Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: The World of Caramels!

It's crazy caramel time! This months Daring Bakers Challenge is all about Caramels! I was very excited about making the caramels but a little nervous if the cupcakes with the caramel frosting would be too sweet but my guinea pigs loved them, they said the cupcakes were dense but good and the frosting made it! The guys at work were taking two at a time and we ran out super quick!

I was sooo excited to make the caramels but in my excitement I added way too much sea salt! But I fixed it by covering them in melted chocolate (some melted chocolate chips and butter) - they were like ghetto Riesens - they were delicious!!!!

Thank you to Shauna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater for her signature caramel cake. Also, thank you four our wonderful Daring Bakers hostess Dolores and her helpers Alex and Jenny

I couldn't find any Golden Syrup but Jane came to our rescue and found a recipe from Recipe Zaar. The recipe makes 3/4 C so I had to double it.

I can't wait to see all of the delicious recipes!


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.

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 cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and 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

GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -


1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 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 - I used an 8 inch
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden 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 260°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.



1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon water
1/3 cup light corn syrup


1. Put sugar in a small heavy pan and shake pan so the sugar is in an even layer.
2. Sprinkle it with vinegar and water.
3. Cook over low heat, without stirring, for 5 minutes.
4. Increase heat to medium and cook until syrup has taken on a light caramel color, 5 to 6 minutes.
5. Immediately remove from heat and pour in the corn syrup. DO NOT STIR, but let it bubble for 2 to 3 minutes. When the bubbling stops, stir well.
6. Pour into sealed container. It can be stored at room temperature for several months.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tis the Season.........

Pumpkin season that is! I had an extra can of pumpkin in my cupboards and I know my officemate loves pumpkin so I found a delicious recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars. I am not a huge pumpkin fan nor am I a big pecan fan and that is basically all this recipe is. I did not like these when they first came out of the oven BUT the next day when I was work they were taunting me all day and when I had one I was pleasantly surprised - they were pretty good. I found that pumpkin and non pumpkin fans both liked these - so that makes them a hit in my book!

I didn't have any allspice at home, it is one of those ingredients that I always think I have but never do, so instead I just used a little less then 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg and it tasted great. Also, when they came out of the oven the first time the edges were not lightly brown and I didn't let it cool off before I added the cheesecake filling but it still worked out well. It also took me longer then 35 minutes to bake these, I kept waiting for them to brown and set firmer but they didn't I think I might have actually had them in for an extra 20 minutes but after a nite in the refrigerator they came out perfect. Enjoy!!



1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold butter or margarine
1 cup finely chopped pecans (I used pecan chips)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooked or canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice


- In a bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in pecans; set aside 3/4 cup for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture into a greased 8-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

- In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Beat in the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator.

Friday, November 21, 2008

GUEST POST!! Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies with Almond Butter!

My cousin made these delicious cookies for her husband and daughter's class (my adorable goddaughter!)

I have been wanting to make cookies different from what I usually make and then I got the December edition of Cooking Light. I decided to try Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, with some adaptations, of course. I used Barney Butter (see picture), an Almond Butter that I have been reading about on some other blogs. I also used ¼ SmartBalance blend rather than canola oil.

These were surprisingly delicious. My husband really liked them, which was surprising because I don’t think he likes peanut butter cookies, but the almond butter is very subtle. My daughter’s kindergarten class gobbled up the ones I sent in. The recipe says it makes 3 dozen, but I made 4 dozen. They were nicely chewy and not as flat as in the picture, although now I think that is maybe because I didn’t add the water.

(Source: Cooking Light)


1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter (or almond butter)
¼ c water (whoops, I never added that, didn’t even notice it until now)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
12 ounces all-purpose flour (2 2/3 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate minichips (I used more like ¾ cup)


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in minichips. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Simple and Perfect Chowder

I am not a cook and I don't like to cook, it is all about baking for me! But the other day I wasn't feeling well and I was on a soup kick for a few days. I found this great recipe but ofcourse forgot to bring it with me to the food store so when it came to making the stew I revised it a little bit.

Instead of using water I used vegetable broth, instead of peeled potatoes I used 3 small to medium sized Red potatoes and left the skin on (not the cute mini ones), I forgot celery but added a bag of frozen corn the last 8 to 10 minutes, and threw in some basil at the end. I didn't measure 1 pound of mushrooms but instead bought a container of the precut mushrooms and a container of baby bellos, which I chopped up a little bit. I also used a little less then 1/4 C. of butter. Also, next time I wouldn't throw the parmesan cheese into the soup but throw ontop as a granish.

The original recipe is below but have fun with it, if I didn't screw it up I don't think it is possible!!


1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups water
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced peeled potatoes
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


In a large kettle, saute onion in butter until tender. Add flour, salt and pepper; stir to make a smooth paste. Gradually add water, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, celery, potatoes and carrots. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add cream and Parmesan cheese; heat through.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies!!

I am off to Philly to visit one of my best friends and I figured since she always listens to what I am baking it is only fair that I bring her something - plus a great excuse to try a new recipe. After my original recipe idea went down in flames (I didn't have a key ingredient)I looked for a recipe where I could still use the miniature Reeses Peanut Butter Cups I bought (and started eating). This recipe was so simple and came out great!

Some key things I found for this recipe was that my mini offset saptula was awesome in getting the cookies out of the mini muffin tin. Also after I took them out of the tin I let them sit on a plate in the fridge for a little bit so it would be easier to pack them and then they sat patiently in my fridge over nite but they are delicious when they are first done all melty and gooey! When they came out of the oven they don't look cooked but they are and the bottoms are defiently more cooked then the top so don't fret! The recipe said that it made 40 - I got about 33-35. I unwrapped the peanut butter cups while the cookies were in the oven.

Before they went into the oven

All ready to go!




1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped


- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
- Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk. Add the flour mixture; mix well.
- Shape into 40 balls and place each into an ungreased mini muffin pan.
- Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. Cool and carefully remove from pan.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Birthday Cheesecake!

My dad loves cheesecake and so when he came down I made it per special request for his birthday! I used a new recipe and it was delicious but of course in my haste I misread the directions and added a 1 1/4 C. sugar to the crust instead of 1/4 C., the word divided is very important! But it still came out great!!! I also used packages of Fat Free and Low Fat cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese and it tasted delicious! If possible I always use the light, low fat, or no fat ingredients.




1 3/4 cups HONEY MAID Graham Cracker Crumbs (I used 2 coups)
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
3 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup Sour Cream
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling


PREHEAT oven to 350°F if using a silver 8- or 9-inch springform pan (or to 325°F if using a dark nonstick 8- or 9-inch springform pan). Mix graham cracker crumbs, margarine and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Press firmly onto bottom and 2-1/2 inches up side of pan; set aside.

BEAT cream cheese and the remaining 1 cup sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour into crust.

BAKE 1 hour to 1 hour 10 min. or until center is almost set. Turn oven off. Open oven door slightly. Let cheesecake set in oven 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Loosen cheesecake from rim of pan; remove rim. Top cheesecake with pie filling just before serving. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.