Salted Caramel Cake

  
I eat a lot of cake and cookies–more than most people, I would say. I usually prefer chocolate cake or my inner-child-love of funfetti. This time, I let my husband loose on a new bundt cake focused cookbook and he selected a salted caramel cake. Caramel is usually an “ok” flavor for me but it isn’t something I lay awake at night thinking about.

Or, at least, it used to be something I didn’t crave. Now I can’t stop thinking about this cake. It’s the most delicious cake I have ever made–and perhaps ever eaten. It is super dense, moist, and has the deepest, smoothest, luscious caramel flavor. Add the icing on top? I may never want another cake again.

This recipe is a bit involved to start with since you have to make the caramel syrup first. I’m not very familiar with sugar work, so I was a little intimidated. Like most things, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I had feared. On the upside, you’ll end up with at least a cup or so of extra syrup. Add it to coffee, or just roll around in it.  

 It took quite a long time to develop the color on the sugar but, it went pretty quickly once it did have some color. The directions here were a little vague–I was supposed to stir the water in and cook until the syrup “thickened” but how much? As it turns out, not much at all. The syrup will still look quite watery in the pan (it maybe would have passed the line on the back of the spoon test) but will thicken tremendously as it cools to a very thick molasses like consistency.

The batter for the cake was easy and, except for the caramel syrup, was all basic ingredients. Then the scary part: preparing an intricate bundt pan. I hadn’t used this football stadium shaped pan before and there were so many nooks and crannies! I feared for my poor little cake but followed the melted butter/flour mixture worked in with a pastry brush technique. Then, I crossed my fingers and poured the batter in the pan.

  
VICTORY! I knew when I pulled the cake out of the oven I was in pretty good shape as it was pulling away from the pan.

  
…and turned out!

  
I let it cool completely then added the frosting (similar to a basic buttercream with caramel syrup added).

  
Next time, I will flip the cake out onto its final resting platter rather than giving it more time on the rack to cool. It was very difficult to move without breaking and its not like I was trying to preserve a crisp crust or anything like I do with bread. I’ll also ice it differently when I use this pan again since you can’t really tell its a stadium. Oh well.

This cake was AMAZING. My nephew who doesn’t really even like caramel loved it. I will probably double this recipe next time and make a larger bundt cake with it since everyone was sad when the cake was finished.

Salted Caramel Cake
Makes a 6-cup bundt pan size cake.

Caramel Syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp fleur de sel (or other fancy salt)

In a small saucepan with high sides, mix the sugar with 1/2 cup of water and stir until combined. Use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sides of the pan to prevent crystalization of the sugar. Cook over high heat until it turns a dark amber color. DO NOT STIR THE PAN. Swirl the pan occasionally to ensure even coloring. When the sugar is dark amber, carefully pour in the remaining 1 cup of water. The caramel will bubble up and sizzle, so stand back. Reduce the heat and whisk the caramel mixture until somewhat thickened. Allow to come to room temperature before proceeding.

Caramel Icing:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons caramel syrup
pinch of fleur de sel
1-3 tablespoons heavy cream to get the consistency frosting you want

Whisk the butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla, syrup, salt and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream in a bowl until well blended. Add more cream as needed.

Caramel Cake:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups (240 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup caramel syrup
1 cup whole milk

plus more butter and flour for the pan

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare the pan by brushing with melted butter, then flour. Work into all the nooks and crannies with a pastry brush.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In your stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium to cream until light and fluffy. Add vanilla then the eggs, one at a time until combined. With the mixer on a low, gradually add the caramel syrup and beat until incorporated. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk and beat until blended.

Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top and bake until done. The guideline in the recipe for a standard shaped bundt pan was 45-55 minutes but my stadium pan was done in 35. Watch your cake carefully and make liberal use of your cake tester!

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto your platter. Drizzle with the frosting and eat!

Blueberry Muffin Bout

  

  
I used to be anti-blueberry muffin. I’d always go with the banana nut or chocolate muffin (which, lets face it–is just a cupcake). I’ve come around though to the classic pleasure of a blueberry muffin especially if it had a perfect crumble topping. I have tried a lot of different recipes in the past but never found *the one* so, here we go again with the perfect recipe search.

The first contender: To Die For Blueberry Muffins from AllRecipes. With almost 8,000 reviews, this has to be pretty good, right? I read through some of the reviews and decided to do what many did and subbed buttermilk for the milk. Mostly because I had some buttermilk that was on its last day.

  
One thing I like about muffins? Easy mixing, baby. One bowl, minimal fuss. Add everything in and stir. The crumble topping in this recipe made FAR more than I needed for my muffins, so I have it in the fridge for the next batch. Next time, I will double the muffin batter and keep the same amount of crumble.

  
These muffins were quite delicious and looked fantastic. Super soft and fluffy on the interior and just the right amount of blueberries. The crumble was tasty though some of the other all recipes reviewers subbed brown sugar in for the white sugar and I’m thinking I may do the same. The white sugar gives you almost a hardened glazey shell on the muffin rather than a traditional chunky crumble. The crumble as written is delicious–don’t get me wrong–but I am just wondering if it could be better.

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins
Makes 8 big muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup frozen wild blueberries (wild blueberries are smaller than regular berries)

For the crumble topping:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners. (I didn’t and I regret this decision)

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries which may or may not turn your batter blue–don’t worry. Fill muffin cups almost to the top, and sprinkle generously with crumb topping mixture.

To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork or pastry cutter, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Craziness: One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you bake with kids, you know the deep pain of a child waiting for butter to soften. It takes FOREVER–especially in the cooler months when you really want to be baking cookies. I feel your pain and this recipe is here to rescue us both. It has just the basic ingredients and–to make it EXTRA easy–it uses butter softened in the microwave. And, if that wasn’t enough to tempt you–it also only takes one bowl.

After you soften your butter in the microwave, you hand mix the sugars in, followed by the rest of the ingredients. The softened butter makes it easy to get everything combined without having to lug out a heavy stand mixer. Add in the chocolate chips at the end and you are ready to bake!

As I always do, I use a cookie disher to portion my cookies. My favorite for cookies with chocolate chips or other chunky stuff is the 1.5 Tablespoon size.

I baked them until the centers were just set and non glossy. I like a nice chewy cookie and, much like eggs, if you bake them until they are done in the oven, they’ll be overcooked when you want to eat them.

In my continuing adventures in freezing, I froze about half of my dough by plopping it onto a sheet of parchment paper and shaping it into a log with my pastry scraper: Then I wrapped the parchment log into cling film and put it in the freezer. I’m hoping for easy slice and bakes in my future!

In the end, these cookies are pure classic perfection. Simple ingredients, lots of chocolate chips, and a buttery softness to the dough. Since the butter and sugar weren’t creamed together, these cookies stayed nice and dense and decidedly cookie-ish rather than any cakey qualities. I don’t know if this cookie could really be improved on.

One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
One bag (10-11 oz) of chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Put the butter in a large (microwave safe) bowl. Heat the butter in small increments (10 seconds or so), stirring in between each. You want the butter to be nicely softened but not melted or runny. Add the sugars and vigorously stir them into the butter until well blended. Stir in the egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda thoroughly. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Then fold in the chips.

If the dough is very soft, you can add a few more tablespoons of flour to stiffen it up (or just put it in the fridge for a few minutes while you clean up).

Use a disher to portion the cookies onto the sheet pans and bake until set (start checking at 8-10 minutes but use your own discretion based on the size of cookies you end up with).

Battle Pizza Crust: Beer Crust Part 2

Straight from the freezer–to my piehole!

When I originally made the Beer Crust Pizza, I froze half of the dough since one pizza is really plenty for us.

After a week or so of waiting in there, I pulled it out in the morning and let it thaw in the fridge for dinner that day. It thawed easily and was, as most pizza crusts are after being frozen and thawed, a little wetter/stickier than it was when it was fresh. It was a little more difficult to shape given the stickiness. I ended up stretching it on the sheet pan rather than my usual in the air using my knuckles method.

You’d never know there was any difference in the feel of the dough after it baked up–crispy on the bottom and super flavorful with the beer and Parmesan cheese in the dough. It is the kind of crust that has enough going on that I–a naked crust hater–ate them up!

Next time I make a batch of this, I may try a double batch so I have three portions in the freezer. It seriously is faster than making a frozen pizza and much more delicious!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’ve discussed my love of muffins many times on this blog and I stand by my feelings. Today, I have a favorite for you–peanut butter chocolate chip muffins! Two of my favorite flavors in my favorite bready shape!

 

This is a standby recipe in our house and, to be honest, I usually make a 4x batch of these since they freeze perfectly! I just freeze them either in the pan or in a single layer until they are hard, then pop them into large freezer bags. They’ll defrost on the counter overnight or in a few hours in a lunchbox.

 

These are as easy as pie to put together and, since there are many lickable things in the batter, are a great option for cooking with kids. I’ve made these with both smooth and crunch peanut butter and both work fine.

 

These are dense, heavy muffins with a strong peanut butter flavor and are quite sweet for a breakfast muffin. I’d say if you don’t like a sweet morning muffin, these would be a fantastic option for a cupcake with a little chocolate frosting or ganache on top.

These stay fresh for a few days before getting hard but they don’t last long in my house anyway.

Peanut Butter Muffins

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunch or smooth)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup milk or semi-sweet (I used semi-sweet) chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, peanut butter, eggs and milk until smooth.
Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter into your paper-lined muffin tin. Each cup should be filled to the top, not just half way up, to ensure you get a nice dome on the muffin.

Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the top of the muffin springs back when lightly pressed.

Butterscotch Swirl Cake

 

If you are from Michigan–at least the Detroit area–you’ve no doubt heard of Sander’s Candy. It is, without a doubt, the best hot fudge IN THE WORLD. In addition to their amazing sundae toppings, they also bake coffee cakes. Legend says (actually, my Mom told me) that they used to have an amazing butterscotch coffee cake that my grandfather loved. While I never had it, I’m determined to bake a great butterscotch cake for her. After some googling, I decided upon the Butterscotch Swirl Cake from the Galley Gourmet, a new to me food blog.

 

This is an upside down cake with a glaze that covers the bottom of the pan before you assemble the cake on top. The glaze and dough both came together very easily and I was ready to assemble!

 

I found assembly a little difficult but something that would probably be much better the second time I made it. I ended up cutting my long strips into shorter strips to make it easier. I was a little doubtful that the dough would proof enough to fill the cake pan but it did.

 

It baked beautifully but LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES. Put this pan on a rimmed sheet pan to go into the oven or the glaze mixture will spill over the pan and smoke up your oven!

After baking, I set to the most difficult part of the cake: turning it out onto a platter. This was….not pleasant. My cake ended up sticking in a few places and a good chunk of it needed to be reassembled.

 

So how did it turn out? The cake and glaze had that amazing butterscotch flavor I was after: sugary, buttery, and deeply golden brown. Now–the downsides. The glaze over-hardened on me. Instead of being a glaze, it was more of a..shell? I wanted something more like a frosting/soft glaze (think cinnamon roll icing) but the glaze in this recipe almost turned to crumbly candy on the edges. Even with my problems, I am going to make this again with a few changes: I’ll keep the cake as is because it is both beautiful and delicious. I’ll make the same glaze but, instead of baking it on the bottom of the cake pan, I’ll simply pour it over the cake when it comes out of the oven. I may add some brown sugar to the filling as well.

Molasses Spice Cookies

 

There are times when I end up making cookies before I even realize I haven’t taken photos of the process. If whatever it is turns out well, I’ll try to remember to add it back to the list of things to make and hopefully take pictures of.

These cookies were too good to wait on though–crispy on the edges, super chewy on the inside. They smelled like Christmastime and were beautifully uniform coming out of the oven. My daughter is pretty picky about non-chocolate items and she had two (and then went back and snatched another from the container when I wasn’t looking). I consider that a success, my friends.

My Mom used to by those archway brand soft molasses cookies that had some type of thin frosting on them. I haven’t had them in ages but I’d love to find a homemade substitute. These were very close–a bit thinner than the store bought version but much more delicious. Anybody know what kind of magic goes into that frosting? Is it just a thin buttercream? I need to do some experimenting, clearly.

I used up about 2/3 of my dough making two sheets of cookies. I ended up prepping the rest of the cookies as sugar-dredged balls and freezing them. If these bake up well from frozen, these could be a staple around these parts.

Molasses Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus 1/3 cup for dredging)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger (I was out of this, so I ground up some crystalized ginger and it was delicious!)
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Cream the sugars and butter in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing them to fully incorporate before continuing. Add molasses and the oil.

Mix in the baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, salt and flour gradually. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate to firm up–at least on hour to overnight.

Preheat oven to 325. Use a cookie disher (I used my beloved #50 scoop) to portion the dough directly into the bowl of sugar a few at a time. Roll around in the sugar to fully dredge, then place on a cookie sheet 3 inches apart.

Bake, rotating halfway through just until the cookies are flat and set in the middle. I started checking at about 10 minutes.

These cookies store well but you’ll need to place sheets of parchment between them to prevent them from sticking together.

Toasted Ravioli

  

Honestly, I don’t know why these are called toasted ravioli because they certainly aren’t toasted in any way. Fried ravioli would be accurate but maybe that isn’t as sexy and exciting as “toasted”. Regardless, these are something any St. Louis native would recognize but they don’t seem to have made it to nation-wide recognition yet. That is a shame because you are missing out if you haven’t had these!
If you have ever fried anything, this recipe will be a cinch. If you haven’t fried anything before, this will be a great place to start. 
You can work with ravioli straight from the freezer. I used round cheese ravioli but my sister in law from St Louis insisted they should be square meat ravioli. I say use what you have and like. 
Crack a few eggs in a bowl and add a little milk or buttermilk to thin the mixture. Add some salt and pepper and beat the eggs for a minute.  In another bowl, season some breadcrumbs with some salt and pepper. 

  
Dredge the ravioli in the egg mixture, then the breadcrumbs a few at a time.  When you are close to complete, begin heating 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot with high sides. 

  
Once the oil is close to 400 degrees, add a few ravioli (one or two at a time). I put them on a slotted spoon and lower them in because I’m not into oil splash burns. 

Cook for about 90 seconds (more or less–this will depend on the size of your ravioli). Lay them to drain on paper towel while you finish the batch. 

Serve with warmed marinara sauce. 

  

Battle Pizza Crust: Beer Crust Pizza

It’s FOOTBALL TIME! Though my beloved Lions are probably going to be terrible again this year, I can still celebrate the season with the perfect football delicacies: Beer and Pizza.

But wait–why not combine these two??

 

Oh yes. Sign me up.

This dough came together in a snap with only a few ingredients:

I’m so smooth and easy to work with.

 

As for flavor, this was really delicious. The Parmesan cheese in the dough added a lot and the beer added a certain level of tang to the crust that I haven’t gotten from a more traditional yeast dough. This crust wasn’t chewy like some of the others I have tried but it wasn’t really a negative, just different. I think this would make a really fantastic deep dish pizza crust. I saved half of the dough in the freezer and I will use it to try a deep dish pizza in a cast iron skillet.

Beer Crust Pizza
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups semolina
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I only had shredded and it was fine!)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups room-temperature beer (I used Shiner Bock but anything you have will work)

Mix all the ingredients together and knead by hand until you have a soft, smooth dough. Cover the dough and allow to rise for 30 minutes to 2 hours. I put mine in the fridge overnight.

Divide the dough in half and shape into a roughly pizza shaped object. If you want a thinner crust, top and bake immediately. For a thicker crust, allow to rise for 30 minutes before topping and baking. Transfer to a heated oven with a pizza stone (or a large cast iron skillet) and allow to bake until the cheese and bubbly and the crust is done.