Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers November - Caramel Cake with Caramelised Butter Frosting


With a recipe title like that is there anyone else whose arteries quivered at the mere thought of this cake??

This fabulous creation is Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe which you can find at Bay Area Bites, and this month's hosts are Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo) and Jenny of Foray into Food. Thanks guys, great pick!

This month's challenge was posted just in time for this to be my Dad's birthday cake back on 10th November. He loves caramel just as much as I do so it was the perfect pick.

The recipe is a little complicated in that it requires a caramel syrup to be made first which is then added to both the cake and the frosting.

My first attempt turned into a hideous blackened mess! Part of the problem was our 30 year old electric cooktop which is about a subtle as a sledgehammer. The other part was me being slightly distracted during which time the syrup went from amber to black and smoking while my back was turned (reading the recipe in my defence!)

My second attempt went better but I probably erred on the side of caution and didn't let it cook as far as it needed to. The taste was still a little sugary rather than caramelly, but it was still delicious and a gorgeous colour!

The cake itself came together beautifully. It did look a little curdled at one stage but I'm used to adding the milk and flour alternately and it always comes back together when the dry ingredients are added.

I tried out a slicone baking pan for the first time and I'm not sure why but it stuck to the bottom and was really difficult to remove. In retrospect it was probably good it happened because I was able to bend and stretch the pan to eventually release it without doing too much damage.

The only other issue I had was with the frosting, which was incredibly dry and crumbly. I ended up having to add double the amount of both cream and syrup to get it to a spreadable consistency. There was also far too much as I ended up with a full 1 1/2 cups leftover.

The taste test ...

The cake itself was incredibly good and one of the few 'caramel cakes' I've had which actually tasted like caramel rather than just sugar. I found the frosting incredibly, tooth-achingly sweet, which is probably the result of having to add extra syrup rather than the fault of the recipe itself. Now I love frosting but I ended up scraping a lot of it off my piece.

Overall a big thumbs up from all the taste testers. We had been out for dinner earlier and then came home to have cake and coffee for dessert. Despite being very full everyone ate their whole piece which is always a good sign!

Would I make it again? Probably, but not anytime soon because of the fiddlyness of the syrup. But for a special occasion it would absolutely be worth it.

Thanks to all the hosts for a great pick. It is something I wouldn't have tried otherwise!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday with Dorie: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

Despite not being in America and not normally celebrating Thanksgiving, we decided to do so this year. I will be posting about our dinner tomorrow because this post is all about the pie!

This week's Thanksgiving inspired recipe for Twofer Pie was chosen by Vibi of La Casserole Carree.

Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie aren't very common in Australia so I always order them whenever I see them on a menu. As with everything else it seems there are delicious versions and horrible pallid stodgy versions. So I was very curious to see what a blend of the 2 would be like!

This is only the second time I have used Dorie's pastry. The last time was for my peach and raspberry galette. We really enjoyed it at the time but I was disappointed with the lack of flakiness. Deb of SmittenKitchen very conveniently posted lots of pastry tips this week and while I tried to incorporate some of her techniques I still ended up with a very shrunk pastry shell! So frustrating!

I initially thought there would be far too much filling but it only spilled over the crust in a few spots, and they were the spots where the crust had shrunk considerably.

I made a few changes to the recipe, using fresh steamed pumpkin as canned is not available here, replacing the corn syrup with golden syrup and using cream instead of melted butter in the pecan filling because I was too lazy to melt any butter! I know all of these things could have affected the cooking/setting time so I wasn't worried about that at all.

It did take far longer to cook than suggested - 1 hr 25 minutes all up - but it definitely needed it and I didn't have any problems with the crust getting too brown like some others did.

The taste test ...

Wow. This was really tasty. The texture was a lot lighter than I expected and it smelt divine. My piece was just warm in the middle which made the icecream start to melt. Yum! I'm really hoping this freezes ok (I know custards can be a problem). There's no way we can (or should!) eat this between just the 3 of us!

Next week: Linzer Sables

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Cookies: Florentines

Hard to believe but there are only 5 weeks until Christmas ... 5! We are planning on making most of our gifts this year and I am going to tackle jam making for the first time which i'm looking forward to. I'll be posting about all the goodies we make over the coming weeks.

I first made florentines as a child and have fond memories of very sticky fingers from both the making and the eating! It is the perfect Christmas biscuit made with with cherries, dried cranberries and of course chocolate. I must admit they were pretty messy to make in the current weather. Humidity and chocolate are not friends! But the end result is absolutely worth it.

This post is my submission to the second annual Eat Christmas Cookies Event run by Susan at Food Blogga. Click here for all the details on how to participate and make sure you visit the round up page to see all the scrumptious submissions by clicking the logo below:

Florentines
This is a Karen Martini recipe which I copied down while watching Better Homes & Gardens back in September

250g cornflakes
380ml (1 tin) condensed milk
2 tbs honey
150g roasted peanuts
100g dried cranberries
60g glace ginger
100g glace cherries
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of 1/2 lemon
250g dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 2 trays with baking paper and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a very large bowl then pour over the honey and condensed milk. Stir well to combine. You can start off with a spoon but you may need to use your hands as it will be very sticky.

Using a 6cm cookie cutter as a guide, spoon the mixture onto the prepared trays. Allow space between them as they will spread a little. (I made half this way and the other half on a biscuit tray).

Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays. Don't try to move them until they are completely cool because they will crumble and break apart.

While the biscuits are cooling, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.

Using a palette knife, spread a little melted chocolate over the base of each biscuit and then place chocolate side up on a cooling rack to set. This will take around 20 minutes.

Makes approx 30. The biscuits will keep for a week in an airtight container, if they last that long!

Key Lime Cheesecake with Candied Lime Slices

Could there be anything that screams 'Summer!' more than this? The instant I saw this on Sass & Veracity I knew I would be making it, it was just a question of when. That time came with Sunday lunch with N's mum and it was the perfect end to a meal of perfectly cooked roast lamb.

I've made a lime cheesecake for years now but this recipe will probably become the new go-to cheesecake. I didn't get a great shot of the layers due to bad light but the contrast between crunchy biscuit base, tangy lime custard, creamy filling and smooth sour cream topping was absolutely sublime. Then the candied lime slices on top gave it an extra zesty boost!

There are no other words ... just make it!!!

Key Lime Cheesecake
I made a few minor alterations to the recipe and converted it into metric as well. You can find the original recipe at Sass & Veracity.

For the lime custard...
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice (I used 4 tbs bottled)
1 teaspoon lime zest

For the crust...
250g plain sweet biscuits (I always use Nice)
125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling...
500g cream cheese, softened at room temp
2/3 cup sugar
2 large whole eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice w/pulp
1 tablespoons lime zest

For the topping...
500g carton sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

In a small sauce pan, combine all ingredients for the lime custard and whisk over medium heat until it thickens and bubbles around the edges of the pan. Let bubble about 30 seconds then remove from heat to cool slightly before scraping into a bowl to cool to room temp.

In a food processor, crush the biscuits until they form fine crumbs. With the motor running drizzle in the melted butter and process until combined. Press mixture onto the bottom and about half way up the sides of a 9 x 3" springform pan which has been wrapped tightly with layers of aluminum foil. Place in the fridge to set.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, eggs, pulpy lime juice, and zest. Mix until smooth and creamy.

Once the crust is set (approx 20 minutes), carefully spoon the lime custard into the bottom and smooth evenly. Then spoon the filling over the lime custard, again carefully smoothing to completely cover the first layer.

Set the springform pan inside the large baking pan and then place on the oven rack. Slowly pour very hot water into the large baking pan until the level reaches about half way up the side of the springform pan. Bake for 45 minutes. It should not be puffy and center will move slightly when shaken. Combine the sour cream with the 3T of sugar and then carefully spread over the top of the cheesecake. Put it back in the oven and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, just until the topping is set.

Remove the springform pan from the water bath and let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Using a sharp knife, carefully run the knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it a bit. Then cool completely at room temperature. Cover the pan tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Release the sides before serving. Serve cold.

Candied Lime Slices
(I can't remember where I got this recipe from!)

3 limes, scrubbed to remove wax etc
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar, extra
1 cup water

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Slice the limes into thin rounds and blanch the slices in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and repeat.

Using the same pot, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer then add the lime slices. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the white pith becomes translucent. The thinner your slices the quicker this will happen.

Remove the lime slices and place on a cooling rack to drain and dry for a couple of hours.

Place the extra sugar on small plate. Once the limes are dry coat both sides of each slice with sugar. You may need more sugar.

Store in an artight container, with greaseproof paper in between the layers to stop them sticking. The slices can also be frozen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Black & White Arborio Rice Pudding

First let me say I adore rice pudding. It is pure creamy comfort in a bowl. But oh how I wish I had read the P&Q before making this one!

I did a few double takes while reading this recipe. First at just 1/4 cup of rice with that much liquid for 4 serves. Ummmm, what the...? Next at just 30 minutes cooking time to absorb 80% of the liquid into such a teeny tiny amount of rice? Eeek.

I have made rice pudding with arborio many times and we always have it in the pantry. The parboiling worked well but there simply was not enough rice. Even after close to 50 minutes cooking time it was still pretty soupy and never really thickened in the fridge.

The taste test ...

Despite the soupiness this was lovely. I much preferred the plain vanilla to the chocolate, partly because the chocolate flavour was too intense but also because it ended up with an odd grainy texture which was not at all appealing. Let the record show that N disagrees with this point - he is all about the texture. So, next time more rice, more cooking and less chocolate. Then we will have a winner!

Thank you to Isabelle of Les Gourmandises d’Isa for this week's pick. Even the weather cooperated, with temps dropping from mid 30s to low 20s (celsius). Perfect for rice pudding!

Next week: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Kugelhoph

Another first for me this week but this one was an absolute winner! Considering I have never made brioche and breadmaking is generally a bit hit and miss I was delighted with how this turned out.

I used a fluted tube pan which was conveniently exactly the size needed so I didn't need to fiddle with baking times etc. While it rose beautifully (I leave the bowl in the oven with the light on) I was a bit concerned by how soft the dough was. The instruction to "pull the sides of the dough away and let it slap down in the bowl" didn't happen because as soon as I touched it I was left with sticky stringy cobwebby bits of dough stuck all over my fingers. After it's final rise in the pan before baking I was still concerned by the consistency because it wobbled like a bowl of jelly, unlike any dough I've ever seen before!

Still, you can't argue with results and this was divine.

The taste test ...

Warm, incredibly buttery and very delicate. I love fruit breads so I left the raisins in and also added the zest of an orange to punch up the fruit flavours. This also helped to give a lovely golden colour. To be honest it really didn't need the soaking in butter at the end but I really wasn't complaining as I licked my fingers clean after my third piece!

I will definitely be making this again. And again and again and again. Yum!

Thanks to Yolanda of All Purpose Girl for this week's pick.

Next week: Arborio Black & White Rice Pudding.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spreading the Love

I have been very slack in posting a couple of blog awards I received recently. Which is even more shameful considering how gleefully I received them. It's the nicest thing in the world to receive a compliment, which is essentially what all blog awards are, so now it's definitely time to spread the love and pass them on.

Firstly from Karen of Something Sweet by Karen came the E is for Excellent award way back in September. Karen is one of my favourite bloggers and I was stunned that the day she received her award she was considering deleting her blog! That would have been a real loss. Make sure you check out her site if you haven't already for yummy recipes, great stories and truly beautiful photography.

I have picked 5 blogs to pass this on to:

Sass & Veracity

Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

Joy the Baker

What Geeks Eat

Mevrouw Cupcake

Next more recently came the Yum-Yum Blog Award from Cakelaw at Laws of the Kitchen, a fellow Australian who whips up yummy (usually sweet) treats on an amazingly regular basis. It's always a pleasure to stop by for some inspiration. I'm not sure what the rules are for this one but I have picked another 5 blogs to pass this one on to:

The Food Librarian

Lemonpi

Something Sweet by Karen

Engineer Baker

Veronica's Test Kitchen

Over the next few days I will get around and let everyone know!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dinners

Despite the lack of posts over the past week or so I have actually been cooking. And I've managed to make some pretty tasty dinners despite the recent development of light headedness practically every evening. Blah.

So in no particular order (and without recipes because to be honest I just made this stuff up) ...

Chicken Caesar Salad with giant homemade croutons, bacon and lots of crispy cos lettuce

Quick ham and asparagus macaroni cheese

Herb and mustard marinated pork steaks with herbed couscous and greek yoghurt

Chargrilled greek style chicken with rice and coleslaw

Quick vegetable fried rice with bbq pork belly

Yummy!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rugelach

I have to admit I had never eaten, seen or even heard of rugelach before this week. I actually don't even remember seeing them in Dorie's book when I first flicked through so I had no idea what I was going to find!

While I intended to make them exactly as in the recipe, time and energy ran out so I made do with what was in the pantry ... strawberry jam, flaked almonds, 72% cocoa chocolate and no currants.

I loved the dough. LOVED. Well I love anything with cream cheese actually and ate quite a few little chunks of it while I preparing the dough ... for quality assurance purposes of course!

I also rolled the dough into a (rough) circle but got nowhere near as many triangles as Dorie suggested.

The taste test ...

Hmmm. I have to say these really weren't my favourite thing. They were ok. Not great, but nice. Not sure if that was the combination of ingredients or just me. I can definitely see potential for making them with other fillings and the dough would be fab in a whole range of things. I think it needed a sweeter chocolate too.

Oh well, can't love everything and I'm glad I had a go!

Thanks to Piggy of Piggy’s Cooking Journal for this week's pick. Make sure you check out the other TWDers for better results than mine.

Next week: Kugelhoph!
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