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

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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

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

Nothing gets this girl as excited as the words “pig roast” or “pulled pork.” I think I could live without chicken, and maybe even beef, but not pig. I love me my pig. So last weekend, I went with a friend to a pig roast. I imagined heaping platters of all you could eat pork, unfortunately, there was nothing “all you can eat” about this roast. Still, we happily licked our platters clean and moved on to the drinking portion of the evening. Until midnight rolled around and I exclaimed, “I want more pig.” We didn’t actually satisfy that craving on the spot, but the next day, still craving some good southern comfort food, I proceeded to make pulled pork. I don’t have a smoker, so I made my pork in the slow cooker. It still tasted great, and while it lacked a little smoky flavor, I will definitely make this again (though I’m curious what the effect of some liquid smoke might be). I also made the Gluten-Free girl’s arepas, and the combination was spectacular. So if you are craving some pork-y goodness, give this recipe a try.

Recipe after the Jump

Today I was trying to have a perfect day. I slept in, I spent a little time this morning relaxing on my deck and watching my garden grow. Then I read for a couple of hours, biked to the coffee shop, and read for a couple more hours, before allowing myself to venture out on a shopping mission. I explored a new (to me) bike route from Decatur to Little Five Points, bought my baby sister a birthday present, and biked home. Soaring along alone on my bike, I felt perfectly happy, and I was convinced the day was only going to get better.

After all, I was planning on seeing Casablanca at the Fox theater tonight. I’ve never been to the Fox, and Casablanca on the big screen in an old school theater sounded amazing. Unfortunately, life intervened in the form of unexpected and unwarranted ugliness, and before I knew it I was canceling on the movie and wallowing on my couch. But that isn’t really where I want to be, or how I want to feel. So I’m choosing to let go and move on. While it is too late to catch the movie, it isn’t too late to stop wallowing.

But before I get off my couch, I’m going to leave you with a recipe, or two. I made this dinner last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The margarita shrimp taste perfectly summery and pair beautifully with the coconut rice. I found that I liked the rice best with both raw coconut and toasted coconut mixed in and spring onions sprinkled on top, but it is also good plain.

Recipes after the jump