Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November: Caramel Cake

Oh! Caramel Cake! Allow me to introduce you to November's daring baker challenge - Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. In my variation I used only organic ingredients, replaced 1/4 of the flour with dark cocoa and about 1/2 the water in the caramel syrup with whisky. And when it came to the carmelized butter frosting I had to skip the powdered sugar - I have never learned to like vile and foul-tasting Swedish version of this product - and the resulting drippy warm carmel sauce tasted perfect anyway, and looked very pretty. This actually stood in for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving at our place since the little american store in Malmö has been sold out of pumpkin for weeks.

First things first, make your carmel 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 and dark amber. Then very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back. It is a good idea to have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin. Now whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers - let it cool on a spoon before touching it to test stickiness.

And now the cake:
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. 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. Now slowly add and mix about 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 the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method. When batter is uniform, turn it into prepared cake pan and pop it into the oven for about 45 to 55 minutes. Check that cake has begun to pull away fron the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the cake at room temp while you make the icing - it will keep perfectly at room temp for three days and stay nice and moist.

Now, the 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

Brown the butter. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl. Whisk in 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. Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month. To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix until smooth and light

Recipe courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon on Bay Area Bites. And for more beautiful carmel cake inspirations visit this month's hosts Dolores at Culinary Curiosity, Alex at Blondie and Brownie, Jenny at Foray into Food and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

Bon appétit!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Novembre d'une bonne vivante

Compared to the predominately evergreen forests of my childhood in the Pacific Northwest, the colorful, falling leaves of beeches, oaks and birches are fairy dust, enchanting my autumns in Southern Sweden.

Autumn is passing leisurely this year. The leaves were mostly allowed to remain in peace on their branches for the whole spectrum of color change and then make soft, dry heaps under their very own trees (and not ripped prematurely off and far away into a wet mush by gale force winds and rain like last year.)

I found autumn's last blackberry blossom and admired the new open views to the sky on my walks in Pålsjö Skog. And I managed to get four very energetic dogs to sit still together in the leaves just long enough to snap this picture(!) after a hike on Hallandsåsen Ridge. From left: Billy, my Toto, Smilla and Charlie. Bon automne!