Saturday, November 29, 2008

My First Daring Baker's Challenge!

I finally participated in my first Daring Baker's Challenge! Since I signed up in mid-October I've been a little nervous and excited about what the challenge could be. The past two months were pizza dough and crackers, so I was definitely a little apprehensive about what crazy baked good we would have to prepare, but I was more than happy to see Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting as the challenge. It definitely took me an afternoon to make it, with trials and errors, but in the end I ended up with this:
Sweet 70's tupperware cake dome courtesy of my grandma
I didn't have the deep 9 in cake pan that was called for, so I baked it in two 9 inch pans and then layered the two with some leftover caramel sauce in between, and topped it with the frosting. I also drizzled some caramel sauce on top... I wasn't sure what else to do with it! While making the sauce I only burnt one batch of sugar, and one batch of butter for the frosting. Pretty good I'd say. They both go from good to horribly wrong so fast! I forgot to take photos while I was baking... there would have been some really interesting ones!! The cake itself was heavenly, but I thought the frosting was too sweet; as in way to sweet... and I LOVE sugar so you know it was sweet if I couldn't eat it. The flavor was great, but I thought it was too sugary sweet for my taste. Next time I won't use all of the frosting on the cake, I'll just use part of the batch. Overall it was really fun and I can't wait until next month's challenge!
Shuna Fish Lydon's recipe follows or is available here, and thanks to the hosts this month: Dolores, Alex, Jenny and Natalie!
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
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)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Favorite Holiday Movie

ELF!! Absolutely hilarious. If you havent seen it, please do. It is hysterical. I laugh so hard my cheeks hurt. Fantastic way to start off the holiday season.


I've had some culinary adventures lately and have just been late putting them online. I made thai soup about a week ago now. It is the perfect thing for a cold wintery day. I made mine vegetarian but you can add shrimp or shredded chicken if that strikes your fancy. Here's my take on a thai favorite:

Thai Soup:
2 quarts chicken broth
1 can light coconut milk
1-2 inches ginger root, grated or chopped finely
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced into large pieces
1 package fresh mushrooms or one can straw mushrooms, drained
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 limes juiced
1 tbsp lime zest
3 thai chilis
Shrimp or shredded chicken
salt and pepper to taste
Add everything except meat to pot, bring to simmer. Add shrimp, cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are pink. Serve. Do not eat lemongrass.
The lime and the coconut plus the spice from the chilis really taste so good together. I think it rivals any thai restaurant soup, and its so easy and simple to make at home!

Wedding Shower

I was commissioned to bake a cake for my cousin's bridal shower last week. Her favorite is german chocolate, so I made a chocolate cake with coconut buttercream. This time I used my usual chocolate cake recipe and made the CakeLove coconut buttercream. It was even better than the first time I made it! I also used some dark chocolate cocoa in addition to the regular strength. The cake was moist and rich, and the icing contrasted it perfectly. It was a hit at the party, and my dad ate about half on his own. I hope the heart on top wasnt too corny, but I wasn't sure how else to decorate it!
Here's a picture from the wedding itself...

Yes, it was outside, in Virginia, in the COLD! Some guests stayed in their cars until the ceremony started. The reception was catered, not sure by who, but the food was great. Southern classics: fried chicken, baked chicken, super good mac and cheese, green beans, potato salad, ham, rolls and a succotash. Yummmm!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Edo's Squid, how I love thee...

Words cannot describe how much I love Edo's Squid. The food is soooo amazing. This time I had the fried calamari (as usual) and the halibut. The calamari is perfectly seasoned, fried to a perfect golden brown and just melts in your mouth. It's not rubbery or stringy, the batter is light and crispy, and a squirt of lemon juice really just makes it all wonderful. I like mine with a little bit of marinara sauce, also excellent at Edo's. The halibut was also delicious. It was a generous portion on a piping hot plate, sprinkled with herbs. Once again, perfecly seasoned so that the flavor is there, but you can still taste the wonderful flavor of the fish. The fish was moist and flaky, it was just too good for words. Even the side dish of pasta was amazing. I had the garlic sauce on it- basically garlic, oil and herbs splashed over noodles. Simple, but oh so tasty. The BF had the veal marsala- SUPER good! Thin pieces of veal perfectly cooked, and the marsala sauce was great. Very sweet and light, but rich. Scrumptious. We couldn't finish it all last night so ate it a few minutes ago...another 15 minutes of pleasure. So good. If you haven't been, go. If you love tiramisu it is also very good, but its a little too espresso-ey for me... It's really really strong, and I don't drink coffee daily. A little to strong for me... I prefer Ellwood Thompson's a little more. The gelato is also good, and the cannoloni (sp?) is good too. Everything on the menu is good. I could go on for days, but I wont. I'll keep dreaming about when I'll go there again!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Applesauce...straight from the tree!

Last week my dad and I visited some family farmland in central Virginia and did some work making some espallier apple trees
and we also picked a BUNCH of apples from some full grown apple trees that have been there for a few generations. We weren't sure what to do with all the apples so we decided on APPLESAUCE!! For the first batch we peeled, cored, and sliced them, and then cooked them for a couple hours over a wood stove. Then we ran some of them through a ricer because we had two different types of apples, the soft ones that disintegrated with cooking and the crisp ones that are better for making pies etc. After that we canned them, cooled them, and ATE 'EM. We made about 3 gallons with the first batch! Wow...homemade applesauce is GOOD. We added a little bit of sugar, but not a lot. It's nice to eat something you made, of all natural ingredients, without preservatives, and it is delicious. I could eat a jar at a time if I let myself. I'll post a picture soon. The second batch will be tomorrow most likely, except with a different technique. This time we'll boil them with the skins and cores on, then run them through the food mill to get the smooth consistency. Woohoo!!