Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Give Thanks For Caramel Cake

Now it would be an understatement to say I had difficulties with this cake. First, I tried making the optional caramels. I had read how others were having issues with the cooking times and temps turning the caramels into a rock hard block. Wow were they right! My block of "caramels" could have been used as a deadly weapon. Hahaha. Instead of wallowing in my mess, I decided to move on to the syrup part of the recipe. I'm sorry, did I say syrup? I meant paste, or at least that's how mine turned out. Everything was going fine until I went to add it to the cake batter. I go over to the pot of cooled down syrup and there is a cloudy, hard, paste. WHAT?! So I warmed it up and it resumed it's liquid form, but only long enough for me to add it to the batter and frosting. Which leads me to the frosting debacle. Although I really wouldn't call this a true frosting since it was not smooth or easy to work with like a regular frosting. The moment I added the syrup to it, the whole thing turned oily looking. Thankfully, adding the cream transformed it into somewhat of a frosting, but not a very spreadable one. While all of this was going on my cakes were baking up nicely. The two square cakes I decided to make turned out beautifully. So golden and perfect.

Oh, and did I mention how very very sweet the frosting was? Too sweet to cover an entire cake. So I only used it as the middle layer in the cake, then covered the cake in a vanilla cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Sorry, but that frosting was just not going to cover my entire cake.

I would like to thank our hosts this month for such a learning experience. So thank you to our host Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, and her co-hosts Brownie of Brownie and Blondie, Jenny of Foray into Food, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.


By: Shuna Fish Lydon

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)

2 eggs, at room temperature

splash vanilla extract

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk, at room temperature

Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:

So the GF changes to the cake would be:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum

1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder (this would be the recipe amount to the amount it might need to be raised to & I'm going to check)

I'll let you when I get the cake finished, how it turns out and if the baking powder amount needs to be raised.

- Preheat oven to 350F
- Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
- Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. 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.
- Sift flour and baking powder.
- Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
- Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
- 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 outside of the refrigerator.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

- In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
- 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 be prepared to step back.
- 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.}
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

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
- Cook butter until brown.
- Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
- 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.
Note: 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.

By: Alice Medrich
- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -
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
A 9-inch square baking pan Candy thermometer
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.
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.

Stay tuned for my next baking adventure!
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Friday, November 21, 2008

Pretzels and a Birthday

Have you ever just had one of those cravings and nothing but that certain food would do? Well I was having one of those moments this week. Pretzels. Chewy, buttery, and fresh from the oven is what I was craving. But where would I find a good recipe? Of course! Pretzels are what started The Daring Bakers. So I went to both Lisa and Ivonne's blogs, La Mia Cucina and Cream Puffs In Venice. Well, I was obviously meant to bake up some pretzels because when I went to Ivonne's page there were the pretzels. Turns out November is The Daring Bakers birthday month!

So I pulled out all the ingredients and got to work making some delicious pretzels. Since I don't like to eat a lot of white flour if I can help it, I did alter the recipe a bit. Instead of 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, I split it into half white flour and half whole wheat flour. Sooo good! Feel free to follow the original recipe though as it is written below. Or follow this link, Hot Buttered Pretzels, over to Ivonne's page and the original post.

Hot Buttered Pretzels
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)

For the pretzel topping:
1/2 cup warm water

1 tsp. sugar
kosher salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1.) Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don’t worry about it.

2.) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it’s smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).

3.) Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.

4.) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
5.) Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.

6.) Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that’s roughly 24 inches in length. (Don’t make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)

7.) Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.

8.) Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

9.) Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.

10.) Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don’t burn.

11.) Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you’ve used it all.

12.)Serve the pretzels warm with plenty of mustard or another condiment of your choice.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Je t'aime Pizza Tina

Ham and mushroom pizza, mmmmm :) Next to my morning, afternoon, and evening pain au chocolat in Paris, this pizza is what I dream about. Now when you think of Paris, you probably don't immediately think of pizza. Well you should. There was this cute little Italian place across the street from my hotel on Avenue Bosquet, Pizza Tina. It was a small, family owned restaurant, like most places in Europe.

Now usually I'm not a meat-on-my-pizza kind of girl, but that night I thought, why not. How many times will I get to eat pizza in Paris? Honestly though, I'll probably get to go there a few more times before I hit old age. Yea! So I pulled up the pizza dough recipe from last month's DB challenge and I got down to business. Only this time I made it with whole wheat flour.

For some reason the whole wheat flour made me think I could eat a few extra pieces. Or it could have been that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Either way, I went on a long walk after I had consumed a whole 8 pieces! Did a pig just snort? Hmmm, nope, just me :) And as you can see from the pictures I made more than just ham and mushroom. I also made a tomato and shitake pizza and a couple of onion and mushroom pizzas (not pictured).

So if you are ever in Paris near Avenue Bosquet, do stop by Pizza Tina. You'll dream about their pizza long after you leave there. And stay tuned for my next baking adventure!