October 20, 2013

The Cake Slice Baker's October 2013 - Old Vermont Burnt Sugar Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

It is so hard to believe that a year has gone by since we chose Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson as the cookbook would be baking from in 2012-13.  It has been such a pleasure to bake with everyone in the Cake Slice Baker's group, and I am looking forward to our new book which will be revealed with next months post. As this is our last cake from the book it was decided that rather than vote on one cake, we would all choose the cake we wanted to make.  In some ways this was harder than voting because I kept looking through the book and then changing my mind.  I finally got it down to four cakes before I settled on the Old Vermont Burnt Sugar Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. It just seemed fitting for this time of the year.

In the book Julie Richardson describes how burnt sugar syrup was used to flavor cakes before the invention of extracts such as vanilla or almond.  The syrup is simple to make and gives this cake a wonderful toffee-caramel taste.  For me it brought back memories of making toffees for school fetes and cake sales, that were slightly soft and very chewy (or as we called them stickjaws), or so hard that you could suck on them for hours.

October 15, 2013

Caramel-Stuffed Apple Cider Spice Cookies

A slight chill in the air, leaves changing color, pumpkin patch visits and trips to pick apples - these are all signs that Fall has arrived.  These are all signs that I never see.  Palm fronds do not change color and the only chill I feel in the morning is when one of my girls decides to turn on the hot water tap when I am in the shower.  Such is life, and although I miss these things each Fall, living in a tropical paradise is pretty darn nice too.

It was exciting to find out that this month's theme for the Creative Cookie Exchange was apples, the versatile fruit that works equally well in both sweet and savory dishes.  There are just so many great cookies that feature apple that it was hard to narrow it down to one.  I finally decided on a recipe that included a little caramel, a little cider, and a little spice.

The recipe for caramel-stuffed cookies has been around for quite some time, but after a little research I settled on one and then started making some changes. The recipe called for regular Alpine Apple Cider Instant drink mix, but I decided to use the Caramel Apple version. Since the drink mix is very sweet I cut the sugar down to ½ a cup. A little extra spice never hurts in a cookie so I added a little apple pie spice -which is a wonderful blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves and cardamom.  I thought that apples pieces in the cookie would be nice too. Granny Smith are my usual apple of choice when baking because they hold up well and are a little tart, and I decided to grate them so the pieces were not too big.  With these changes I found that I also had to add a little more flour so that the cookie mix was not too wet to work with when placing the caramels in the middle.

October 12, 2013

Spiced Pear-Cranberry Crumb Bars

I was trying to find something in my freezer this morning, and did a double-take when I realized how many bags of cranberries I still had leftover from last holiday season.  Since cranberry season is almost upon us it is definitely time for me to use up this supply so that I will have room for the next time I purchase excessive amounts of them - and I will because I have this overwhelming sense of fear that I will run out.

As luck would have it Chocolate, Chocolate, & More just happened to post a recipe link from Imperfect & Fabulous on Facebook recently that I thought would work perfectly with the addition of cranberries. I just love the tart-sweet combination of pears and cranberries.  Actually I am just a big fan of cranberries in general.

As I was making the filling the house began to smell like Thanksgiving, which was just fine with me since it is my favorite holiday of the year.  I didn't grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, and if we did it would have taken place around April/May since that is Fall for us. I celebrated it for the first time when I moved to Canada, and from that moment on I knew it would become a tradition no matter where I was living.

October 04, 2013

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Bundt Cake #BundtaMonth

I was definitely excited when I found out that the theme for this month's #BundtaMonth was candy. Who wouldn't be thrilled to be asked to "bake us a bundt using your favorite candy"? Now my only problem was that I have two favorite candy bars - one from Australia and one from the US.  Which one should I use to make my bundt?

A mix of chopped cherries and coconut, smothered with Cadbury dark chocolate, the Cherry Ripe has always been from favorite chocolate in Australia.  It is also the oldest chocolate bar in Australia. However, I can't seem to resist little cups of chocolate filled with peanut butter - the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup - that has always been my favorite chocolate in the US.  In the end it was an easy decision because I did not have enough Cherry Ripes in my secret stash, and Reese's Peanut Putter Cups are more readily available for the majority of people.  The Cherry Ripe bundt will have to wait for another day.

I wasn't sure if I should just wing it, but then I found this recipe at Wee Eats and it seemed to be just what I was looking for. After a few slight changes I was ready to bake.  To get a deep, dark chocolate color and flavor this recipe uses Dutch-process cocoa.  This type of cocoa is produced from beans that have been treated with an alkali that neutralizes the acidity.  It therefore it does not react with baking soda and needs to be used in recipes that contain baking powder, or a recipe that has other acidic ingredients in proportionate amounts, hence the sour cream. For a more detailed breakdown I found that David Lebovitz has an excellent explanation on his website, which can be found here.