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All posts for the month November, 2008

Today I completed my first ever Daring Bakers challenge.  My mission: make a caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting.  Last month they made pizza.  Pizza I could have done.  This?  This is real baking, but who am I to back away from a challenge just because I am a crap baker?  Isn’t that why I joined Daring Bakers in the first place?

Well, first thing’s first.  If you think you can outdo me (you can!), this recipe comes from Shuna Fish Lydon’s blog Bay Area Bites.  Check it out!  It’s a cool food blog with lots of awesome looking recipes.

Now, without further ado… the big reveal, here’s my finished product:

Finished Caramel Cake

Right off the bat, it’s not a very pretty cake.  Some of my other fellow Daring Bakers did some very pretty things with their frosting, adding dried fruits and other nice things.

I wanted to do something pretty, but the frosting just would not cooperate.  Also, I was not thinking about toppings this month because I was trying to concentrate on following the recipe exactly.

So yeah, it’s pretty plain looking.  On the other hand, I tell you what.  This is one of the best cakes I’ve ever had, bar none.

Notes:

  • I don’t think this recipe is very entry level, then again, I would not expect the Daring Bakers to take on an easy challenge.  So I’m not complaining, I am just pointing it out.
  • Secondly, the recipe, as written, lists the ingredients for the caramel syrup after the cake.  This is a bit misleading as the caramel syrup should be made probably two hours before you want to start baking so that it cool completely.  Also, the caramel frosting uses brown butter.  When I do this recipe again, I will make the brown butter as the cake is baking (instead of watching KU beat Mizzou) because it needs time to cool as well.
  • The wet-dry-wet-dry method specified in the recipe was very effective for getting things incorporated quickly and effectively.
  • I do not think I did the frosting right.  This may possibly be because the butter was not completely cool, but to get the frosting as firm as I wanted, I would have had to double the amount of confectioner’s sugar.  My teeth thank me for not doing so.
  • I think I baked the cake too long.  Here it is coming out of the oven.  As you can see, it has gotten a little black:

Baked Caramel Cake

Still, the inside was still nice and moist and I was able to cut off the part that was overly done.  I used it test my frosting. 🙂

I can’t help but wonder if I did not overcook the caramel sauce, too.

Caramel Syryp

Final Thoughts

In terms of taste, I would eat this cake again and again.  I do wish I could have done something nicer to make it look a little more appetizing.

That will be my challenge for next time!

It’s probably a bit cliche, but I wanted to take a quick second to write down a few things for which I am thankful.

This isn’t going to be much of a food related post, so hopefully that is okay.  I think tomorrow I’ll write posts on the top ingredients and gadgets for which I am thankful, but that seems to cheapen the holiday just a bit.

So, without further ado…

First, I am thankful for the opportunity to do this blog.  Which means I am thankful for the people who wrote WordPress (odd, I know…)  and I am thank for The Liquid Muse for inspiring me to start blogging.  (She’s a Tweep of mine and she’s awesome, BTW…)

I am thankful for all my readers.  Thanks for stopping by and thanks for coming back.

I’m thankful for spellcheck…

I’m very thankful I have a job.

I am thankful for all of the awesome organizations out there who are helping in the fight against poverty and starvation.  We’ve got a long way to go, but if we all pitch it, we can make sure no man, woman, or child goes hungry.

I am thankful for all my Tweeps including in no particular order ShoeSmitten, OutlanderUSA, EverdyayFoodDeb, WordVixen, KellyOlexa, GirlWithNoName, RJLeaman, Cucina_Bella, CateOMalley, Anniepooh, GinaLaGuardia, CharissaCowart, Unclebear, unWrittenRPG, deucehartley, RipeTomato, LiquidMuse and CarissaRogers (until she fires me) and all the ones I’m forgetting.  (Sorry Tweeps, I have a cold so I know I am forgetting a lot of people.)  Also, Sean, Aaron, Clint, Aaron, Daniel, Lonnie, Rich and everyone else.

I am thankful for my family.  Not sure who I’d be without them.

Lastly, I am thankful for all of the blessings that God has chosen to bestow upon me including everything I listed above and everything I didn’t.  Thanks God and if you’re not busy, I have a few more things I’d like to be thankful for… 🙂

As I type this, I am sitting at about 980 Twitter followers, which surprises me to no end.  For those who have stumbled on this post and do not use Twitter, from what I can tell reaching 1,000 followers seems to be a big hallmark in Twitterdom with a number of Tweeps (Twitter slang for other Twitter users) talking about what they going to do to celebrate their 1,000th follower.   (For more on Twitter and food blogging, check out Why Food Bloggers and Foodies Should Enter Into the Twitter World.)

Initially, I had the idea that for my 1,000th follower, I would offer them their own cookbook.  Find out their favorite ingredient or favorite type of cuisine and put together 10-15 different recipes, get it printed up and offer it to them as a gift for following. 

However, not to take anything away from that 1,000th follower, but what has made being on Twitter such an enriching experience personally and professionally is the relationships I formed with all of my followers, not just the yet to be determined 1,000. While I sincerely hope that I form a deep relationship with whoever 1,000 is, for the time being I want to celebrate the people I’ve already met and joked with and DMed with and gotten into Twitter wars and pun contests with.

Why I Called You Here

So here’s my deal.  First and foremost, I am a food writer.  It was what I love to think about and write about and share about.  So, for anyone who calls me a Twitter friend or who maybe I have touched in some way via Twitter, I humly beseech you to do me a favor.

Send me a recipe and a little story about Twitter.  The recipe can be anything you want.  It can reflect you or your blog or it can be something you like to eat.  (Pictures would be nice, too.)  Then send me a little reflection (maybe one paragraph) about Twitter or about something dumb I said or about how social media brings us all together.

If I get enough recipes (say maybe 50), I’ll edit them and combine them all into a book, add in my happy reflections of the Tweets we’ve shared, add whatever contact information you would like, and I’ll pay to have them published.  Then anyone who wants can sell them.  My goal is to sell enough that we can take the profits from the printing and make two donations in all our names: one to Share Our Strength and other to a technology charity (thoughts?) so that we can help others experience the joys of food and social media, too. 

Keep Reading

A couple other thoughts. 

First, if you don’t have a recipe, but want to contribute, that’s fine.  Send me your story and I will select a recipe that makes me think of you.  I want this to be about fellowship, not cooking skills.

Secondly, if you are wondering if you are a person who has made a difference in my Twitter experience or in my life, you probably are.  Submit something.  If you don’t, I’ll probably DM you at some point and ask anyway.

Third, I hate to do this, but I feel like I must.  Only submit recipes for which you legally own or have permission to share or else I have to turn them away.

If you are in, DM me or leave a comment here.  I’ll make a follow up announcement when we reach a critical mass.

Thanks!  I hope you all participate.

PS Whoever you are Mr. or Mrs. 1,000.  I will pay for a copy of the book for you for free.  I did not want you to feel too left out. 🙂

One of my Tweeps, Felicia Slattery, responded to one of my pleas for inspiration with the suggestion of talking about what you can do with pumpkin other than make pie.  Since the appearance of pumpkin en masse in grocery stores, I’ve taken an interest in this myself (see my recipe for Pumpkin Baingan Bharta) and  I have fallen in love with pumpkin as a savory ingredient.

Recipe: Pumpkin Risotto

For some reason, there is just something right about combining creamy risotto with pumpkin.  I think it has to do with the fact that even though I have been cooking with pumpkin a lot recently, in my head, pumpkin is still synonymous with pumpkin puree, which is creamy itself, especially when combined with eggs, butter, and sugar.

How to Cook Pumpkin

However, before we get into the recipe, let’s take a minute to talk about cooking with pumpkin.  It’ll be painless I promise.

There are a number of ways to cook pumpkin: boiling, steaming, and stir frying.  However, the method that always works well for me is roasting it in the oven.  Every time it produces well-cooked, juicy, and delicious pumpkin.  Roasting is also easy, but it is time consuming.

To roast all you need to do is cut your pumpkin in half, clean out the seeds, cover in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes.

How to Pick a Pumpkin

One other note.  Then recipe, I promise.

When you are looking to eat pumpkin, look for sugar pie pumpkin or organic pumpkin from a quality grocery store like a Whole Foods.  Most of the pumpkins that you find in a pumpkin patch or in a lot of grocery stores were bred to be hardy and stay together as scary faces are cut into them.  This makes for tough, stringy pumpkin and not good for eating.

Pumpkin Risotto

Phew!

Okay, now without further ado…Pumpkin Risotto.

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup cooked pumpkin (1/5-1/8 of a cook sugar pie pumpkin) finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 4-6 cups of veggie or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese (optional for non-vegans)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter (optional for non-vegans)
  • Nutmeg for garnish

Put a high sided skillet or sauce pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Wait until the olive oil is hot and add the garlic.  Saute for 30 seconds and add the pumpkin and a good pinch of salt.   Saute for about three minutes and set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil and wait until it is hot.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent, 4-5 minutes.  Then add the arborio rice.  Stir well, making sure the onions and rice are covered in oil.  Toast the rice for another 3 minutes.

Bring the heat down to medium.  Using a soup ladel or measuring cup, add about two ladels (somewhere between a half cup and a cup) of broth into the rice.  Give the rice a stir.

The broth should start to boil and will soon be absorbed into rice.  When the rice is dry, ladel in more broth.  Repeat until the rice is no longer able to absorb any more liquid.  (It’s better to over do it, in my opinion, than under do it so don’t worry about adding too much.  If the risotto is too runny, just cook the risotto a little longer.)

When the rice is at capacity, let it cook for another minute, then stir in the cheese and butter.  Once the cheese has been incorporated, add the cooked pumpkin/garlic mixture and stir well.

Serve immediately with some nice crusty bread and side salad.

Enjoy!

Okay, here is big entry number three in  Cate and Sarah’s $7 Dinner Challenge.  If you have not heard of the $7 Dinner Challenge, these two amazingly talented food bloggers have challenged the rest of us still pretty talented food bloggers to create a  two-course meal for four including a full serving of vegetables for just $7 total.

Today, I decided to do something because last time I checked, it’s November.  And it should be cold or at least cool or something.  Hrmm…

Anyway, when it does get cold, here’s a $7 Dinner for you:

Tomato Vegetable Soup with Garlic Bread

Every Christmas, my mother makes tomato vegetable soup, so for my family this meal has come to mean cold winter nights and family togetherness.

The good thing about the soup is that it is packed full of vegetables, it is hearty, and it comes with garlic bread.  Everyone loves garlic bread.

It is also the one dish that I have made for the $7 Dinner Challenge so far where I have not had to reforumulate a recipe because of the dollar limitation.  Still, had this been the $8 Dinner Challenge, there would be some fresh celery and maybe some garlic thrown in the soup, but as it stands I like this soup just fine.

Recipe: Tomato Vegetable Soup

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 pound, onions 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 bottle low sodium V8
  • 2 bags frozen mixed vegetables, thawed to room temperature

This one is really easy.

In a soup pot over high heat, add the vegetable oil and let it get hot.  Add the onions and a teaspoon of black peper and saute until the onions begin to brown around the edges, maybe 4 minutes.

Add the V8, the mixed vegetables, and a good pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil.

The soup can be served anytime after the vegetables have gotten warm, though I like to let it thicken so I boil it on medium for about 20 minutes.

Recipe: Garlic Bread

  • Half a loaf of Italian Bread (I like day old for garlic bread), sliced into eight pieces
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon, garlic salt*

Preheat the broiler.

This one can be easy, if you are up to the challenge.

Arrange the bread on cookie sheet and brush or drizzle the butter on the slices.  Sprinkle with garlic salt.

When the broiler is hot, put the bread on the shelf nearest the coil and broil for about 90 seconds.

Now, here’s where things get difficult. It may take a little longer than 90 seconds, but while you are broiling bread, you do not want to make any plans.  Don’t look at the TV.  Don’t answer your phone.  Ignore your children, your dog, and your friends because the minute you forget about that bread, the quantum mechanics that rule the universe will char the bread to a crisp.  Something about Schrodinger’s Cat or something.

Sorry, that was a bit of a tangent but Rachel Ray and I have lost enough good loaves to the broiler pan, I don’t want it happening to you, too.  And really, since you already melted the butter, all you are doing is crisping the bread a bit.  It doesn’t need to stay in too long.  In fact, sometimes I’ve skipped the broiler step all together.

And that is dinner.  Okay, everyone, go eat!!