Daring Bakers Go Crazy for Caramel!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

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This is going to be a short and very sweet Daring Bakers post for this month. Most of you already know that I’ve been away on a family cruise since last Friday, November 21. I was a good DBer and completed my challenge before I left, but I just didn’t have time to write my post. So, having just arrived home today at around 3:00 p.m., and being utterly exhausted, I am throwing this up to meet the November deadline.

This month’s challenge is one that I was very happy to accept! It is for Shuna Fish Lydon’s signature Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. Shuna has been a professional pastry chef for over fifteen years and the voice behind the deliciously excellent blog Eggbeater. I am a total caramel junkie, so I knew that I was going to love this cake!

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I wish I had time to get into more detail on my experience with making this cake. Surprisingly, the whole process went pretty smoothly. The first thing I did was make the caramel syrup. I was a nervous wreck because I had never made caramel before and I was a little scared of it. But, with a tips from some helpful DBers, I was able to make a lovely, sticky, amber syrup without burning my house down! The recipe provided makes enough caramel syrup to complete the cake with enough leftover to enjoy over ice cream and mixed into coffee. Mmmm! I really enjoyed that!

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The Caramelized Butter Frosting was to die for! I added about a teaspoon of fleur de sel to it for a salted butter caramel flavor. It did not disappoint!

I decided to make a four-layer cake with some frosting nestled between each layer. I baked my cake in two 8-inch pans and then sliced each into two horizontal pieces. When, I assembled the cake, I also added toffee bits on top of each layer of frosting for some crunch. When the cake was completely frosted, I drizzled some caramel syrup on top for a little extra oomph!

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This cake is not for the faint of heart, people. There is sugar and butter galore in it, and it is very rich and very sweet. But, I thought it was marvelous! Of course, it is not something you’d eat every day, but it would be a wonderful choice for a special occasion.

There was also an optional challenge recipe chosen for this month. It was Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from her wonderful book, Pure Dessert. I desperately wanted to make these little treats, but I just never got around to it. I looked in several stores for Lyle’s Golden Syrup and couldn’t find it, which was kind of unusual. I just didn’t have time to go crazy searching for some right before my trip, so I had to pass on them. Never fear, though, I definitely plan to make these at least a few times during this Holiday season! They look and sound utterly amazing!

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My thanks go out to Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity; Alex of Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray of Food, for serving as our hosts this month. They not only selected a wonderful recipe for us to enjoy, but also graciously provided much helpful advice.

If you’d like to see what the many hundreds of other talented and creative Baring Bakers did with this challenge, please take some time to visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll. I know you’ll be inspired!

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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 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.

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. (Use the foil trick)

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

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS (makes 80 1-inch caramels) from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

Ingredients:

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

Equipment:

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Method:

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.

Variations

Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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