Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

Even though it snowed in parts of Virginia on the last weekend of October, I was determined to keep the fall around with an autumn themed meal.  I decided to try the Pumpkin Cheddar Muffin recipe from my Baked cookbook.  I just love pumpkin :)  I made a butternut squash-pear bisque to go with the muffins for lunch.  The muffins turned out great- I love the bite the pepper gives the muffins.  They're not you're average fall flavored pumpkin flavored item- not sweet with the typical cinnamon and nutmeg paring. It's a fabulously savory muffin. I agree with the book's statement that they taste best warmed.  Don't get me wrong- they taste fine at room temperature, but when warmed, the gooey cheese and peppery flavors come together beautifully.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caramel Apple Cake

What better dessert for a fall themed Oktoberfest than a caramel apple cake? The three layers of apple cake dressed with caramel butter cream seemed a little intimidating to take on for my novice baking skills, but my mind was set. I made the cake in three nights, starting with the homemade applesauce and caramel.
Wednesday Night: Applesauce and Caramel Sauce
The applesauce was easy and delish! I thought it would be smooth sailing for the night. Then came the caramel sauce... I never made candy or caramel before, but I read the directions and thought I could handle it without a candy thermometer. I watched the sugary mixture on the stove turn a caramel color and pulled it off the stove and mixed the butter and sugar. it smelled great, just like caramel. But it wasn't sticky. I left the soupy mixture in the fridge hoping it would get hard. I did some research online and realized I didn't actually get it to the caramel stage. I waited until the next evening to make the next batch which turned out beautifully. I have since purchased a candy thermometer for future candy making adventures ;)
Thursday Night: 2nd attempt at caramel and cake
After finishing the caramel sauce, I moved on to making the cake.  Make sure you have a large mixing bowl- for the three cakes you'll be making, there's a lot of batter.  Mixing the cake is easy; my KitchenAid did most of the work. Make sure to use parchment paper on the cake pans- the cake does stick easily, and the parchment paper makes it much easier to cleanup.  I waited for my cakes to cooled completely, wrapped the cakes and stacked them in the fridge for Friday's assembly.
Friday Night: Buttercream and cake assembly
To make the buttercream, you start by boiling a flour/milk mixture. Next, make sure the mixture cools completely while it's beating in the stand mixer.  Once it's cool, the butter and vanilla are added. The next step is to "beat until...light and fluffy."  I started to worry after the mixture didn't seem to be changing texture after several minutes of beating.  I increased the speed and continue to beat for another 5 minutes or so, and finally the mixture changed texture to the light and fluffy description.  Next, the caramel is added and an addictive buttercream is created. Amazing!  As I assembled and decorated the cake, I would take a quick break to steal another taste of the frosting. 

The cake was a hit at the party! No leftovers.

A Baking Adventure

After sifting through the many piles of cook books at the chaotic Borders store closing sale, I found the latest addition to my cookbook collection: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  I couldn’t wait to try the recipes that were beautifully laid out in the book.  Sadly, the book sat on my bakers rack for a few months before I had the time to make my first treat from the book for a house warming party. I chose the caramel apple cake.  Since I work full time and needed the cake ready by Saturday afternoon, I split the prep in 3 days.  It was a project!  But the result was well worth the effort: a moist, spicy cake with an addictive light buttery caramel frosting.  I was resolved to try more baking projects from Baked Explorations and to see how other’s had fared with their caramel apple cake.  I randomly came across a Blog for those baking from the same book and sharing their experiences called Club: BAKED.  Perfect!  I hope to bake along with them on their schedule and create some magnificent goodies.