Chef Derek Simcik of Chicago's Atwood Café dreamed up desserts that bring out the kid all of us. The first is a take on the Fig Newton, only here the taste of the iconic treat comes through in a black garlic ice cream. The second takes polenta to a sweet new level, as it becomes part of a brown sugar cake served with cream corn anglaise and candied popcorn. We already want seconds.

"Fig Newton" Ice Cream Sandwich

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Derek Simcik
Atwood Café

Makes 6-8 sandwiches

For the black garlic ice cream:
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4-5 cloves black garlic

  1. In a medium saucepan, mix milk and cream. Warm until foam forms around the edges. Remove from heat.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until frothy. Gradually pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
  3. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it gels slightly and coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Add the black garlic. If small egg lumps begin to show, remove from heat immediately. Puree in a blender.
  5. Pour the mixture through a sieve or fine strainer into a bowl. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
  6. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a sealed container and freeze until firm. If the ice cream is too firm, place it in the refrigerator until it reaches the desired consistency.

For the short cake:
2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. shortening
3/4 cup half and half
Melted butter to brush shortcakes

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening. Mix in half-and-half.
  2. Drop mixture by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Let cool.
  4. Cut the cake into little squares approximately 2"x2".

How to plate the entire dish:
Build sandwiches with one piece of cake then a scoop of ice cream, and then top with another square of cake. And there you have it -- "Fig Newton" ice cream sandwiches.


Brown Sugar Polenta Cake with Cream Corn Anglaise and Candied Popcorn

Serves 16

For brown sugar polenta cake:

2 tbsp. butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
12 cups brown sugar
12 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 cups polenta {dry}

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease silicone molds.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine butter, eggs and egg whites. Mix in the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Blend until smooth and transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Stir yogurt and polenta into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared silicone molds.
  4. Bake 45 minutes in the oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly before slicing.

For cream corn anglaise:
1 cup whole-kernel corn
1 tsp. butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 two-inch piece vanilla bean, split
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. sugar

  1. Lightly sweat corn kernels in a saucepan with butter.
  2. Combine milk and cream in a heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean then add the bean itself.
  3. Bring milk mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat.
  4. Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture. Return this, what is now custard, to a saucepan.
  5. Stir over low heat until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of the spoon when your finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil).
  6. Strain sauce into bowl. Cover and chill. (Can be made one day ahead.)

For candied popcorn:
1 egg white
1/3 cup sugar
4 cups pre-popped popcorn

  1. Whisk egg whites until you get soft peaks, then slowly incorporate the sugar and continue to whisk until you get stiff peaks.
  2. Fold popcorn in with the egg whites evenly and spread on a sheet pan lined with either a Sil-Pad or parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes and let dry out on a cooling rack until dry and crispy.

How to plate the entire dish:
Take a rubber red-handle spatula and smear some anglaise across the plate. Place a warm piece of cake on one end and a small pile of popcorn at the other end. In the middle add a scoop of blueberry jam and top with vanilla gelato.