Friday, November 28, 2008

Caramel Cake with Carmelized Butter Frosting

An indulgence best enjoyed with friends.

For those with a sweet tooth, you are in luck. I figured out that this is a very sweet cake by reading posts from other Daring Bakers who said that "this is a very sweet cake". This led to my decision to make mini cupcakes out of the cake instead so that one serving only supplied you with one day's sugar intake instead of a week's worth. I also thought they would be fun to bring to Cat and Heath's annual dessert party and the mini cupcakes would be easier to consume from a buffet.

This month's event was hosted by Dolores of Culinary Curiosity and co-hosted by Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food . The recipe chosen for the challenge is Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, as published on Bay Area Bites.

I'll admit that I had a bit of trepidation after all the calls of "too sweet", but in the end, the frosting makes the cake. The cake itself is quite moist and delicious, but the brown butter frosting is insane. It is so good! I will definitely be making this again for cakes and cupcakes in the future. The smoky, earthy, salty nature of the frosting (I added a bit extra fleur de sel, which I think is key) was a wonderful counterpoint to the sweet cake (I also held back just a touch on the sugar in the cake and I think that worked well).

Although I had developed low expectations for this cake, it ended up being a true winner that everyone seemed to really enjoy.


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

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans.
2. 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.
3. Add vanilla extract and eggs a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
4. 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.
5. 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. Bake for 35-40 minutes or till the sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cakes completely before icing it.


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.



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

1. 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.
2. 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.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Komisbrot - A Fruit Cake for the Rest of Us

This is a fruit cake for people who hate fruitcake.

I personally do not harbor the deep disdain for all things fruitcake as some do. What's not to like about bread, soaked in booze, studded with sickly sweet and freakishly colored "fruit"? As many of you may know, I have a perverse love of maraschino cherries, so it makes a bit of sense that I have indeed found a fruitcake every now and then that I can support.

Of course, the majority of fruitcakes out there are indeed cloyingly sweet, oddly alcoholic tasting bricks. This Komisbrot recipe is nothing of the sort. It is autumnal, light, airy, well balanced and a new favorite in our household. This apparently is a Serbian cake-bread that is unrelated to the German rye bread Kommisbrot. It's also the perfect thing to make to use up any extra egg whites. The recipe is taken from Palachinka, which is worth a browse for some beautiful food.

All of the measurements are based on the volume of 5 egg whites (for one loaf) and is reminiscent of pound cake in its construction style - 1 portion egg whites to 1 portion flour, 1 portion sugar, 1 portion chopped dried fruits and nuts and 1/5 portion oil.

I've used dried apricots, cranberries, raisins, and toasted walnuts, but any combo will work.

Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt. The longer you whip the egg whites, the airier the bread will be. I have found that I prefer not to overdo it. A bit of density in the final product is nice.

Slowly mix the sugar into the egg whites until well combined. Gradually mix in the sifted flour with a spoon or spatula and then the fruit and nuts (I toss the chopped fruits and nuts with a tablespoon or two of the flour to help keep them suspended in the cake instead of sinking to the bottom). Finally stir in the oil.

The whole thing can go into a greased loaf pan and then into a preheated oven at around 350 degrees (a little higher works too).

Cook until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes, but check a bit earlier just to be safe.

It's a great cake with tea in the morning or for an afternoon snack.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tarte aux Pommes - and Good Friends

I was quite excited when our good friends invited us to join them and some others for a harvesty style potluck dinner. The weather has been cooling down and nothing ushers in autumn and winter better than a great seasonal meal with friends. They served individual roasted mini pumpkins filled with chicken and Jarlsberg and a very lemony buerre blanc. Our other good friend, and great cook, Cat brought a roasted pork loin, so R and I knew we wanted to bring some sides and a dessert. In addition to a large loaf of fresh bread I made, R made her famous cranberry sauce and I made this apple tart. Other friends brought salads, a baked brie, and other delights...all in all a great meal and a great evening.

The tart was very easy, delicious, and I thought it looked great. I got the recipe from The Kitchn - the food blog arm of the Apartment Therapy empire I love.

I made a cross between Martha's pate brisee and pate sucree recipe for the crust -I always make a double batch and freeze half to use later. The only real effort is in slicing the apples, and even that doesn't take too long. A portion just gets chopped and cooked down, and some are sliced thin to decorate the top. After the tarte is baked you can brush it with an apricot glaze to shine it up. I used a quince glaze since that is what I had in the house and I thought it would be nice with the apples anyway.

This is definitely worth making when you want a nice fall tarte that looks good on the table, tastes good, is not too sweet, or merely because you want an excuse to make whipped cream.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homemade Pasta - A Pathetic Attempt at Parpadelle

For about 10 years I was a vegetarian. However, since I have never liked mushrooms, eggplant, or avocado (aka the holy trinity of vegetarianism) I often referred to myself as a carbohydratarian (which naturally preceeded the creation of this blog--carb loading without remorse). Although I now eat meat again (in limited quantity), I have also expanded my cooking/baking of carbs - hence the bread blog. Most of my time spent with dough is of the yeasted kind. For the amount of pasta we consume, before this week I'd never actually made my own. So I thought I would give it a shot. Let's just say that we need some more work.

I made a basic dough; flour, semolina, salt, olive oil, and eggs, and I cranked it through my atlas pasta machine that has been languishing in the bottom of the cupboard (even through two moves). I blame the machine for most of my frustrations. Because our counter has a deep bull nose lip and a wood molding, the machine wouldn't latch onto the edge of the counter. I was forced to clamp it to a wooden cutting board that was cantilevered off the counter at a precarious angle and was prone to sliding all over the place. This of course made it more difficult to handle the dough as it was rolled through progressively smaller passes. I also blame myself for thinking I need to work hard at keeping really long strips of dough intact. Add to that the fact that I probably should have stopped at one notch before the smallest setting, and I ended up with 10 foot long strips of translucent dough that was difficult and delicate to handle for a novice. I also didn't flour it well enough or let it dry long enough before cutting, so all of my thin layers of pasta fused together and were difficult to separate when dumping into the boiling water.

Lessons learned (assisted by a random catching of Molto Mario - on a channel that Dish is giving us free this month - where Mario Batali made homemade pasta. He used more flour, rolled not as thin, and when the sheets of pasta got too long, he just cut them into more manageable pieces, because seriously, does anyone want a 12 foot long piece of spaghetti?) I certainly plan to give this another go when I have enough time to wrangle the pasta-machine-on-cutting-board setup.

In an attempt to highlight the pasta itself, I made a simple sauce: saute thinly cut onion (or shallot) and garlic in butter and olive oil, add frozen or fresh peas, cook through, add a handful of fresh basil, toss gently with pasta and cover with parmesan/pecorino. If it's too dry you can add a bit of reserved pasta water.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cool Weather = Warm Bread

Now that the weather has finally started to cool off, I haven't been afraid to heat the oven up. While I haven't branched out into anything new and exciting, we have been enjoying some of our favorites. I've been trying to keep a batch of 5 minute a Day dough in the fridge so we have bread or pizza whenever we want. The go-to bread dough lately has been 6 cups unbleached AP flour and 1/2 cup dark rye flour per batch. We'll get three or four small loaves, or two larger boules out of this. This is also enough for a loaf or two of bread and several small pizzas. Just for fun I've thrown in a few pics of our current favorite bread (and one semolina boule), proofed in the brotform.

I've been enjoying venturing into new bread territory, but I still can't recommend Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day more highly. Especially for anyone out there who has been intimidated by yeast breads in the past, it really is so easy. Just pick up the book and a baking stone and you're in business.

HARPER and JACK <-- Harper was sitting on my lap as I typed and wanted me to type this for her.