Saturday, 29 November 2008

Caramel Cake

Daring BakersI've gone over to the dark side ... the dark side of caramel syrup I mean. I got so distracted with John Sargeant's dance of the pasa doble in Strictly Come Dancing's current season. The hilarity of seeing him dragging Kristina Rihanoff like a man taking out the rubbish was enough to make me forget the caramel syrup I was boiling. Let's just say it got quite dark with just a tinge of bitterness in it which I think is fabulous. So a thank you is in order to John and Kristina for making me burn the syrup. Hehehe!

Caramel Syrup

Now getting back to baking, this month's Daring Baker's challenge is - Caramel Cake by Shauna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater and an optional Golden Vanilla Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. It would have been a tragedy had I not made the latter since me and my family including all my work colleagues and all the classmates of my three kids ABSOLUTELY loved those chewy caramels. Never in my life have I encountered such moreish morsels of sweetness. Once you begin it's quite hard to stop. You have been warned!

As for the cake itself, it was lovely and really really appropriate for my birthday. Definitely a keeper though I'll just have to tone down the sweetness of the icing since it also has that caramel syrup glaze. As you can see from the last picture below, I got to practice my icing piping skills though the drizzling of the caramel was a bit of a disaster. Not to worry, afterall it's for my family's consumption so the caramel catastrophe lasted for quite a finite amount of time.

The fantastic group among the Daring Bakers who are the responsible for this are: Dolores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

So without further ado, here are the recipes:

Caramel Cake

Caramel Cake
with Caramelized Butter Frosting

155 g  [scant 2/3 cup] unsalted butter - softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 eggs - room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk - room temperature
1/3 cup caramel syrup (recipe below)
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a deep 9-inch/23cm round cake pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, cream or beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the caramel syrup into the bowl slowly while mixing.
  5. Add eggs one at a time making sure to mix well after each addition.
  6. Add vanilla extract. Mix well.
  7. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold one third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
  8. When incorporated, add half of the milk a little at a time.
  9. Add another third of the flour then add half of the milk and finish with the last third of the flour mixture.
  10. Pour the batter in the greased cake pan.
  11. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  12. Cool completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days at room temperature.

Caramel Syrup

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water - for stopping caramelization process
  1. In a small stainless steel saucepan with tall sides, mix water and sugar. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush.
  2. Bring to boil in high heat. Cook until smoking slightly and the colour becomes dark amber.
  3. Very carefully pour in one cup water. Caramel will jump and splutter about. Be careful!
  4. Stir over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. (Obviously wait for it to cool in a spoon before touching it.)
  5. Remove from heat and cool completely. Syrup may be stored in jars.

Caramel Cake

Caramelized Butter Frosting

3/4 cup unsalted butter - softened
200 g  [1-1/2 cups] icing sugar (confectioner's) - sifted
5 Tbsp double cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp caramel syrup
sea salt to taste
  1. Cook butter in a saucepan until brown (about 5 minutes). Strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside to cool.
  2. Beat melted butter in a bowl while adding icing sugar a little at a time.
  3. Add double cream and caramel syrup. Add salt to taste.

Golden Vanilla Caramels

Golden Vanilla Caramels

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
3/8 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups double cream
3 Tbsp unsalted butter - cut into chunks, softened
4 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Line a 9-inch/23cm square baking pan with aluminium foil and grease the foil.
  2. Combine the golden syrup, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan.
  3. Cook over medium heat while stirring with a wooden spoon until it begins to simmer around the edges.
  4. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water.
  5. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse the wooden spoon before using it again.
  6. Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more.
  7. Attach a deep frying or candy thermometer to the pan, making sure it does not touch the bottom.
  8. Cook uncovered without stirring until the mixture reaches 305°F.
  9. Meanwhile put the double cream in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off heat and cover the saucepan to keep it hot.
  10. When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off heat and stir in the butter.
  11. Gradually stir in the hot cream. It will bubble up and steam dramatically so be careful.
  12. Turn the heat back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently.
  13. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
  14. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F.
  15. Then cook while stirring constantly to 260°F for soft chewy caramels or 265°F for firmer chewy caramels.
  16. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  17. Pour the caramel into the prepared cake pan.
  18. Let it cool completely and set for 4 hours or overnight or until firm.
  19. Lift the foil liner from the pan and invert the caramel onto a sheet of baking parchment paper. Peel off foil liner.
  20. Cut caramel with oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Golden Vanilla Caramels

Friday, 28 November 2008

Digital Lives

Nowadays our PCs and laptop has been so integral in our daily family lives that it would probably take quite a while to wean us away from them if there is any chance it would happen. Not only are they indispensable in getting information for homeworks, job hunting, TV schedule but most of all for surfing the internet and blogging. One heavy use for our PC is in storing and editing pictures from our digital camera. It is equally very handy in tweaking pictures to make it just right.

I have also noticed in the past few months that our TV viewing habits are changing. The prevalence of more and more TV shows and movies available through the internet means we are watching more of these in our PCs and laptop. Take for example our favourite BBC shows like Heroes, Dr. Who, Spooks, Strictly Come Dancing, etc. We don’t have to rush home to catch them or setup our VCR to tape them. All we have to do is go to the BBC iPlayer website and have a pick and mix of our favourite shows. Even in buying copies of them, recently iTunes have been helpful since they’re not only selling TV show episodes but also movies besides their usual music.

I guess the only drawback from watching in the PC is the limitation of the size and resolution of your monitor. It’s really best to watch shows in LCD TV. The sharpness of the images and gorgeous colours are just superb. There’s always been an ambition to buy a large one, you know the kind that fills a whole wall, when funds are available. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for bargains on LCD TV, PCs, laptops, and other electronic goods. One easy way we do this is see price comparisons in growing number of websites such as Savebuckets which lists the best prices for various consumer goods of a number of shops such as Currys, PC World, etc. We have used them several times and they are quite reliable and up to date.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Food Art

I saw these wonderful pictures made of entirely food stuff like vegetables, fruits, bread, you name it he uses it. Buying copies of them and hanging them in our kitchen would be really cool. Have a look in the online version of the Telegraph - click here. You can get them here if you're willing to shell out a bit of money.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Ginger Cake

Ginger Cake

It was my birthday 2 weeks ago and as accustomed I baked some goodies for my family and colleagues at work. A ginger cake is always welcome with the people I work with and my old standard recipe never fails. This year I decided to try another from my well-thumbed 101 Cakes & Bakes of BBC GoodFood. It's not as dark as my old one but equally delicious and very gingery as well. The icing recipe is provided below but I used the icing of the old one to drizzle on it. Nice it was.

Ginger Cake

200 g  unsalted butter
175 g  molasses sugar
3 Tbsp black treacle
150 ml  [scant 2/3 cup] milk
4 pieces stem ginger - drained and finely chopped
2 eggs - beaten
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp fine salt
300 g  self-raising flour

4 Tbsp ginger syrup (drained from the jar of the stem ginger)
300 g  golden icing sugar (confectioner's) - sifted
140 g  unsalted butter - softened
2 tsp lemon juice
  1. Grease and line the bottom of a 23cm/9-inch round cake pan. Preheat oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
  2. Mix the flour, ground ginger, and salt in a bowl. Combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Gently melt the butter, sugar, and treacle in a saucepan. Remove from heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Cool slightly.
  4. Beat in eggs then add the chopped stem ginger.
  5. Fold in the flour mixture and make sure to combine thorougly.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and level the surface.
  7. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Cool in the cake pan for about 1 hour and then transfer to a wire rack.
  9. Prick the top of the cake all over then drizzle 2 Tbsp of the ginger syrup on top.
  10. Beat together the icing sugar, butter, lemon, and the remaining ginger syrup. Drizzle all over the cake.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Kitchen Geek

Everyone in my family knows I'm a sucker for kitchen equipments. If my husband has an electronics catalog for bedtime reading, I would almost always have either a cookbook or a kitchen catalog. You know me, lusting for those kitchen items that would make my baking and cooking life a breeze besides the ones that are essential for the everyday needs of a kitchen diva like me. ;)

Since I spend an inordinate amount of time in the Internet, it is but inevitable that I would surf over to websites serving the needs of the kitchen enthusiasts. And since I'm skint as well I'm always on the lookout for ones that offer good value for money. Specifically those that have restaurants supplies and equipments are my favourites. They most certainly offer hard-wearing and durable equipments at reasonable prices.
When my sister-in-law, who's based in America, asked for recommendations of websites to buy chafers for her upcoming party I readily gave her US-based sites such as Lion's Deal which offers some excellent kitchen equipment discounts for their good quality products. For someone like her who loves sales deals, it was like a magnet for her attention. I myself have always wanted chafers if ever I want to host a party. Asian food are almost always served hot so equipments to keep them piping hot is essential. I especially love them with roll-top covers like the one above. Hmmm ... until when am I gonna dream on?