Welcome Back Cooking Mojo, Welcome Back Daringness!

I had complete faith that my cooking mojo and my daring streak were never really gone for good, and this month they have finally returned. After a fairly terrible year (Bring on 2009 I say!) I am starting to get back on my feet again… I’ve posted more this month than I have any other month since I started this blog and I have been loving every minute of it… I haven’t participated in a Daring Bakers Challenge in a very long time, and I want to thank Lis & Ivonne for being so patient with me. Now I am back and as daring as ever! Thank-yous must also go to this months host Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity and her wonderful co-hosts Alex from Blondie and Brownie & Jenny from Foray into Food for picking a delicious and sugary challenge for my return.

DB November 2008 Challenge - Caramel Cupcakes

I decided to make my Caramel cake into cupcakes because they are easier to share (I wanted to take some to my boyfriends place and keep some here), easier to transport (well, especially after I bought my fancy doubled tiered cupcake carrier that doubles as a biscuits or slice carrier… ah, retail therapy, isn’t it great!?) and they are just so damn cute! We were also given an optional challenge of making caramels, so I took that one on as well and used them to decorate the tops of my cupcakes… I originally wanted to put stars or hearts flat on top of them, but I didn’t have any cutters small enough… I tried a half star but it just kept flopping over because my caramel was too soft… I think the ones I ended up with looked better anyway…

DB November 2008 Challenge - Caramel Cupcakes

I was a bit worried at first because there were a lot of comments in the DB forums about this cake and its icing being too sweet… as most of you will know, i don’t shy away from sugar… but I wasn’t looking forward to trying to figure out how much sugar was in them to give myself the right amount of insulin that is for sure! As it turns out I estimated it fairly well and didn’t end up with ridiculously high sugar levels, even though I ate several of these… they were so yummy! and the icing… I was eating it out of the bowl all day, the combination of burnt butter, salt and caramel just goes so well together, I couldn’t keep my fingers out of there!!

Caramel Milk

For those of you who are thinking of making this (or any other caramel in the future), my favourite tip that I picked up off the DB forum was to add milk to the sticky caramel pan and bring it to a simmer to make a delicious Hot Caramel Milk… just the thing I needed after my hard day of baking ;)

Caramel Cupcakes Makes 18

(Recipe for Caramel Cake & Caramelized Butter Frosting from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater as published on Bay Area Bites)

DB November 2008 Challenge - Caramel Cupcakes

Caramel Syrup (halved from original)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix 1/4C water & 1C 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, cover pan with foil and cut a small hole. Very carefully pour in 1/2C water to stop the caramelisation process. 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.

Caramel Cake

Preheat oven to 180C and place paper muffin cases into 18 of the 24 holes in 2 x 12 hole muffin pans. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream 10Tbsp butter until smooth. Add 1 1/4C sugar & 1/2tsp sea salt flakes and cream the mixture until light and fluffy. Slowly pour 1/3C room temperature caramel syrup (see recipe above) into the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and increase speed. Mix together 2 room temperature eggs & a splash of vanilla extract and add a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift 2C plain flour & 1/2tsp baking powder. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add 1/2C room temperature milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then another 1/2C room temperature 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.} Remove from mixer and use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Divide batter among muffin cases.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until sides pull away from the papers and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

Caramelised Butter Frosting

Cook 12Tbsp butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl, attach paddle attachment and add 450g sifted icing sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add 3Tbsp heavy cream & 3Tbsp caramel syrup. Add 1tsp sea salt flakes (or 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.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, pipe icing on top, decorate with chopped caramels (recipe below) and sprinkle generously with sea salt flakes.

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels Makes 40 (Halved from original recipe)

(from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press)

Caramels

Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm x 10cm loaf pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine 1/2C golden syrup, 1C sugar & 1/8tsp sea salt flakes in a heavy based 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 a candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 150C. Meanwhile, heat 1C heavy cream 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 150C, turn off the heat and stir in 1 1/2Tbsp butter, cut into 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 118C. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 125C for soft, chewy caramels. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1/2Tbsp vanilla extract. 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.

Thanks again to the hosts for such a delicious challenge… you can see more wonderful Daring Baker creations by going to our blogroll (and with over 1,000 of us now it would be hard for you not to stumble across a couple more of our posts even if you were trying to avoid them!)… I look forward to the next challenge :)

5 thoughts on “Welcome Back Cooking Mojo, Welcome Back Daringness!

  1. Welcome back Daring Baker! Brilliant to use the carmel candies to decorate the caramel cake!! Nice that you are baking with the group again. Happy holidays!

  2. I’m so glad you’re back, and that you chose our challenge to make your grand re-entrance. Cute cupcakes.

    And I’m with you… that frosting’s worth licking off someone you love. :)

    Thanks for baking with us.

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