caramel cake

caramel cake

This month the Daring Bakers made a Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon, as published on Bay Area Bites. Dolores of culinary curiosity and Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo), Jenny of Foray into Food were our hosts.

I made my cake on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for a little pre-holiday potluck and it turned out pretty well, perfectly serviceable, but not amazing. I would probably revisit my adaptations before making it again – the texture was just a little too funky. Still, I did love the caramel flavors, so I might come back to this challenge and rework it.

Sadly, when I left the party, I discovered that my car had been broken into. Nothing was taken, but the passenger side window was smashed, which means that I’m out $200.  With the hub-bub of Thanksgiving, and trying to get the glass replaced, the cake and this post were completely forgotten. It is still hanging out in the brown paper bag which I never unpacked, and is probably as stale as a rock… and I am a day late in getting this out.

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 eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 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 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.

CARAMEL SYRUP

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.

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

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

I can’t believe it has been a month since I last posted. Where have I been? Well, I’ve been studying for, stressing about, and taking my “preliminary PhD exams.” Basically, once I pass them, I will get to start writing my dissertation. Last weekend I took the written portion. I had 72 hours to answer 3 questions for a total of 30+ pages. Mine ended up at 33. I haven’t wanted to touch my computer, or write since. Even though I managed to sleep almost a full eight hours every night (okay the last night I only slept 6), even though I slipped out for yoga around noon on Saturday, the test was excruciating. I had no appetite, my shoulders and back hurt badly, and worst, by halfway through the second day I was exhausted mentally. Try writing ten pages when you are so tired you can’t put together coherent sentences. Not pretty.

Hopefully though, I will pass. A week from Monday I take the oral portion. That part only last two hours. I’m sure it will be challenging and intense, but I think I am ready. I am definitely ready for this to be over.

So, only the Daring Bakers could draw me back into the blogosphere in the middle of this test. But I am glad that they did. This month we made lavash, an Armenian flatbread. Better yet, the recipe was already gluten-free and vegan. We could top the crackers with whatever we wanted, as long as it was vegan. I made hummus for my Lavash. Yum. Thanks Natalie and Shel for a great challenge!

Recipes after the jump!

I know I haven’t been around much lately. In just over a month, my life will start to shift back to normal. Until then, I don’t know how many posts I’ll manage to get up. But, I couldn’t let another month go by without a Daring Bakers’ post. This month the Daring Bakers made eclairs, and my gluten-free version turned out fabulous. The day that I made them, I had no sweet tooth, and no desire to bake. I also, wasn’t really craving chocolate, so I decided to go with a more classic cream filling. Luckily the next day, my sweet tooth came back, and within a few days all the eclairs had vanished from my freezer. I’m almost tempted to make more.

To make the dough gluten-free, I used a combination of gluten-free flours, added xanthan gum, and just a touch of baking powder. I’m not sure the baking powder was entirely necessary, but I did get a nice rise. I also decided not to prop open my oven door while baking.

Oh, and this month’s challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan and Meetak.
Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Recipe after the Jump!

Before I left on vacation, I meant to write a few posts and have them auto-publish. I didn’t quite manage to make it happen. Then, I thought I would post something while I was gone. Um, no. I also packed hazelnuts and flour to make my cake for the Daring Bakers, which also didn’t happen. But, I had a day and a half in Atlanta before the posting deadline, and my roommate’s boyfriend had a birthday, so I was sure I could and would pull off the cake. Enter, the flu. Needless to say, I didn’t bake anything for my roommate’s boyfriend’s birthday. So, it has been a couple of weeks without a post, and a month without Daring Bakers, which is sad. I wish I could say that this delinquent behavior is behind me. But I have my oral exams for my PhD rapidly approaching, and as a result I have been having trouble sleeping, which means that I have had trouble functioning, which means that I’m looking at a very rough month and a half. So, I will try to get some posts up, but it might be more like once a week. Think good thoughts for me. I will need them.

So, where were we, I believe we had just finished the fish course of my five course Italian dinner. Next up, was a meat course, in this case, lamb. We bought a beautiful piece of lamb tenderloin from Star Provisions and cut it into pieces and then batted those pieces into thin strips. We then coated the lamb with a flavorful rub, threaded our skewers, and threw these on the grill. They were amazingly good, and also pretty easy once the lamb was batted (beaten into thin sheets).

Recipe after the Jump

While Jamie’s Italy was the main inspiration for our meal, we did wander away from it for a few courses, namely fish and dessert. My roommate had just picked up a nice piece of salmon, and suggested that we incorporate it into the meal. We wanted something easy and flavorful and so we turned to Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food. This recipe is hidden away as a variation to her “Baked Wild Salmon with Herb Butter.” And all I have to say, is if this kind of genius is hidden in the variations, I’m going to have to start paying more attention to variations. The slow roast technique cooks the salmon perfectly: it remains moist and tender without any rawness or fishiness. We can’t wait to try this again

Slow Roasted Wild Salmon with Herbs (from Art of Simple Food)

1 to 1 1/2 pounds wild salmon fillet with skin on
herbs (we used basil, oregano, and parsley)
olive oil
1 lemon
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Oil a baking dish, and sprinkle the bottom with herbs.
3. Place salmon skin-side down on top of herbs. Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper.
4. Bake for 30 minutes until just set.
5. Make a lemon vinaigrette: combine juice of a lemon with a tablespoon of zest. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and three times as much olive oil. Adjust to taste and add salt and pepper. (I didn’t measure while making vinaigrette and Alice Waters doesn’t give a precise recipe either, just taste frequently and you will be fine.
6. Serve fish at room temperature, topped with lemon vinaigrette.

The second course, of our extravagant Italian meal, was a salad course, featuring another dish from the Almalfi coast. Jamie says that the key to this salad is to slice everything very thin, the thinner the better. Unfortunately, my knife skills are a little lackluster and I don’t own a mandolin, but we persevered anyway. This salad was a nice fresh light contrast to some of the heavier dishes with a lovely combination of flavors and textures. The vegetables are very crunchy with a strong bite, the orange has a pleasant softness and sweetness, and the vinaigrette complements them both.

Recipe after the Jump

When my friend Shannen came to visit me last weekend, we had already spent months talking about what we would cook. The gamut ran from the aforementioned croissants, to another round of homemade pasta, to a particular fried chicken recipe we’ve both wanted to try for a long time. However, when she actually showed up, it was with an early birthday present in tow: Jamie’s Italy. Suddenly, all other cooking plans dissipated and we found ourself building a menu for an Italian five course dinner. Being certifiable, we crafted the menu around noon, spent the afternoon shopping for ingredients, started cooking around 4:30, and actually managed to start eating at 7:30. We were very impressed with ourselves.

The food was fabulous, the wine was plentiful, and the company was amazing. What more can you ask of from an impromptu dinner party? In the next week, I will slowly unfold our menu, course by course. First up was the antipasti course, which involved two dishes. The first was a meat platter, which we crafted from the bountiful selection of Star Provisions. We built the platter around three meats: hot sopressata, bresaola, and pancetta. With the help of the cheese monger, we paired the sopressata and the bresaola with very different pecorinos, and we had our first dish. I believe that the pecorino we used with the sopressata was a pecorino sardo, it was mild and creamy and played well off of the spiciness of the sopressata. With the bresaola we used a classic pecorino romano, sharp and salty, shaved over the meat.

Our second antipasti dish was limoni di amalfi cotti al forno or amalfi baked lemons. We all agreed that this dish was one of the best of the evening. The cheese really picks up a strong lemon flavor and the anchovies melt away, leaving only a feint nuttiness. I had some trepidations about using the anchovies, having had a bad experience in the past. But apparently the key is getting jarred instead of canned, and splurging on higher quality anchovies doesn’t hurt either. Basil, picked fresh from my garden, and organic cherry tomatoes from my CSA finished off the dish nicely.

Recipe after the jump

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of, dare I say it, fun? Fun is a little dangerous in my world, with my PhD exams looming and a lot of reading on my plate. But it is refreshing sometimes to just let loose and live a little. Still, I haven’t been spending much time around the blog, and I realized today that I’m late to two blogging events I signed up to participate in: Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger (hosted by the Book of Yum) and Kate’s gluten-free barbecue.

When I signed up to Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger, my plan was to make Naomi Poe’s croissants. Coming off of the Daring Baker challenge, croissants seemed suddenly doable. Also, Shannen was visiting me, and she and I share a love of croissants and a fascination with making them. Unfortunately, while last weekend involved a lot of food, it did not involve croissants, and I can’t bring myself to make them today. Call it sugar over-load, or just an excess of rich food, all i want to eat are salads and veggies, and I have so many leftovers in the fridge that I can’t. So I’m sorry Naomi, and I’m sorry Book of Yum, eventually I will make those croissants but not for this event.

For the gluten-free barbecue, I pulled the letter “G.” Try as I might, I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted to bring more than guacamole (perhaps with an accompanying margarita). On a very early post, I mentioned that the guacamole I grew up with, was a bit, untraditional. It involves serious quantities of mayonnaise. Most days, now, I make cleaner, more classic guacamole: avocado, garlic, onions, lime juice, tomatoes (rarely). But every once in awhile I crave my mom’s: extra-creamy, decadent version. It is great comfort food, and highly addictive. So, don’t blame me if you eat an entire bowl.

Recipe after the jump

I know my posting has been a little erratic of late, but I have lots of posts on the back burner, so bear with me, they’ll get here soon.

Tonight I have an easy recipe to share with you. I’m always looking for weeknight dinner recipes that I can pull together largely from the contents of my pantry. I’m not really the queen of meal planning, largely because I so often give into cravings. But I don’t like grocery shopping every day either. This meal was delicious, and fairly easy. The original recipe called for beef and some vegetables that I didn’t have on hand, but a few substitutions left me with a dinner I would happily repeat.

Recipe After the Jump

This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge, hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’ was to make a braided Danish. The second I saw the challenge, I started sweating bullets. This seems to be a theme for me with Daring Bakers. I had no idea how gluten-free flours would behave in a laminated dough, and I planned for failure. Actually, I planned for multiple failures, going so far as to find an alternate recipe in case I really struggled. Surprisingly though, my braid came off without a hitch. I tried sharing my technique, but other gluten-free bakers using similar flours struggled (nobody used the exact same combination). Over the course of the month, it became clear that part of the problem was the way gluten-free doughs behave in the fridge. Sweet rice flour (also known as gelatinous rice flour) holds up to refrigeration better than most, but refrigerating a dough overnight or for five hours, might not be the best plan. Several other gluten-free bloggers had success cutting the fridge time down to 10 minutes between turns and 30 minutes in the freezer before the final shaping. I think these times sound a little quick… the butter needs a chance to harden again or you will lose the flakiness. If I did it again, I would still let the dough rest 30 minutes between turns. But I would definitely cut the final fridge time down from five hours to something more like one or two (or use the freezer for 30). I have changed the directions to reflect these changes.

For the record, I would definitely make these danishes again. In fact, I meant to, all month. But, I’m trying to look good in a bathing suit this summer, and I devoured my entire braid in less than 24 hours, with minimal sharing. Needless to say, a repeat performance was not going to help my waistline. Still, my braid was flaky and flavorful. I loved the flavor of cardamom and orange in the pastry and the simplicity of the cinnamon-sugar and walnut filling. I will play more with the filling next time, but sometimes combinations are classic for a reason.

You can almost see the flakiness in this picture:

Recipe after the Jump