Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Daring Baker's Challenge: Caramel Cake

This cake is delicious. Hands down. Possible the best cake I have ever made. On that note, it is also the scariest cake I have ever made. How can a cake be scary you ask? Well, let's take a gander at the following picture:

Can this picture portray the frantic worry that washed over me as I watched the sugar water turn into dry sugar and then burn back into this beautiful amber syrup? Kind of. I am relieved enough at the time of taking this picture to actually start documenting what I am trying to do. But you can also see that I forgot to use the flash...or even bother to focus it. What can I say...I had post-carmelization stress syndrome.

Anyways, I made this cake for a dinner party with some friends and it wasn't until I made it again 2 weeks later that I realized something. I had doubled the frosting ingredients to cover the two-layer cake I made..wait, scratch that. I had doubled SOME of the ingredients (i.e. powdered sugar and butter but not the caramel sauce, cream, or salt...don't ask me how or why, I just did). Really. My poor the time, they still ate it and said it was good so one can only imagine how terrific the frosting really could be. Ahhh I owe you guys!

All recipes courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Thanks for hosting Dolores. Alex, and Jenny.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Taking the Week Off..

My husband just informed me that no one checks blogs during Thanksgiving. Instead, I will leave you with this cute table/napkin sets from the purl bee that I will one day sew together...when I get the time...hopefully before next Thanksgiving...and after I teach myself how to sew. So much to do. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sweet Kitchen!

Oh! If only Jack had been a girl! This adorable kitchen play set from Our Sweet Life sure beats the pants off the plastic "made in China" sets at the stores. A little Goodwill trolling and you would be all set! Check out their blog for more inspiration and the total cost of the project.

Maybe I could still make this for Jack...who knows? He might be the next Gordon Ramsey?!?!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All Jack Wants for Christmas...

is literally his two front teeth. However, that is nowhere near as fun as these pull apart "Word World" animals.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Separated at Birth?

While checking out one of my favorite blogs, How About Orange, I noticed a striking similarity between one of the featured artist's items and our little wiener dog/yorkie mix. Coincidence? Or has our little Inchie got a modeling career off to the side...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cool Cool Website: VivaTerra

Prettiness plus eco friendly? What more could a girl ask for?

Friday, November 14, 2008

It All Starts with a 35 oz. Ball of Dough...

First off I am sorry! Sorry to leave you all hanging for a whole week.I have a ton of stuff to get onto the blog but am lacking the time to do so. Girls High School basketball try-outs were this last week so much of my time has been devoted to getting the boys fed on time as well as teaching girls how to shoot a lay-in.

Now down to the pressing business at hand, my husband and his brother decided to enter into an eating contest this last Friday. Upon arriving at our house after work, they informed me of this and also of the fact that they had been "training" all day (for those of you wondering, this training involved drinking lots of water and only eating soup for lunch). This is the sign that tempted them so:

I was on board! Who couldn't use an extra $100 plus my husband can eat...I mean four chicken breasts at one sitting eat.

In order to really share this extraordinary event with you, I have created a slide show documentary for you all. We start with arriving at Paizano's!

This was serious stuff! The guy's had to read and sign a disclaimer. Some of the rules: Thirty minutes to consume a full 24" pizza with two toppings, contestants had a choice from a list of toppings but had to pick either one meat and one veggie or three veggies. After consulting with everyone at the table, Loran chose Canadian bacon and pineapple while Wade went with sausage and olives. Just for the record, Wade went "rogue" and picked his own toppings.

This is the owner of Paizanos. She has a blog that covers the trials and tribulations of owning a small business in Baker City.

Loran...nervously awaiting his pizza...

Wade...the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife...

...and Jack! Totally oblivious to anything but his dad's cell phone and the kangaroo.

The pizzas arrive...Loran's post-game pizza arrival quote "When I saw the pizza, it was so thin that it was the first time I actually thought I could do it."

Wade never stood a chance. I mean sausage? Who the hell choses sausage in a eating contest??

Birds-eye view of the trenches. As you can see Loran is down to 4 pieces. It is with the next piece that I see his face turn a strange shade of green and I start thinking that maybe he won't be able to do this.

This is the set-up...two tables and two puke buckets. Yuck.

Last piece! Loran...not..going...! NOOOO!!! This was it. This is all that was left out of a 24" pizza. We were this close to a $100. This was all that stood between Loran and complete pizza eating domination. This teeny, tiny piece of crust. If Jack hadn't had his kangaroo to console him, he probably would have cried.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Very Good Day.

A couple of weeks ago, I was complaining to my mother-in-law about the lack of good, used, cheap furniture in our area (I was feeling sorry for myself because of Anne from The City Sage and the pretty pink plates she found for $12). My mother-in-law concurred then asked me if I had stopped by the store "Windfall" and looked in the basement.


I could not get out of the door fast enough.

I almost fainted when I walked down the rickety stairs to the basement of the store. It reminded me of the first time I shopped at Ikea. So much stuff..sensory overload...too many There are old chairs hanging from the walls along with just about every kind of furniture you can think of. I walked out empty handed but promised to return after taking some measurements.

This whole discovery has inspired me to gussy up our kitchen a little. I am figuring that we won't be able to remodel the main floor for at least 5 years and unlike the bathroom, it is something I can work on while Jack crawls around on the floor. Anyways, here is a before shot of our kitchen:

Now you probably all like the brick island but there is two major things wrong with this thing: 1) it is all fake plastic sheets of bricks and 2) all the the stuff hanging from the ceiling makes it a death trap for us tall people. If you look closely at the pendant lamp to the right, it is tied up to the height everything needs to be so this doesn't happen:

(Actual re-enactment of incident)

We tried to take out the HUGE monstrosity of a hood on Sunday but failed miserably. We can't get a wrench onto the back side of the bolt to get them off. Great. I plan on painting the cabinets some color other than rotten, bloated corpse beige...maybe cream? Something to brighten up the very dark room.

Upon returning to Windfall this last weekend, I purchased two cool new stools for the counter. Now, they might look a little 70's right now but imagine them painted a dark chocolate and reupholstered with some cool cotton sateen.

I really like this fabric from Sew, Mama, Sew bit it might be too much brown...

these might be better...

Any input would be appreciated.

I also scored these two chairs from the Salvation Army! What can I lucky day.

Oh the possibilities with these bad boys are endless! The lady at the counter told me that they were going to throw them out. Crazy! They are the sturdiest chairs and have a really nice design. They just need a little rattle-can action. Sweet.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tile Samples!

We pulled up the carpet in the master bathroom today and decided that we are definitely going to tile the whole room. As you may recall, from a previous exhilarating post, I was debating between large rustic slate tile or small hexagon tile.

I decided to go with the hexagon but wanted something a little I found the octagon and dot design. I was able to get a sample of the "white on white" tile (Thanks G.T. for the help!) and think it would look great with gray grout. I have clips of the other two samples...just in case. What do you think?

Tile samples for bathroom by mowe34

Friday, November 7, 2008

Winter, Already? No!!

We had our first snow of the season yesterday and I just can not believe it is winter already. It wouldn't be so bad if mid-June had not looked like this:

Worst thing about cold weather and babies? You put all the layers of clothes on to keep them warm and they secretly work their hardest to get out of all those little layers. Fun times.

But really...isn't his little hat the cutest?

I love free stuff

Free Amy Butler Patterns by mowe34

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So Easily Amused...

The Audacity of Hope

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

"This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can." --Barack Obama

I feel like I have done a pretty good job keeping this blog free and clear of political preferences but that is about to change. I keep hearing people who actually believe Americans elected Obama to simply appease racial guilt. This infuriates me. I did not vote for Obama because he is black but because he was the better candidate. He didn't win me over by smearing John McCain through the mud....he won me over with his policies and his beliefs. I see this election and the results as a sign that America is at a point in its history that the need for real leadership and the desire for solutions to real problems are color-blind. Congratulations President Obama.

"I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don't think it will be based on the colour of the skin." - Malcolm X

Oh, and by the way, everyone knows that ex-athletes are the hardest workers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote today!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Feed Me I'm Starving!

A friend of ours called tonight and then ended the conversation with "I gotta go...I have to cook my daughter dinner."

"What are you going to make for her?" we politely pondered.

*Big sigh* "I haven't figured that out yet."

So I am posting this quick and easy (and quite tasty) recipe for our friend and his daughter. May she never have to wait for dinner again.

Tex-Mex Corn Chip Chili
Borrowed from Everyday with Rachael Ray
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
One 15-ounce can black beans
One 15-ounce can pinto beans
One 10-ounce can tomatoes with green chiles
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
12 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (I used half this)
One bag (about 10 ounces) corn chips, such as Fritos

1. In a Dutch oven (or a big you cook pasta in), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for 7 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the beans, with their liquid, and the tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Stir in the cilantro, then top with the cheese, cover and let stand until the cheese melts, 5 to 10 minutes. Place a handful of corn chips in each of 4 bowls. Top with the chili and serve.