Saturday, November 29, 2008

November Daring Bakers-- Caramel Cake with Brown Butter Frosting


This months challenge was hosted by Dolores, Alex and Jenny. They chose a fabulous Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting recipe by Shuna Fish Lydon .


Be sure to check out all of the other Daring Bakers creations.

The rules were simple for this month- make the cake and the frosting. Plain and simple. Also, there was an added bonus, sort of like an "extra-credit" (that I flunked) of making, what I hear is, delicious Vanilla Caramels.

I did attempt the caramels, however, I'm not sure where, but somewhere I went terribly wrong. I researched and researched and researched where to find Golden Syrup in my part of town and finally found some almost an hour away from home (which of course, sparked an argument with my husband due to how far away I wanted to (and did!) drive for this syrup). After driving out to get it and paying $10 for two little cans of liquid sugar, fighting with my husband and making the caramels, imagine my disappointment when they were well overcooked and tasted like burnt toffee instead of melt-in-your-mouth-creamy caramels. (And the fact that they burned did not help my argument for why it would be worth driving many, many miles to get the magical Golden Syrup.)

Luckily the cake and frosting redeemed this months challenge. It is FABULOUS and I had absolutely no problems with the cake, frosting or the caramel syrup that you need to make prior to the actual cake.

The original instructions were a bit confusing since you really are allowed to cook-to-taste with the frosting, so I'll add my comments to the recipe with a different colored print. Oh, and I drizzled the remaining caramel syrup on some of the cupcakes---oh yeah, baby. Come to Mama...

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CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

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 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature


1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
( I made 20 cupcakes)

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Sift flour and baking powder

6. 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.)

7. 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.

8. 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. (My cupcakes baked for about 20 minutes at 350° and I didn't rotate the pan)

9. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.



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CARAMEL SYRUP

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

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 be prepared to step back.
(I had an oven mitt on my hand and held the lid to a pan as a "shield" as I poured the water in. It worked beautifully.)

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.}

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

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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 (I didn't need this)
Kosher or sea salt to taste (I used about 3/4 of a teaspoon)


1. Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

2. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

3. 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 (I only used cream and also vanilla, which I added here since it doesn't say when to add it!). 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.


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And, in case you wanted to attempt the caramels that I ruined, here is that recipe, too.

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
1. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil.

2. 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.

3. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

4. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.)

5. Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

9. When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks.

10. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful.

11. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently.

12. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.



Sunday, November 23, 2008

Easy Thanksgiving Centerpiece


I don't think a centerpiece could be any easier than this-- spray paint some gourds with metallic gold paint and arrange on a cake stand. That's it. Done. Nothing else to it! I had the paint at home, and purchased two bags of gourds for 25¢ each. My entire centerpiece cost 50¢. Not bad!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pilgrim Napkin Rings



My good friend Candy made these napkin rings for her Thanksgiving table. I couldn't help but copy the idea! Hers turned out so much cuter (I wish she had a blog that I could link to so you could see for yourself) because she had "heads" that were a bit larger than what I have.

What you need:

Black paper or card stock
White paper
Glue
White paper doilies
Tape
Photos

What you do:

1. For each ring, first cut a 2- by 7-inch strip of black paper or card stock. Cut a white paper collar, as shown, and glue it in place. For womenfolk, glue a section of white paper doily over the collar, then glue the collar in place.

2. Create a hat from black and white paper, or a bonnet from a strip of white paper cut and formed as shown.



3. Glue or tape a photo of a guest to the hat or bonnet and then to a strip. Wrap the strip around a napkin and secure it with tape.

Candy said I could put a picture of hers on here... yay! Here is how hers turned out... so much better with bigger heads! (isn't her son cute?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I saw this idea from BHG.com. The picture is from their website. I plan on doing this for my kiddo's on the Thanksgiving table but wanted to post the picture now so that the idea is out there for anyone else that may want to dress up a glass for their child.

My kids love drinking from stemware-- they feel so grown up! Allow your kids to drink cider from a stemmed glass. Use pretty ribbon or velvet to attach a little reminder to it so that they know what to say when it's their turn to give thanks.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pilgrims Hats





Just in time for Thanksgiving! A treat your little pilgrims will just love to make and gobble up! You can make them with either Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Mini's or with chocolate dipped marshmallows.

What you need:

Keebler Fudge Striped cookies
Orange Tic Tacs
Frosting (tinted yellow)
Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Mini's
or
Marshmallows
Chocolate candy melts

What you do
:

1. Lay your fudge striped cookies so that the bottoms are faced up.

2. Place a dollop of yellow frosting on the top of an unwrapped peanut butter cup and turn the cup to be face down on the cookie, sandwiching the frosting between the cookie and the peanut butter cup. You want to be sure you put enough frosting on so that the frosting smooshes out when pressed to the cookie.

3. Place an orange Tic Tac on the cookie to represent a buckle on the hat.

If you prefer to make them with marshmallows, follow the same instructions but instead of using a peanut butter cup, use a marshmallow that has been dipped in the chocolate candy melts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Easy Cookie Cups






Want a treat to bring with you someplace but you don't have time to bake something from scratch? These cookie cups would be perfect! Their fancy look makes it appear as if you've been slaving in the kitchen for hours!

Ingredients:



1 pkg. (18 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® (or Pillsbury) Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Dough
1 cup (6 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® SWIRLED™ Milk Chocolate & Caramel Morsels, any flavor

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 20 mini-muffin cups.

Place squares of dough into prepared muffin cups; press down to make a deep well.



Bake for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are set. Remove from oven to wire rack(s).



While still warm, fill cookie cups with morsels. Morsels will soften and retain their shape. Cool completely. With tip of knife, remove cookie cups from muffin pan(s).



*Note:
1 cup (6 oz.) NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE SWIRLED Milk Chocolate & Caramel, SWIRLED Real Semi-Sweet & White Chocolate, Semi-Sweet Chocolate and/or Milk Chocolate Morsels can be substituted for the SWIRLED Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Morsels.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Homemade Gift Bags


With Christmas just around the corner (50 days and counting!), it's a perfect time to start making some of your own gift bags. These can be made for any celebration, not just Christmas. The possibilities are endless and your creations will be unique and one-of-a kind.

What you need:



A solid colored gift bag (I just used white but colored would work, too)
Any fabric of your choice
Puffy paints or glitter glue
Spray adhesive or a glue like Mod Podge or Tacky Glue
Scissors
Foam paint brush (if using glue other than spray adhesive)


What you do:

1. Using the scissors, cut out a piece of fabric. The shape and size of the fabric is up to you. I chose to cut a basic rectangle that is just a little bit smaller than the shape of the gift bag.



2. Apply the glue to the backside of the fabric shape.



3. Adhere onto your gift bag. It's okay if there are little frayed strings hanging off the edges. Just snip them away once the glue dries.



4. Repeat this process on the backside of the bag.

5. Once the glue has dried and your fabric is adhered securely onto the bag, decorate with the puffy paints/glitter glue.

I just highlight aspects of the fabric:


6. To complete the look, use the glitter glue/puffy paint to outline the shape of the fabric on the bag. This will hide any flawed edges and will really make it look finished off.



7. Decorate the opposite side of the bag once the first side has dried.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Perfectly Easy Dinner Rolls



This icebox dough requires no kneading and can be made up to 4 days ahead. Just take it out of the refrigerator, let rise and bake.

Ingredients:



1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
4-4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Additional melted butter (optional)

Directions:

Combine the warm water and yeast in a large bowl. Let the mixture stand until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Stir in butter, sugar, eggs and salt. Beat in flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is too stiff to mix (some flour may not be needed). Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or up to 4 days.



Grease a 9x13 baking pan. Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 24 equal-sized pieces.



Roll each piece into a smooth round ball; place balls in even rows in the prepared pan.



Cover and let dough balls rise until doubled in volume, about one hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake until rolls are golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Brush warm rolls with melted butter, if desired. Break rolls apart to serve.