I made that!

Happy Birthday Abbe!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Celebrating with Cake! by brandi on March 6, 2009

This weekend my landlord Abbe is celebrating her birthday and her husband Jim asked me to bake a cake. Of course I couldn’t refuse. He wanted me to recreate a cake he tasted on a recent trip to the south: a Caramel Pecan Cake. I’m not sure if my interpretation was a close match, but I’m certain it’s tasty…

Since I’m a buttercream fan, I like to start there when putting together my cake combinations. I wanted to make a really caramelly frosting (surprise sursprise) and needed a cake that could stand up to that amount of flavor. After some poking around, I found a recipe on Epicurious that called for mixing a caramel syrup and roasted pecans straight into the cake batter. Since I hadn’t done that before I decided to experiment. The first test run sunk like crazy, but after adjusting the amount of batter in the pans it rose beautifully.

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I actually did a decent job of keeping it looking like a cake while assembling the layers, a rare treat for photographing.

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A bunch of toasted pecans thrown on the sides later and I had a cake for Abby!

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And now I’m off to Napa for the weekend! but first – the recipe:

For caramel:

3 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water

For cake:

1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

Make caramel:
Bring sugar and 3/4 cup water to a boil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals on side of skillet with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling skillet occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber. Remove from heat and carefully and slowly whisk in remaining 1 1/2 cup water (mixture will steam vigorously and may stiffen). Return to a boil and stir until caramel has completely dissolved. If necessary, simmer until just syrupy, 1 to 3 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Toast pecans for cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Toast pecans in a 4-sided sheet pan in oven until fragrant and a shade darker, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and coarsely chop.

Make cake:
Put 2 cups cooled caramel syrup in a bowl and add butter, egg, and cream, whisking well after each addition.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and sugars into a large bowl. Make a well in center, then add caramel mixture and gradually whisk in dry ingredients until smooth. Fold in pecans. Chill, covered, until cold (or 12 to 24 hours for best results).

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Butter two 8″ cake pans.

Divide batter among the pans. Bake until cakes just spring back when lightly pressed, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cakes to room temperature. Remove from pans and frost.

How Tessa Got Her Teeth Back

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, The Candy Store by brandi on March 3, 2009

After 1 year of being a certified metal mouth, my friend Tessa got her braces  off yesterday. Since this is OBVIOUSLY a cause for celebration, we are celebrating. Tonight. With 2 things gooey and forbidden to the contemporary braceface: Candied apples and homemade cracker jack popcorn.

I got a little excited about the caramel apples, even made a special trip to Flax for supplies (Why don’t grocery stores sell popsicle sticks?). I found some festive colored sticks and the rest is history. As in, I jabbed them into some apples.

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Then I made a caramel sauce with yummy things like molasses, maple syrup and lots of sugar and butter.

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After the sauce cooled down a bit, I dunked the apples.

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It was harder than it sounds. There was some serious temperature regulating that did not happen. Too hot and it all slides right off the apple, but too cool and it looks all thick and gloppy (I gave that one to John, he didn’t mind). I dipped them in crushed pistachios too, but most of them slid into a little puddle at the bottom. Kind a little nut stand to prop the apples up. In the end I did get a few that looked halfway decent.

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Yes, it’s a ribbon. Got that at Flax too.

After that it was on to some more stickiness. Crackerjack is super easy to make, and I think this one will go into the regular rotation.

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I could’t remember what it even tasted like, but when I popped some of these in my mouth it was like “wow – THAT”S what it tastes like!” Highly recommend making a batch for yourself.

RECIPE:

1/2 cup unpopped popcorn

4 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup shelled peanuts

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons molasses

1 teaspoon salt

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

– Put the popcorn in a brown paper bag, pour in 4 teaspoons of olive oil and close the bag with a piece of tape. Heat it on high in the microwave for 3 minutes. Put it in a bowl.

– Add the peanuts to the popcorn.

– For the caramel, heat the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses and salt in a pan on the stove until the butter is melted and the sugar is smooth and not grainy anymore. Pour this mixture over the popcorn and peanuts, stirring well. Pour it all onto a cookie sheet and place in oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring once or twice. It will be gooey and wet.

– Let air dry until crisp, then store in an airtight container until ready to be devoured.

Bacon + Ice Cream = Happyface

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, All Things Pork, The Creamery by brandi on March 1, 2009

We finished off the rest of the Meyer Lemon gelato last night, and I was feeling the need to fill the void IMMEDIATELY. Also, I have my landlord’s ice cream maker on loan and am itching to put it to good use. Whilst poking around on the interweb for ice cream recipes, I found one for candied bacon ice cream on David Lebovitz’s site. I really can’t think of a flavor I’d like to make more. Well, except maybe some of the Humphry Slocombe flavors (government cheese flavored ice cream? BLOWING. MY. MIND.), but anyways. I don’t care how cliché the bacon dessert trend is, I am all over it like salt on caramel.

As all good things in life start, this one started with candying some bacon strips. It sounds kinda fancy, but it really just means baking bacon with brown sugar until it caramelizes. The hardest part is not stuffing it all in my mouth.

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I chopped the bacon into little bits and hid them to keep from eating them.

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Then I made a custard flavored with brown sugar and cinnamon. The recipe called for rum, but we don’t have any and I was much too lazy to go get some.

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I chilled the custard and put it in the ice cream spinner. Once it was thick and creamy I tossed in the bacon bits. Then I spooned it into a container and stuck it in the freezer to firm up. This is always the hardest part, waiting and waiting until it seems “ready”.

As usual, we only made it an hour, long before it was completely firm. But to be honest, I like the pre-firm squishy moment of ice cream. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m digging in.

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Wow.

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Update: I just went for a run in the rain to justify coming back to the house and eating bacon ice cream for lunch. I think I might be in trouble.

RECIPE:

For the candied bacon:

5 strips bacon

about 2 tablespoons brown sugar

 

For the ice cream custard:

3 tablespoons (45g) salted butter

¾ cup (packed) brown sugar (170g), light or dark (you can use either)

2¾ (675ml) cup half-and-half

5 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons dark rum or whiskey

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

optional: ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

To candy the bacon:

– preheat the oven to 400.

– Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet.

– Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon.

– Bake for 12-16 minutes. Midway during baking, flip the bacon strips over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet.

– Continue to bake until as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool.

– Once cool, chop into little pieces.

To make the ice cream custard:

– melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan.

– Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half.

– Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.

– In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm brown sugar mixture to them, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour.

– Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

– Cook over medium low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

– Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool.

– Add liquor, vanilla and cinnamon.

– Refrigerate the mixture.

– Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

– Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning.