Tag Archives: salted caramel

Caramel Honeycomb Birthday Cake

make a wishRegular readers of this blog know that I bake my own birthday cake every year. My girlfriend Paula learned this the hard way. I am still apologizing to her for my rudeness!

My birthday cakes are usually multi-recipe, all day baking extravaganzas. It’s my birthday present to myself. I get exactly what I want and I get to spend time alone, baking in my kitchen, my happy place3 slices of cakeThis year’s cake was inspired by a trip to Charleston South Carolina we took with our friends The Grizzlies. One of the highlights of our weekend was a cooking class with Chef Vinson Petrillo at The Zero George Hotel, a charming 16 room boutique hotel. Chef Vinson is a recent transplant to the Charleston area. Originally from New Jersey, he honed his craft in New York. When I asked him what brought him to Charleston, he replied simply, “My wife wanted kids.” Chef PetrilloThey are now the proud and very busy parents of two little ones, aged 1 and 2. As I observed Chef Vincent during our 3-hour class it became obvious to me that he must be an excellent dad. He handled all our questions and comments with great patience and equanimity!

For the first course, he cooked butternut squash by the sous vide technique. He followed that up by sauteeing it in brown butter and finally topped it with torched marshmallow. Sort of a glorified sweet potato casserole but so much better.

For the main course, he prepared sauteed snapper. Watching him cook and plate the food was just a joy. His passion for and knowledge of the ingredients were obvious.

The dessert course was a Chocolate Cremeux, essentially a chocolate pudding, topped with big shards of honeycomb. My iPhone photo does not do it justice.chocolate cremeaux with honeycombIf you’ve ever had a Crunchie chocolate bar or sponge toffee, you know what Honeycomb is. Essentially, you make caramel and add baking soda at the end to produce a bubbly toffee confection. This honeycomb topping was the inspiration for my birthday cake.honeycombBefore he began cooking, Chef Vinson emphasized the importance of “mise en place”. Read through the recipe, measure and chop all your ingredients and set out all pans and tools you need before you start cooking. Nowhere is this more important than in the preparation of honeycomb.

You will need a candy thermometer and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat sheet. The process goes quickly, so don’t walk away from the stove. Chef Patrillo left his honeycomb unadorned, but I dipped the corners of mine in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled them with a bit of flaky sea salt because that’s the way we roll around here!

 

For the cake, I turned to Brian Hart Hoffman’s book “Bake From Scratch.” I thought his classic golden cake with buttermilk would be a perfect base for honeycomb.cake ingredientsadding eggsbatter in cake pansI filled and covered the cake with a salted caramel buttercream.piping icingWith a cup of tea or a glass of milk, this indulgent cake is the perfect way to celebrate a birthday.with a cup of teawith a glass of milk

Click here to print the recipe for Caramel Honeycomb Birthday Cake.

a slice taken out of the cake

 

Salted Caramel Apple Hamentashen

Salted Caramel Apple hamentashen 1FI’m not quite sure how I feel about the live-action remake of  Beauty and the Beast (to be released March 17). The original is time honoured and perfect. Frankly, I’m worried. Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with a classic. Remember Lindsay Lohan in the remake of Parent Trap? Jackie Chan as the updated Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid ? Billy Bob Thornton in Bad News Bears? Enough said.

But sometimes messing with the classics works. Traditional hamentashen are filled with either prune or poppyseed filling. In this updated version, apples are cooked down to a thick sauce. A big scoop of dulce de leche and a judicious sprinkling of salt are added and the resulting filling is quite sublime. I have to give credit for this filling to the talented blogger Tori Avey. It was her genius idea. I just took it and wrapped it in a buttery almond shortbread shell.with a latteGrating Applesapples cooked downadding dulce de leche

Click here to print recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Hamentashen.

with a latte 2

Multi-Grain Salted Caramel Apple Cake

slice of multi-grain salted caramel apple cake 2 625 sqIt’s time to stop the pumpkin spice insanity! Is it just me or have have you also noticed the proliferation of pumpkin spiced products at this time of year? People are out of their ever loving gourds with pumpkin excitement. I blame Starbucks. They started the trend in 2008 with their Pumpkin Spiced Latte. Breaking news kids, Starbucks has added real pumpkin to their latte this year. Which begs the question, what exactly was in it before? Tim Hortons jumped on the band wagon with a pumpkin spice bagel and latte to guzzle it down with it.

Pumpkin spice m&m’s (just weird), Pumpkin spice Pringles (just plain wrong – cloves and cinnamon have no business sticking their nose into salty chips!), Pumpkin spice doggie treats (no comment!), and Pumpkin Spice scented motor oil (ok, now I’m just messing with you!).

My blogger friend Wendy, over at The Monday Box, loves all things pumpkin, but I don’t hold that against her. Check out her adorable 3-2-1 Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte Cake. She alerted me to the fact that Trader Joe’s has over 40 pumpkin related items this year. If you happen to be a pumpkin lover, head on over and check them out. spooning on salted caramel sauceLet’s celebrate fall the correct way, with apples. This gorgeous multi-grain apple cake was inspired by whole-grains maven Kim Boyce’s Apple Graham Coffee Cake. With three kinds of flour, the texture of this cake is outstanding. Graham flour adds flavour and a pleasant sandy texture, all-purpose flour helps to lighten the graham flour and whole wheat pastry flour adds a tender crumb and nuttiness. getting ready to bakeKim sautéed sliced apples in butter, sugar and cinnamon and added them as a topping to the cake before baking. I decided to dice the apples and toss them, raw, in sugar-cinnamon and mix them into the batter.dicing applesadding apples to batterI used my fancy Bundt pan, because really, who couldn’t use a bit more fancy in their life?

The final change I made to Kim’s coffee cake recipe was to add salted caramel. Everything is better with salted caramel, right? I made a quick sauce with brown sugar, butter, whipping cream and salt. I drizzled some of the sauce right into the raw cake batter and saved the rest to serve on the side. adding cream to caramel sauce This is a very cozy cake, tailor-made for a cool fall day. The graham and whole-wheat pastry flours add a nutty grain-like flavour. Super moist, thanks to the apples and drizzled caramel sauce, this cake is made for snacking. Take that, Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts!.spooning on salted caramel sauce 3

Click here to print recipe for Multi Grain Salted Caramel Apple Cake.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts and a very sweet Mother’s Day.

Today I am grateful for several small and large blessings! I am grateful to be relatively pain free. If you read my last post,  you, may recall that I was in bed for over 8 days with terrible back and leg pain. The MRI revealed a bulging disc which was pressing on a nerve and causing me back pain. It seems to have eased greatly and I am back on my feet again. I feel grateful for a wonderful husband who brought me an extra hot skim milk latte in bed this morning.

Although I couldn’t be in Toronto today to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, I am grateful to have 5 siblings all living there to celebrate with her. They gathered at my baby sister’s house and had a “friendly” game of softball. Some family members tend to get a bit competitive about these things so hopefully no one sprained a hamstring sliding into first base or got bonked on the head from being tagged out at home plate. I’m sure to get a play by play analysis very soon.

Finally, I am grateful for my sweet children. My oldest was unable to spend today with me, but he drove for over 5 hours to come home for a short visit yesterday. My middle child bought me a beautiful blue hydrangea plant and gave me a very fitting (and funny) card .

And my youngest, with the help of his sister, made me a video on YouTube, serenading me with Elvis’ “Love me Tender.” So sweet!

I made these tarts a few days ago and thought we would have them today for dessert. Unfortunately they were all gone the day I made them. Luckily I have other sweet things to satisfy me!

These tarts are the creation of Lucy Waverman, food columnist for the Globe and Mail. I have adapted the recipe somewhat.  The original recipe produced tarts that had a thin layer of caramel and then a thick layer of ganache. I doubled the caramel recipe so that the finished tarts would have a thick layer of both caramel and chocolate.I also added some salt to the caramel filling as well as a few decorative flakes on top of the ganache filling.

I made them in mini muffin tins. Not only do they look adorable, but there is no guilt at all involved in popping one (or three) of these into your mouth. The contrast in textures of this mini bite are what make it so special. Biting into the crisp flaky pastry you discover a silky smooth layer of bittersweet slightly salty caramel covered in a thick layer of chilled chocolate ganache. The ping on your tongue from a melting crystal of fleur de sel helps these tarts from being too cloyingly sweet.

Begin with making the caramel, as it needs time to cool and firm up. Sugar, water and corn syrup are boiled until a rich amber colour is reached. Finish with whipping cream and a pinch of kosher salt.

I like to roll out the pastry dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper, right after making the dough. Then I chill the rolled out dough. Be sure to roll the dough very thin (1/8 of an inch thick) for these mini tarts.

Let the tart shells cool completely before filling. I find it easiest to put the caramel filling into a disposable piping bag.

Finish off with chocolate ganache and a few flakes of fleur de sel.

Click here to print recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts.

Salted Caramel Macarons

 

 

 

Apparently, this year in desserts, cupcakes are out and macarons are in. Macarons, not to be confused with macaroons, are the new darling of the pastry world. These are French macarons we are talking about here (one o), made with ground almonds, not American macaroons (two oo’s), and made with coconut. Essentially they are an ethereal confection consisting of 2 almond meringue cookies, sandwiched together with a filling.

The correct pronunciation, if you care about things like that, is Ma-Ka-ROHN, (the “r” is rolled)  Check out this YouTube video  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiKKh7Rf9AQ) to hear it pronounced. If you’re Canadian, well then, you’re ahead of the game as you already know how to roll your r’s .

Clearly I am ahead of the trend, as I have been making macarons for about 5 years now. However, in my mind, they were associated with Passover and not Paris. Until recently, I thought they were a Jewish creation because I only made and ate them at Passover. It was only once I visited the venerable Ladureé (London store), that I realized this was a French cookie and was blown away by the flavour variations possible. I whipped out my camera to take a picture and the saleslady started screaming at me. No photos allowed! I did manage to copy a photo from their website.

Once I visited the store and tried all the flavour variations I became slightly obsessed with them. I realized that there was a whole world of macarons beyond my Passover variation.  There are several food bloggers out there who excel at macarons and I began lurking on their sites. Sue, of “You can do it at home”, http://youcandoitathome.blogspot.com/2010/10/i-heart-macarons.html, has mastered the art and I am awed by her talent. Duncan, of “Syrup and Tang” is another master.  I also purchased 2 wonderful little books, which have step by step photos and offer some amazing flavour variations (Secrets of Macarons and Macarons).

I have discovered that there are two main methods for making macarons. The first is simpler. It involves using a French meringue, which is essentially egg whites beaten with finely ground granulated sugar. This is then folded into the ground almonds and icing sugar. The second method is a bit more complex. It involves using an Italian meringue, which is a cooked sugar syrup poured into egg whites and then beaten until stiff and glossy.Apparently the Italian method yields a shinier, smoother macaron as well as more consistent results.

Below I chronicle, by video, my first attempt at making italian Meringues, filled with Salted Caramel Buttercream. The meringue method and recipe are courtesy of Duncan at www.syrupandtang.com.

Duncan’s recipe for the macarons can be found here .

My recipe for the Salted Caramel Buttercream, to fill the macarons with, can be found here.

Admittedly, the macarons are a labour of love. I still have a long way to go to perfect the technique. Mine aren’t nearly as lovely as Duncan’s or Sue’s. Luckily, I will have lots of practice in the following week as I offered to bring dessert to the Passover seder at my sister-in-law’s (35 guests), the Passover Seder at my mom’s (41 guests) and a Passover dinner party at a friend’s house (10 guests). I expect, that by the end of the week, my macaron skills will improve greatly.

Stay tuned as more eggs are sacrificed, and my pants become tighter. In a few days I will post about the French macaron method when I prepare Chocolate Macarons with a Chocolate Ganache filling.