use a spoon to apply pressure to the cereal to press a little more cream out of it, taking care to not bend your strainer. I found that the cream had soaked in pretty thoroughly since it’s thicker than milk, so the pressure really just got any bits of cream between cereal pieces out. FYI because of the marshmallow food coloring, the last bits you get out won’t be very pretty.  
    6. Discard the cereal. This was a tough step for me since it feels wasteful.
    7. Use an electric mixer to whip the heavy cream into stiff peaks (Note: Once it starts to thicken this can happen pretty quickly. It’s ok if you go a little too far. I passed the stiff peaks point before realizing it, but my ice cream came out just fine).  
    8. Whisk the sweetened condensed milk and salt together in a separate bowl.  
    9. Fold the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture until completely combined.  
    10. Spread the mixture over the tops of the brownie layers in the baking dishes.  
  3. Cover and freeze the dishes containing the ice cream cake overnight to let the ice cream set.
  4. Remove the ice cream cake from each baking dish by turning it upside down over a cookie sheet and running hot water over the dish to unfreeze the parchment paper from the dish. It’s OK if you get a little water on the ice cream layer or some of the ice cream separates. Wipe the water off, and smooth out the ice cream once it starts to soften after you cut the squares in the following steps. Remember that you’ll be drizzling chocolate over these, so that will mask anything that you mess up. :)
  5. Turn the ice cream cake upright on a cutting board and cut the ice cream cake into squares.  
  6. Space the squares ice-cream-side-up a little apart in parchment-paper-lined containers that fit in your freezer. FYI since I was doing this a bit by trial and error, I originally put mine on baking sheets to reset a little in the freezer since they were starting to get too soft to handle easily. I then transferred them to containers once I figured out what I was doing and found enough containers to hold them and still fit in the freezer.  
  7. Prepare the magic shell topping:
    1. Melt the chocolate in the oil in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring well each time. It only took 2 times for me.  
    2. Let cool to room temperature.
  8. Top the squares with the magic shell topping, letting it drip down the sides and adding one lucky charm marshmallow to the top center before the chocolate sets.  
  9. Let the squares set overnight in the freezer.
  10. Remove the squares from the freezer and arrange them however you plan to serve them about 30 minutes before serving. They’ll be easiest to handle when fully frozen, but I discovered that when you’re not running hot water over a baking dish to remove them (as earlier in this recipe), they take quite a bit longer to go from rock hard cake and solid ice cream to dense but edible cake and soft ice cream. :)      

 

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