Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge #11

Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting


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.

You cook the syrup...

and cook the syrup...
and you cook the syrup...
and you cook the syrup until it's dark amber.


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.


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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Tree '08

Welcome to the Christmas season!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We Needed Another Garland

Ok, please keep in mind as you read this, the pictures of our garland don't do it justice at all. After I read Nester's post on garlands, I knew I could do better than the plain pine and twinkle lights I have entwined on our staircase. We took a trip to Hobby Lobby in order to find some Christmas cheer for the living room. As you might have noticed, I don't have a mantle, but I'm trying not to dwell on that. So we draped the garland on the armoire and I think it adds a lot to the room. All the trimming for wreaths and garlands were half off at Hobby Lobby last week, so we were able to make this for quite cheap. And Tim thinks it looks great.

I used a 9 ft plain pine garland (because I knew I had a million lights at home) and pine and pinecone picks and small frosted berry picks too. Red berries are my very favorite, but the possibilities are endless.

It's funny~ I must mention the reindeer. This reindeer began in a nice store with an expensive price tag. Too rich for my blood, even if he is nice and big and stately and expensive looking. Somewhere along the way, someone in the store accidentally broke off a small piece of one antler and ~wham~ 75% off. And I had a coupon. Believe it or not I had plans to gift this reindeer, but one of my small people knocked over our festive friend in our basement, and the entire rack of the reindeer broke. In comes the superglue and he looks as great as when I bought him. But now I can't with good conscience give him away when he's been so badly treated. We're making it up to him by letting him stay and look regal on our armiore.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our Upstairs Tree

Meet our new tree. We got him last year when we traveled to Park City for Christmas so we could have something under which to put our presents. He was very inexpensive (and I used a coupon~ love that) and he served his purpose very well. After we returned from snowy Utah, we stashed him in the crawlspace and totally forgot that he existed. That is, until last week when Dabney suggested we bring him out of hibernation from the depths of the basement. We unpacked him from his box and set him up in the upstairs hallway with the smallish tree skirt I made for our first married Christmas when I was trying to save money so faithfully. The only problem now, was that we have a zero dollar budget with which to decorate our little fiber-optic fella.

As we all know, necessity is the mother of invention so we decided to brainstorm. We decided that we bake things pretty well around here so we resolved to bake our Christmas ornaments for our luxurious second Christmas tree. (I've always admired those huge houses on palatial estates with enormous themed Christmas trees in every room. Think the Biltmore or Winterthur.)

Let me apologize for the pictures- either I used the flash and you couldn't see the lights or I didn't use the flash and it was too dark to see the cookies.

Anyway, the kids had a blast cutting and baking the cookieboys, gingergirls and the cookie children and adorning our new upstairs tree with the fruit of their labors. Our ornaments are edible and they smell delightful, and if temptation overcomes one of the kids, namely child #3, its not the end of the world. The kids have felt so important knowing that they made the decorations and created their own tree. They love it dearly, always making sure that the switch is on and it's glowing warmly with it's colorful lights.

P.S. Because I know you're asking, Mom, Josh is not in the pictures because we were trying not to lead the little guy into temptation. He just can't resist grabbing handfuls of cookies and then running away as fast as he can.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My City In-Law

Bismarck, North Dakota is my city-in-law. As most of you know, I'm from the east coast, so the mid-west has been this brave new world in my eyes. I was just finishing My Antonia by Willa Cather as I began to get to know Tim and it was very helpful to read about the early pioneers who decided to settle in the great unknown and struggle so hard to achieve the life they dreamed about in the old country. Bismarck is a 12 or13 hour drive from our home and the journey always reminds me of those pioneers searching for land of their own in the American prairie.

Anyway, Bismarck is the birthplace of my beloved, so now it hold a special place in my heart. At first I thought there might not be anything good about a place that is so cold during most of the year and so far away, but then my husband brought me "home". Home to his town where he lived most of his life, where he rode his bike all around town as a child. He showed me his 3 schools, where he played football with his buddies, where to find the best 'pizza burgers', where his dad worked all his life, the places where he held summer jobs through high school, the hospital where he and his brothers were born, and finally to his cozy home where his parents still live, home to his mother's warm kitchen that still turns out family favorites like knepfla and kuchen. When we visit, our family of 5 stays in his old room in the basement. I realized that because Tim is a part of me, Bismarck is also a part of me. As foreign as North Dakota used to be, in a strange way, it's part of my family now. It's comforting to visit my husband's home and be with people we love. To have my kids snuggled on the familiar couch by their grandparents. To help my mother-in-law make the Giedd favorites (that generations of them have enjoyed) for dinner. To see the dent in the door frame and smile when I remember that little Timmy hit his head there when he was 7. To get together with his friends from elementary school and visit with their own wives and kids.

Bismarck is sort of a remakable place. When our culture is constantly moving and re-locating, it is such a sweet thing to go to a place where not much has changed at all. Neighbors are still down the street and an old friend could drop by on their evening walk at anytime. I'm very blessed to have a connection to such a nice community and to be able to visit as often as we can.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mid-week Miscellaneous

I'm still feeling pretty blah, so this will be short. I've got a large pot of Minestrone simmering gently on the stove and I've been wrapping Christmas presents and addressing cards today, but I thought I'd check in and let everyone know we're still here, although not being terribly productive.

The above is an idea I stole directly from the Pottery Barn catalog. I really really liked the card holder, but really really didn't have the $49 for it, even if I picked it up at the store and not ordered it online. So I did what any other diy-er would do. I went to Lowes, smiled politely at the wire cutting man and asked for 45 feet of small gauge electrical wire. "45 feet?" he asked. "You sure?" "Yes, please" I replied. The next day, with the help of my wire snips, I had made my own card holder for about $6. Now, I'm sure it isn't as straight and as rigid as the one down at Pottery Barn, but for $6 I really like my little card holder and I can't wait to fill it really full in December.

This is Dabney's portrait of herself and Joshua. I just love how she drew him with no hair and curly feet.

My friend Nester wrote a post last Spring about what she calls "Ragamuffin Garlands" and has revisited the post this week. Now I'm a little too practical and frugal to buy fabric, just to cut it into strips and make a garland, but I've been a quilter for many years and have the scraps and remnants to prove it. These garlands are the perfect project to make if you have fabric scraps laying about that you just can't bear to throw away. So since I have nothing else worth saying, go visit my friend Nester, because her garlands beat mine anyday.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A little announcement

I emailed the above picture to my parents a week or two before Reformation Day to break the news to them that their 4th grandchild will, Lord-willing, arrive in June.

We are so thankful and undeserving and completely excited~ what joy! Tim and kids are over the moon (especially Dabney) and they talk about the baby all the time. I however am feeling lousy, which is a good thing. Anyhow, I thought I'd share our wonderful news and then retire again to the couch with some water. Have a great day.

P.S. Yes, Dabney designed her own pumpkin this year.
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