Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November Challenge!


It's that time again- Daring Bakers Challenge Post time!

Apologies if temporal context is skewed, I'm writing this early and scheduling it to post automatically since on Saturday I'll still be in the land of dial-up.

This month was a caramel cake, with browned butter caramel frosting and optional chewy caramel candies (which I haven't had a chance to make, but likely will because I love caramel and the recipe didn't look too hard).

Our hostess this month was Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity and the recipe came from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater; the cake is her own signature caramel cake. The additional optional challenge was Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels (Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111).

Helping the hostess this month was Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo), Jenny of Foray into Food. And for help with hints in alternative baking, Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

I made three cakes, using a doubled recipe (original recipe below). The things that I did in addition or in opposition to the recipes are as follows: For the browned butter frosting I didn't have a really fine mesh sieve, so I put a coffee filter in my mesh sieve that had no impact on the particles in my browned butter and let it drip through that. It took a while for it all to fall through, but it gave me nice pure flavorful butter. Then I made the frosting to the instructions, but it came out a little thinner than I would have liked it, so I beat in some shortening. I also added some extra caramel and a bit of vanilla because I thought the browned butter flavor was a little too strong. I also filled the two smaller cakes with whipped chocolate buttercream that I had made for the largest cake.

The larger cake was for a birthday party and the hostess requested a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I liberties with "yellow" and made the caramel cake, and used predominantly chocolate frosting. I did fill it with the butter caramel frosting, and decorated with it. Everyone at the party enjoyed it (at least many people said they did, and no one left any on their plates, so I'm assuming everyone like it).

The littlest cake I made for us (my housemate, house-mom and I) to taste immediately, and we were impatient so I cut and frosted it while it was still warm. Though not pretty, it was a delicious decision (cut slice pictured at top). Sarah actually licked her plate clean (combo of really long day and delicious remnants). After being refrigerated it is still delicious, but much more dense in texture, and much much neater. I wouldn't say I prefer it one way or the other, but there is something very satisfying about gooey dessert.

The mid-sized one I made to take home with me when I go home Wednesday. The cake itself was beautiful. As others who made it before me said on the forum, it is a very dense cake, but I didn't mind that. It baked very evenly, and had a beautiful color and taste.

Ugly, partially melting cake for us:


Thanksgiving cake for family:


Birthday cake for Allie:



And here are the RECIPES, as they were given to us:


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

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

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

- 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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving is less than a week away!


I made turkey cookies. I'm not usually into cutsie holiday motifs, but these are a tradition that must not be broken, for it is far too delicious.

Second day of running today. Went alright, made better time, but felt worse, I think that was due to the terrible night of sleep and the waking up with a sore throat and with sinuses in revolt. Megan is out of town, but Jillian's special friend Chris came with, and he's a police officer, so he helped keep the pace up a little.

Went shopping today too, got a pair of sweatpants for working out in. Jillian got a dress for our fancy party we're having. I got a dress last week. I'm super excited for the party, also my new dress is really pretty. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life Change?

Self improvement? Health? These are things I strive for. Today I took one more step in that direction. Jillian and Megan came over so that Jillian could do some laundry. They started working out on Monday (with projected schedule of MWFSa) and invited me along with them today. We walked/jogged/walked/jogged/ran 1.5 miles and decided to work towards a 5K. So yeah… we’re going to run three times a week, do some weights stuff, and swim on Saturdays- and hold each other accountable to it.

Here’s to health.

Also realized I’m in desperate need of workout clothes.

And, Irony of Ironies (yes with capital “I”) Brian was crossing the road when I pulled out of the VAC lot and started driving toward home. We had a hand signal conversation. He’s doing “Okay” (A shrug with up and down hands like a moving weighted balance). The ironic part was that “Without you” by Mad Caddies was playing in my CD player, which is not how I feel anymore, but was how I felt for oh-so-long.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

28* outside, feels like 16*


... according to It is quite snowy, I haven't been outside yet today though. Took some pictures through the window though.


The garden looks a little confused.


Other than weather developments, work for my senior show is going well. My figures are growing. This last group was not as large as I originally had planned on it being, but I'm pleased with my progress. They are still, obviously, a fraction of my goal, which is life-size. These are still kind of considered "sketches," though they are more developed and larger than some previous sketches. According to the critique feedback from this past Thursday, my work is becoming "more sophisticated." The female figure third from left in the first picture is my, and was everyone at the critique's, favorite and the most successful so far. Please excuse the backdrop. :)

As a reminder, the basic thesis of my work is to explore inner emotion and dialogue between figures in the gesture of a body.

Thoughts and feedback, as always, is appreciated.






P.S. I love Iron and Wine.