Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daringly Delicious Days

Since saying my goodbyes to the 9 to 5 life I have been given a most wonderful gift, the gift of time. Gone are the days of rising at the painfully chilly hour of 6am only to rush off and spend the bulk of my day sitting on my bum in front of one computer or another plugging away at tedious busy office work. My rushed eaten in the car on the way to work breakfasts have been replaced with slow cooked oatmeal, fresh baked muffins, and hot tea with milk mornings. Lunches and dinners are well thought out, perusing farmers markets and flipping through magazines for inspiration then taking my time in the kitchen, preparing ingredients, jotting down notes, taking in the scrumptious smells and vibrant colors of everything cooking, and snapping delicious pictures along the way. Though I am still busy with odd jobs and orders for baked goodies here and there when I need them to be my afternoons and evenings are free leaving me plenty of time for meeting with friends both old and new, exploring new restaurants and shops, experimenting in the kitchen, and at the end of the day writing delicious bits and pieces about it all. My life has flip flopped in a most pleasant way. I am quite accustomed to being busy as a bee but this is a brand new kind of busy for me. My days and weeks are still jam packed full but they are now spent doing things that I love love love, and that makes me one very happy Rachel Marie.

One delightful thing in particular that I have been able to do recently with my time is join a lovely group of talented bakers and writers called, “The Daring Bakers” and just in time for a most delicious November Daring Bakers challenge, Caramel Cake with Caramel Frosting. For this challenge we used a scrumptious recipe for caramel cake from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater and Alice Medrich’s recipe for Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from her book, Pure Dessert. Assisting our darling challenge host this month are the lovely Alex aka Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo, Jenny of Foray into Food, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

So without further adieu here is my gluten free Mari Made take on this delicious challenge and my first Daring Baker blog post.

Caramel Cupcakes with Carmel Frosting

Recipe from Shuna Fish Lydon
Changes to recipe ingredients and/or cooking methods noted in italics.
Makes 16 cupcakes

Ingredients for Caramel Syrup

2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

Preparing Carmel Syrup

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 a wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until caramel turns a dark amber and starts smoking slightly.

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. {Or you can be extra cautious and wear gloves and protective eyewear}.

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 {or you can just keep those stylish rubber gloves on while whisking}.

Ingredients for Carmel Cupcakes

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1¼ Cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup
2 eggs, at room temperature 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup super fine brown rice flour 
½ cup potato starch 
½ cup tapioca flour 
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 cup vanilla soy milk, at room temperature

Preparing the Carmel Cake

First off preheat your oven to 350F then decide what you want to bake. If you want to make a cake Shuna says to butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan. I decided to make cupcakes so I could easily share my first delicious baking challenge with both my family and friends at the theater. I found when cups were filled 2/3 full that this recipe made for 18 perfectly portioned cupcakes.

After you have prepped your pans in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt and cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room the temperature caramel syrup into the mixing bowl.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and increase speed. Add the eggs and vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again and beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder into a separate bowl.

Turn the mixer to the 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 the mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan or spoon into cupcake cups.

If making a cake place the cake pan on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven, bake for 30 minutes then rotate the pan and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. If making cupcakes bake for 13-15 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Cool cake(s) completely before icing.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Ingredients for Caramelized Butter Frosting

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups 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.

Once butter has cooled pour it into the 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 the mixture looks smooth and all of the 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.

The cupcakes were absolutely divine! The cake was fluffy, perfectly sweet, and had the most wonderful texture. They also maintained their deliciousness even after sitting on my counter in an airtight container for three days. After I made the caramel candies (recipe bellow) while some of the caramel was still warm I cut off a chunk and stretched it into strings to decorate some of the cakes with pretty spiral patterns. You would probably only want to do this with the softer caramel, as the harder ones might be too much of a texture contrast to the soft fluffy cake.

As if caramel cake with caramel frosting was not enough deliciousness for one day there was still another sweet treat left to make.

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels

From Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
Changes to recipe ingredients and/or cooking methods noted in italics.
Makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels


1 cup caramel syrup
2 cups sugar
¼ 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


A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer
Parchment or wax paper for wrapping caramels

Making the Caramels

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the caramel 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 245°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.

These caramels are divine! I definitely prefer the soft ones to the hard but really both are delish. I wanted to make my first batch a pure vanilla caramel but am already looking forward to experimenting more with the recipe for the holidays. My taste buds are already tingling at the thought of dark chocolate and sea salt caramels or maybe soft scotch mellow caramels. So many delicious possibilities!

So my first daring bakers challenge was such fun, a great learning experience, and I’d say a most delicious success. I can’t wait to see what delicious challenge December has in store, stay tuned!


Irene said...

welcome! I read your history on the Daring Baker website and I'm so glad you persevered through all your hardships. I hope you enjoy many sweet days to come.

MoneyBonanza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Natalie said...

OK now I would eat those caramels. They look delicious!!

Gretchen Noelle said...

WOnderful job with your cupcakes. They look terrific! Welcome to the Daring Bakers.

Vittoria said...

I've found you a little while ago, and I love those cupcakes. they look fabulous! I was just informed that I'm going to be working a 4 day week, and I hope, like you I'll be able to have some more time to myself in the kitchen. best of luck :)

Sandy said...

Rachel! Those caramels were absolutely yummy! I admit, I ate quite a few! Great job on your challenge! I recently took a notice to the Daring Baker website and HERE YOU ARE! =)

rachel marie said...

the cupcakes and caramels both turned out so scrumptious that i think i am going to be making them again this week to take to an event i am cooking for on thursday and Sandy that means i will be bring more to the theater soon too! :-)

a 4 day work week sounds fabulous Vittoria! let me know what delicious dishes you cook up!