Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - Caramel Nemesis Cupcakes

Like it says
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I am actually in Miami getting ready to board a cruise ship for a week but did not want to miss posting when I had actually completed the challenge! I am typing from an iPhone though, which doesn't allow copying and pasting, so for now I am afraid I will have to omit links to the hosts and recipe. Upon my return I will remedy it all as well as more pics and my own experience. I will say that this recipe was sweet, incredibly sweet!

ETA: Okay, I'm back and wanting to add to this post. I renamed the caramel cake "Caramel Nemesis" for one reason at first, and then added another. The actual name of the recipe is Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting. Throughout the Daring Bakers challenges, caramel has been my great nemesis. So I had to approach this challenge with courage and the will to succeed. :)

I like to wait a few weeks before doing a challenge because I like to benefit from others experience. As a result I made sure the butter that goes into the icing was really browned, and I decreased the amount of sugar in the cake by 1/4 cup, just to try to cut back on the sweetness. I'm not sure it helped. These were sweet, sweet, sweet.

Where I almost quit
The point that I thought my nemesis had defeated me was when I added the caramel syrup to the cake batter. I had let it sit overnight to cool and it was too solid, so I heated it a few seconds in the microwave, putting it back to magma stage. At the point I added it, it made the batter seize up. As a result my cake was not purely caramel, more of a vanilla with caramel pieces.

The recipe comes courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon, as published on Bay Area Bites. This Daring Bakers challenge was posted by Delores from Culinary Curiosity, assisted by Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo, and Jenny of Foray into Food.

Categories: Cake, Caramel, Cupcake, Daring Bakers

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cranberry Nut Bread

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
When I was in Miss McCoy's fourth grade class, part of our study of Oregon history included Native Americans. Since we were in the northwest, we had a potlatch that included food, and acted out myths that we had written ourselves (complete with homemade masks). One of the recipes the class made was this cranberry-nut bread.

My family made it for Thanksgiving that year, and it has been made every year this time of year ever since. That means I have been making this recipe for 21 years, if anyone was counting.

The first picture is from last year, when I made it but didn't blog it. The rest of the pictures are from when I brought the muffin version to work, and were taken by Ed since I didn't have my camera. Thanks, Ed!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry-Nut Bread
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 well beaten egg
1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir in orange juice, butter, and egg. Mix together. Stir in cranberries and nuts.

Turn into a greased 9x5" bread pan. Bake for 55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then move from pan. (The muffins version bake for about 20 minutes).

Library break room, and muffins!
One thing I love about this recipe is how easy it is. Obviously, a classroom full of fourth graders managed, so give it a try. It makes a great hostess gift for Thanksgiving, or breakfast.

Categories: Bread, Cranberry, Nuts, Orange

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Curse of the Pumpkin Cheesecake

I have had some days where baking just does not go well. (See potato bread day for a clear example!). The subject of this blog, however, is a recipe that appears to be cursed.

Back when I worked at the Almost Home Tearoom making desserts, this pumpkin cheesecake was a seasonal favorite. I loved it for its lightness and interesting flavor combination - most pumpkin cheesecakes tend to be heavy and pretty solidly pumpkin in flavor.

It is still those things, but something happens in its production each time I make it outside of the restaurant. The first time, as soon as it cooled i managed to get half of it to fall off the springform pan bottom onto the floor - that was a Thanksgiving where I was eating with friends, so I shrugged and brought the safe half with me.

This year we were having a Halloween party at work, and I decided to bring the pumpkin cheesecake. I had everything mixed up when I realized I had no idea where my springform pan went. I don't think I've seen it since moving, but it was too late to want to go to the store. I decided to cook the cheesecake in a few ramekins and a 9" square pan, but that meant it didn't cook as evenly (you should have seen the cracks in the finished version) and the lovely maple sour cream layer never got added.

*Frustrated sigh*

Pumpkin Cheesecake in a Cup
The funny thing about this cheesecake, it doesn't matter how bad it looks, people seem to like it anyway. One co-worker was working at the reference desk, and rather than attempting to bring her a slice of cheesecake, she got a cup-o-cheesecake. This is a closeup of it, held by witchy hands (Halloween everyone), so you can see how very light in color it is. The crust is a delicious gingersnap concoction that goes very well with the pumpkin.

I'm curious to know if it is just me who has this curse with this recipe, or if the recipe itself is cursed. If you try it, let me know what you find out!

[Cursed] Pumpkin Cheesecake
from the Almost Home Cookbook

Mix together:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (26 crackers or 5 1/3 ounces, may use part gingersnaps)*
1/3 cup ground almonds**
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Stir in:
1/3 cup melted butter

Press into bottom of 10-inch springform pan.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, and then remove from the oven.

Beat at medium-high speed:
4 (8 oz) packages softened cream cheese (2 pounds)

Gradually add:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt

Beat fluffy and add:
3 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp Kirsch (cherry brandy or cognac)***
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Add, one at a time:
4 eggs

Beat well and add:
1 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup whipping cream

Pour into crust. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes. Turn off oven but do not open door for one hour.

2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Kirsch

Spread over cheesecake. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool one hour.

Arrange around top edge of cheesecake:
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

Chill 3 hours and remove from pan.

Serves 14-16

*We always used all gingersnaps, but at least half.
**I have substituted pecans before for this, but almond is good.
***Don't leave this out - it really adds a very interesting flavor depth to this recipe.