Archive for November, 2008

Daring Bakers November…Caramel Cake and Caramels!

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This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/) along with Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/), Jenny of Foray into Food (http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/) and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/).  Thanks for a great challenge!
 

The challenge was Shuna’s incredible Caramel Cake with Carmalized Butter Frosting

I have been so busy lately with life and the upcoming holidays that I have not had much time to cook or bake.  So I planned ahead and set aside a Friday night to complete this challenge.  It was not very complicated.  It had quite a few steps, but once I had read the recipe a few times, I knew where I was going.  I decided to make individual cupcakes and I only baked them for about 20 minutes and started checking after that.  I also played with the frosting a bit so that I had the right consistency for piping it on.  I really liked that the frosting recipe gave you room to experiment!

 

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CARAMEL CAKE with Caramelized Butter Frosting

10 Tablespoons UNSALTED BUTTER, ROOM TEMP
1 1/4 Cups SUGAR
1/2 teaspoon KOSHER SALT
1/3 Cup CARAMEL SYRUP*
2 each EGGS, ROOM TEMP
splash VANILLA EXTRACT
2 Cups AP FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon BAKING POWDER
1C MILK, ROOM TEMP

*Caramel syrup recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall 9″ cake pan.

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth.
2. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
3. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl.
4. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
5. Sift flour and baking powder.
6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dries.
7. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time.
8. Add another third of the dries, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dries. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, drry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
9. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds. making sure batter is uniform.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days unrefrigerated.

CARAMEL SYRUP

2 Cups SUGAR
1/2 Cup WATER

1 Cup water for “stopping”

1. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand.
2. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush.
3. Turn on heat to highest flame.
4. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
5. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and prepared to step back.
6. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons UNSALTED BUTTER
1 Pound CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR, SIFTED
4-6 Tablespoons HEAVY CREAM
2 teaspoons VANILLA EXTRACT
2-4 Tablespoons CARAMEL SYRUP
Kosher or sea salt to taste

1. Cook butter until brown.
2. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
3. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
4. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

This is the most delicious cupcake I have ever made/eaten.  Really!  The taste is so sophisticated.  Sweet, yet salty and so amazing.  Please make this for your next dinner!

I also tried my hand at the optional caramels.  I made them to bring to my family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I left out the ground vanilla beans, but added the nutmeg for a fall flavor.  I also used light karo syrup, as I could not find the golden syrup in my store.  Apparently you can get it at World Market.

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GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS
– makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels –

Ingredients
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Equipment
A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Procedure

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife.  Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

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Variations

Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

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(recipe from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert)

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November 29, 2008 at 9:26 am 1 comment

Barefoot Bloggers Mexican Chicken Soup

This is my first month participating with the Barefoot Bloggers!  I absolutely adore Ina Garten and am addicted to her show.  Joining this blog group is giving me a great chance to try her recipes!  This month’s recipe was posted by Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats.

I made this Mexican Chicken Soup for a small group Bible study we go to every Wednesday night.  It is SO good!  I served it with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, and cheddar cheese with corn bread on the side.  It was a hit with the group and we enjoyed leftovers the next night!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, it was so good we didn’t have time to take them!

November 27, 2008 at 8:56 am 4 comments

Idiot’s Delight!

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This casserole is from my gramma, Verdella.  She used to make this for me and my sister when we were growing up.  So easy an idiot could make it!  It is a super simple, down home cooking sort of casserole.  Not very gourmet, but definitely satisfies on a weeknight.  I put it together in about 20 minutes total, not counting the cooking time in the oven.  Serve with biscuits and a green salad.  Yum!

2 cups uncooked pasta – I used rigatoni, my gramma used egg noodles
2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 10.5 oz cans tomato soup
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
Shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook pasta until al dente. Brown beef with onion and pepper. Drain excess fat. In a large bowl, combine pasta, meat mixture, corn, and tomato soup. Transfer to a casserole dish. Bake in oven for about 30-40 minutes until mixture is heated through and cheese melted. Enjoy!

November 21, 2008 at 10:19 pm 1 comment


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