Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mini Caramel Cupcakes with Carmelized Butter Frosting

November 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge

Author: Shuna Fish Lydon
Recipe Origin: Caramel Cake, the recipe
DB Challenge Hosts: Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food with gluten-free recipe assistance from Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go .

It will come as no shock if I point out that two days ago was Thanksgiving, the mother of all American cooking holidays. It's also the end of the semester, and the papers I have to grade are piling up. And then there's this other holiday that's coming -- you, know: Christmas -- and preparations have already begun. So getting this challenge together was, well, challenging.

By far, the most difficult part of this was making the caramel syrup. I wasn't sure what I was looking for - how dark? How thick? I'm still not sure if I got it right, or if I just ended up with simple syrup.

The cake and frosting were reasonably straightforward. I did enjoy practicing browning butter; it's always fun to play with a technique you didn't know or had forgotten, and browned butter really does add a nuttiness that melted butter lacks.

As for the whole package -- the cupcakes topped with frosting -- I wasn't wowed. They remind me of yummy vanilla cupcakes, but the caramel notes are lost on me. Perhaps this is due to my issues with the caramel syrup.

DBers, how did you do with this challenge?


Caramel Cake with Carmelized Butter Frosting (adapted)

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. Line two mini-muffin pans with cupcake liners.

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 pans on cookie sheets. Set first timer for 15 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 10-15 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until a skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

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. {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.


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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Personal Trainer: Cooking

I can't believe it. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to play with this.
(Hint, HINT Nintendo.)

What do you guys think?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

My new favorite vegetable to play with is Spaghetti Squash. Slice it open, cook it, shred it with a fork and poof! -- strands of squash that look like spaghetti.

It's dead simple to prepare: just slice it in half length-wise, scoop out the seeds, loosely cover each open half with plastic wrap and microwave until the sides are softened, about 10 minutes. Then carefully scrape the hot squash with the tines of a fork and you're ready to go.

Since this is a winter squash, and winter weather calls for rich and creamy comfort foods, I like using Spaghetti Squash in a gratin. This recipe has a bit of Italian flair; the creme fraiche or sour cream just provides creaminess, and the Parmesan, asiago, parsley, sage and garlic flavors take center-stage. (You can easily leave out the sage if you like, too.) The result is a flavorful, deeply satisfying dish that can be eaten either as an entree or a side.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

1 spaghetti squash (2-3 lbs), halved lengthwise (stem to blossom end) and seeded
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground pepper
8 oz Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream
1 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, or a mixture of both

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place squash, skin side up (one half at a time), on microwave-safe dish; cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 10-12 min, until tender.

Carefully run the tines of a fork lengthwise over cut surface of squash to loosen spaghetti-like strands; scoop out strands. Drain excess liquid, if necessary, and set aside.

Combine garlic, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, creme fraiche/sour cream, and 2/3 cup cheese in small bowl. Fold into squash; place in shallow ovenproof 2 qt. casserole dish or glass pie plate. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake 20 min or until lightly browned. (For a little extra browning, finish under the broiler.)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mmmm.... Haute Chocolate

Louis Roederer Brut Champagne NV + White Chocolate Truffles from Vosges.

Vosges Haute Chocolate is offering a special discount to readers of Laura Rebecca's Kitchen!

(Ok, they're offering discounts through other blogs, too, but let's feel special for a moment, shall we?)

Today through November 30th, you can receive 10% off all orders made through the Vosges website. To receive your discount, enter promo code 2811PR1 at checkout. Use it to get a jump on your holiday shopping, bring a fabulous hostess gift to Thanksgiving dinner, or just treat yourself to something wonderful. Enjoy!