Sunday, July 11, 2010

Baked Aleutian Cupcakes & HMFPIC

Peaches by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
"HMFPIC - You Know Where"

If you hold Macon, Georgia, near to your heart then you recognize the acronym HMFPIC from the classified ad placed in the Macon Telegraph & News each June 1st. The ad didn't announce a clandestine meeting, but an ice cream event - Homemade Fresh Peach Ice Cream at Len Berg’s restaurant on Post Office Alley next to the Federal Courthouse.

Macon is close to Fort Valley in nearby Peach County, home of the Blue Bird Bus Company and the sweet Georgia peaches at Lane Southern Orchards. When the first peaches were picked and brought to Len Berg’s, they were churned into a creamy vanilla custard ice cream. To get the word out, each June 1, Maconites could look in the back pages of the Telegraph, not in a display ad, but the classifieds, for the cryptic message: “HMFPIC - You Know Where.”

Len Berg's was an original - in business from 1908 until it closed just a few years ago. The building was small, with unusually low ceilings, but the location, especially to feed the lunch crowd, was great - in the downtown business district close to both the Federal and the County courthouses. The menu was classic meat-and-two-or-three, with excellent Southern vegetables. I managed to get to Len Berg’s a few years before it closed. I had some tasty fried chicken and a pimento cheese sandwich - this is kind of a Macon thing, like chicken and waffles everywhere else. And we concluded with HMFPIC.

peach ice cream
Peaches and cream ice cream by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

I make my own HMFPIC and the key is to use dead ripe peaches, the soft fragrant fruit that is just hours from being compost. Here’s my version of peach ice cream, using these gorgeous California peaches - I know, I should be ashamed, but the market had California peaches, not Georgia ones. They are pretty, though, aren’t they?
Georgia Peach Ice Cream
I have a tried and true custard recipe for vanilla ice cream, but this recipe, adapted from "Beans, Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches" by Savannah food writer Damon Lee Fowler, is divine in its simplicity. This is truly peaches and cream, frozen with sugar and salt and vanilla, simply delicious and easy.

4 large, ripe peaches
Juice of one-half lemon
1 cup sugar, divided
1 quart heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Peel the peaches, halve and rough chop. Place them in a food processor and pulse a few times until the mixture is a coarse puree. Place the peaches in a bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Let sit at room temperature for one half hour.
2. In another bowl, dissolve remaining 3/4 cup sugar in the cream. Add a pinch of salt and pour the cream over the peaches, stirring to combine. Let this mixture sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours and up to a day before freezing it in an ice cream maker. Follow manufacturer's instructions for freezing the ice cream.

I use a Krups ice cream maker, the kind with the canister that goes in the freezer. I’ve had many kinds of ice cream freezers through the years, beginning with the hand-crank kind that required ritual layering of ice and rock salt. I found this cute ice cream maker at an estate sale for $4. I’m hoping the American Pickers will stop at my house and offer $10, then I’ll know I did well. Hey, Paul Hinrichs, betcha don’t have one of these!
ice cream maker
Hand-cranked ice cream maker by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
You can finish reading the story here, but if you’re the kind of person, like me, who enjoys a culinary challenge, then get ready to make the coolest cupcakes you’ve ever seen - Baked Alaska cupcakes, or as I’ve come to call them, Baked Aleutians.
Baked Aleutians
Baked Aleutian Cupcakes by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
This is my year of Baked Alaska. I turned one out in February for the SKC Frozen Treats category, in honor of the Jamaican bobsled team of the Calgary Olympics. It was a Roasted Banana Coconut Ice Cream with Blue Mountain Coffee Ganache in Pound Cake smothered in a marshmallowy Italian Meringue. It was exquisite and yummy and a glorious pain in the patootie to make - cake, ice cream, ganache, meringue. Take a picture and eat.

Upon seeing that the category for this week was ice cream and that frozen desserts such as Baked Alaska were welcome, I emailed Francis Lam informing him that I had made my Baked Alaska for 2010, but (I’m not sure where this even came from) I might make a Baked Alaska cupcake. Just off the top of my head, I wrote that it would have to be called Baked Aleutians. Francis’ reply - if I made Baked Aleutians, that would be genius. That my friends is a gauntlet, the glove on the ground that I can’t ignore. It was time to don my apron and attack the kitchen.
oven mitt
The gauntlet: my oven mitt. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Baked Aleutians with Fresh Peach Ice Cream
Baked Alaska and Baked Aleutians require three elements: cake, ice cream and meringue. The cake and ice cream are baker's choice; the meringue is fairly straightforward. Here's how to put it together:
1. For one dozen cupcakes, you will need pound cake baked in muffin tins with paper liners. After they are baked, scoop out a small portion of the filling so the ice cream has a cup to hold it.

2. Scoop of ice cream. I used Fresh Peach Ice Cream for a dreamy taste of Georgia summer.

cupcakes with meringue
Hollowed-out cupcakes ready for ice cream. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
3. A generous swirl of meringue. This is a glorious thing to have in one’s repertoire. Shirley Corriher’s Italian meringue from "Bakewise" is tried and true and will launch this dessert into the stratosphere.

4. You can be fancy and pipe the meringue, but I used a spoon and swirled it onto the ice cream. If you're the kind to use a pastry bag, you probably have a brulee torch on hand, too, and that does a beautiful job. The assembled cupcakes toasted in an oven set on 375° for 10 minutes.
I served the Baked Aleutians in a sea of caramel sauce.
caramel sauce aleutian
Baked Aleutians Cupcakes with Peaches and Cream Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Text and images copyright 2010, Lucy Mercer.

With special thanks to Abrawang, who left the Aleutians joke as a comment on my previous Baked Alaska story.

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