Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Baking! Caramel cake and caramels

Well this was an exciting month for me, I got to co-host this challenge with Dolores and Alex. I'd tried it a few times before for my Wilton classes so I knew it was a winner!

The recipes were a signature caramel cake from Shuna Fish Lydon (aka eggbeater), and an additional bonus challenge of Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels. I cant say no to caramels, so I did both!

We made a caramel sauce, and then incorporated it into a cake and the frosting. I found this to be a totally delicious cake, really moist and not too fatty either. I'm biased as I adore caramel, but I really liked it!

The cake is fairly straightforward, its lovely and moist from the caramel and from the milk that is added.

The frosting is very interesting, it is made from brown butter. I found that even my fine strainer let flecks of the browned butter through, but I liked the brown flecks in the icing.

This time, I decided to add some apple accents, I made apple chips as a decoration(see gourmet, I used cinnamon instead of cumin), and mixed some of the frosting with my apple butter for the filling. I think it worked really well. I then took some of the caramel syrup and boiled up with some cream to make the caramel syrup decoration. I also discovered that trying to write with caramel is very tricky as you get little hard bits of caramel getting stuck in the piping tip.

Many of the Daring Bakers mentioned that this recipe was too sweet for them, I knew that I'd made it before, but it got me second guessing myself and worrying that everyone would hate it. Turns out I didn't need to worry, the birthday girl loved it and everyone else seemed to as well. Its a lovely moist cake, we all knew to take a small slice, but it was very well received. Another reminder that the daring bakers are a very diverse bunch, and maybe the recipe changes depending on your location and ingredients, not to mention everyone interpreting the caramel instructions differently. Funnily enough Shuna recently commented on this in a post.

I actually made 1 1/2 recipes so I could make some babycakes too, they were made in little petits fours cases, but they came away from the cakes so I removed them. I topped them with a little apple butter/frosting mixture and an apple chip or two.

I then got to work on the caramels. A vanilla bean was simmered in some heavy cream, which was added to a boiling mixture of sugar and golden syrup. The mix was then boiled until it reached 265f and then poured into a pan to cool. They were cut into squares and then I had to very quickly wrap them before I ate them all, they were totally delicious!! I found them to be even more delicious than my usual fleur de sel caramels. Not sure if it was the golden syrup or the real vanilla bean. Mmmm



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

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 them 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 water1 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(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

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

Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert


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


9-inch square baking pan (I used a silicone one so no fussing around was required)

Candy thermometer

Procedure: Place the baking pan on a cookie sheet.

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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

More fun ideas from 'Hello Cupcake'. These turkeys were a little tricky, but they came out great. Somehow they all look really worried about ending up on someone's dinner plate!! They are very easy to make, all you need are cupcakes, mini cupcakes, scalloped cookies, chocolate covered sunflower seeds, candy corn, sprinkles, marshmallows, graham crackers, strawberry fruit leather, a little chocolate icing and a little vanilla icing and bob's your uncle.

I used the Martha Stewart Pumpkin Cupcakes. The recipe says it makes 18, but I must be a bit stingy, I ended up with an additional 24 mini cupcakes! The frosting was a rather temperamental caramel frosting. It was impossible to spread, I ended up making a disc of it and popping it on the cakes. I'm sure it tasted great though!

Have a wonderful thanksgiving, whatever you do. I'm definitely thankful for the encouragement that I get from everyone to experiment with my cooking and keep on baking!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Breakfast!

I like our Sunday routine, we have a nice cooked breakfast together, its not crazy over the top and its really healthy as opposed to what we sometimes end up with when we go out!

I steam a little spinach, mix with nutmeg salt and pepper, put it on bagels, followed by slow scrambled eggs, and serve with grilled tomatoes, and some bacon for Andy.

He's dorky and has his knife and fork the wrong way!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bob the builder cupcakes!

My friend's son is celebrating his birthday, and I thought it would be fun to make him some cakes, especially since he's allergic to eggs, so its difficult to find him nice treats that wont make him sick. I found these adorable cakes and thought I'd give them a try! I bought some gumpaste and decided it was too gross to actually use as a frosting, so I tried making mini bobs as a little cupcake topper. It worked great. I have a little more confidence to try things now. The other cakes were topped with little car candies I found at IKEA.

I used the chow recipe, which rose beautifully and produced lovely dark chocolate cakes. I topped with a chocolate frosting, and the other cakes, I topped with a whipped mixture of 8oz low fat cream cheese and a can of dulce de leche.

I learned two things, firstly that I dont think that tip was particularly good for the frosting. Made it look a bit poopish. Also, cream cheese frosting should be used only when the cakes are to be served immediately, and it is no good for anything except a quick swirl, the 'bobs' started to dissolve and look a bit grim.

Hopefully the little tinker didnt realise, and was able to eat cake without getting sick.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Owl Cupcakes, what a hoot!

After a particularly tedious day at work, I really needed to feel like I'd accomplished something, so I opened my trusty 'Hello cupcake' book and saw these delightful owls. I love this book, its really easy to get brilliant effects from easy to get candies and cookies.

This particular design just relies on some chocolate cupcakes and frosting, a packet of oreos, junior mints and m&m's (or banana candy).

It was definitely the antidote to a 'blah' day, I felt very creative once I'd got them made! Everyone at work was very pleased too.

I tried the dorie greenspan chocolate cupcakes. They seemed to be quite dry, so I dont know if my flour was really packed or something. I prefer my cakes to be nice and moist.

After doing a search, I found out that the very dedicated 'Tuesdays with Dorie' folks had tried this recipe and that they had trouble with dryness too, it looks like they need to be baked for a much shorter time than stated in the book.

Please check out these delicious cupcakes at scrumptious photography for the recipe and some lovely looking cakes!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Looking for a pie for Thanksgiving?

Here's the perfect opportunity to help a neighbour in need, and also get a delicious pie for Thanksgiving. Mama's kitchen gets lots of pies donated from local restaurants and bakeries then sells them for $20, $15 of which is deductible.

Choose from Pumpkin, Pecan, Apple, and Sugar-Free Apple.

The proceeds go to help prepare and deliver food to men, women and children who are affected by AIDS or other critical illnesses.

See here for how to get involved.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Apple Butter

I had a wonderful trip to Julian on Saturday, then on Sunday I took the delicious apples I had, a mixture of red delicious, pippin, some unknown little bewise apples, and cooked them up slowly over an entire sunday with a little apple cider and made them into a delicious rich apple butter.

There isnt really a recipe, I just peeled and chopped the apples, poured apple cider to cover and simmered them on a really low heat all day until they were completely uniform, then blended them to make them silky smooth. I sterilized the jars with boiling water and voila!!

You also get to see our crazy looking synthetic lawn. Its a bit odd, and looks a bit like a carpet, but I think we made the right choice. Its wonderful to walk on, nice and neat and doesn't need any water. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A vacation to the red sea

Sorry, no pictures, I really hate taking pictures in restaurants. But what I can tell you is I had a really good meal at the red sea restaurant in City Heights yesterday.

There was a group of 8 of us and we ordered a veggie combo and a meat combo and I only sampled the veggie but it was great. A big injera with a large dollop of salad in the middle, surrounded by little bits of lentil curries, veg curry and collards. More injera were brought to mop up the delicious curries, and its all eaten family style.

The injera takes a bit of getting used to, its like a sour pancake, similar to the indian masala dosa but made with teff flour. Some people might be a bit intimidated by eating with their hands family style, I'd assume you could order a fork and and individual portion.

We also ordered beers, we had the choice of a 4.5%, 5.5% and stout (although he mentioned there being 7 types of beer) and the beers were quite sweet, but good with the curry.

What was a shock at the end was that this enormous meal for 8 with one or two beers came to $10 each including a generous tip! Recession buster or what.

If you want a trip to the exotic red sea then give this place a try!
Red Sea Restaurant
4717 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92105

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Veggie Sausages

I recently saw the recipe for veggie italian sausages and they looked absolutely delicious, I tried making them and I really didnt care for them. Whether it was that there was too much seasoning or that I didnt use 'Bills best Chik'nsh Seasoning' it was just nasty. They will be sliced very thinly in sandwiches or chopped up tiny in soups.

I came to my buffet class and we were doing sausages, so it was my perfect opportunity to try them again with some adaptions to my taste.

Chick pea flour wasnt available, so I subsituted soy flour, and I had to omit nutritional yeast. I would add this in with the dry ingredients if it was available.

Veggie seitan sausages-makes 12. Adapted from everyday dish TV

1/4 cup onion chopped very finely
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup soy flour
2 tbsp granulated onion
1 to 2 tsp fennel seed, optional
2 tsp coarsely ground pepper, preferably freshly ground
2 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp dried chili flakes, optional
1 tsp ground smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground allspice
3 cups very finely minced veggies (we used tomatoes and peppers)
cold water if necessary
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp better than bouillon

Preheat the oven to 350f

Combine all the spices, grind them in a spice grinder, mix with the other dry ingredients and set aside

Fry the onions and garlic, mix with soy sauce, bouillon and veggies

Mix the wet and dry then knead until combined. Add water if too dry.

Shape the mixture into sausages and wrap in foil then bake for around 30 mins, or steam. I prefer the 'crust' from baking.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Day in Julian

Today I had the pleasure of riding the 'Tour de Julian' on my bike. I think some people who did the ride had a bit of a nasty shock when they realised that the ride snaked through the hills all the way to the top of Mount Laguna! It was a rude 5000ft climb in 55 miles.

It was absolutely beautiful with the fall colors at the top though, the sunrise highway is really beautiful to see too, with some gnarly burned trees and pretty grasses.

We were rewarded at the finish with a massive slice of apple pie with ice cream at the end. I didnt eat the entire pie, but it was a jolly generous piece.

All this apple talk got me thinking, while I'm here I should get some apples! We swung by the mayer orchard on the 78 just before Santa Ysbel and picked up some truly delicious apples, honey, pears and I picked up one black walnut too.

This is a great time to check out the san diego backcountry, although I'd say you'd want to avoid Julian at the weekend, its a crazy zoo!