Daring Bakers: Sweet tooth beware!

We were back to baking with butter and sugar this month, something I have no complaints about (and have plenty of on hand still.)

I mean, really, how horrible can it be to be making a Caramel cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting? And having the option of making homemade caramels, which, I admit, I opted to not make (not when there were two different bags of yummy caramels in my baking pantry for chewing away at.)

This months challenge came to us courtesy of Dolores, Alex, and Jenny, who chose this recipe from Shuna of Eggbeater.

Writing this now, and finally following the link to Shuna's original recipe, I realize I should have followed that link on the first day, rather than just printing the recipe, reading the recipe several times, and then making the recipe. I might have been a bit less disappointed with the final results. Now, looking at the pictures there, I see I was indeed supposed to have a fairly dense, one layer only, cake with a thick icing on top. Which is what I had. I simply think I had something else in mind when I read the words "caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting." Something with layers. And lighter.

Not to say the cake wasn't good. It was tasty. But sweeeeeeeeeeet! Actually, no, the cake wasn't overly sweet. It was just the frosting. Make your teeth ache, give your kids a sugar high, send a diabetic into shock, kind of sweet.

For a change, I had no problems at all with making the caramel for this. I have been known, in the past, for burning my first batch of caramel since it had this nasty habit of going from light color to black and billowy in an instant. This time, I stood on guard, I watched, I showed patience I was not feeling, and I was rewarded with a nice amber colored syrup that made the house smell sweet (instead of the usual burnt sugar smell) And it was nice making a caramel without the sound of the smoke detector going off.

Now that this challenge is done, I'm anxious to find out what next month's challenge will be, the December challenge. Will the DB's be making something sweet, or savory? Will I need to wait until I can unpack my baking pans, or is the one flat pan I left out going to be enough? Will I need to replenish my spice cabinet, which I took the opportunity to clean out while packing up all but my most frequently used spices? I may have been patient making the caramel for this months ultra sweet confection, but I'm certainly not feeling patient about next month's challenge!

So while I wait, I will be attempting to read some of the 1000+ other posts about this months cake, though please don't take it personally if I don't leave a comment on yours. With that many cakes, and my limited free time right now, comments will be few this month. So in case I can't comment on your challenge.... "Your cake looks amazing, I can't believe what you've managed to do with it! Did we make the same recipe?!?!"

Making bread for homework (and butter too)

With the move now only two weeks away, and last weekend's out of town trip changed to this weekend, now is the time to start packing up what is left of my baking pantry and start on the rest of my kitchen. For the next two weeks, we are going to be having the minimum in kitchen items to work with.

This could be both a good and bad thing. Good because if I do bake something, I will have the chance to see what tools I really can't live without. And bad because the chances are my children will be getting store bought baked goods in their lunches for the next few weeks.

So if you are in Ottawa and see a twitching lady walking around with a purple hat on her head, don't worry, it is probably me going through baking withdraw.

In the meantime, here is something from my archives to keep you entertained while you wait anxiously to see what the Daring Baker's challenge for this month is.

One of the school projects my oldest son had to work on last semester was about the pioneers. The kids had to pick something about the pioneers and make a model, if they could. Some chose log homes, making them from sticks, others chose toys and tried to reproduce the kinds of toys pioneer children might have had. My son, doing me so proud, chose bread. He wanted to show how the pioneers had to make their own bread, that it didn't come in a bag, presliced, with colorful dots all over the outside. And that butter did not come in a foil wrapped block.

We could have gone to the library or searched the internet for pioneer style recipes, but he was lucky. His cookbook-a-holic mother happened to have a reproduction copy of the 1904 Good Housekeeping Cookbook, that she had picked up for $3.99 one day when bored and needing something to read. I doubt he knew I had that when he chose his project.

With Mom on standby to help with the bread, just in case, he set out to gather his ingredients, mixed his yeast and flour and liquid, checked with me to be sure it was working (it was, lots of bubbles in the rise), until he was finally able to take a turn at kneading, the old fashion way. Without a stand mixer or a bread machine. A messy task, one requiring lots of muscle, but a worthwhile task. The dough was tougher to knead than he thought it would be, so I did have to step in to help with that, but he did show a very good understanding of how you do it, and with a bit more practice at it, could probably do it completely on his own.

He was a very proud young man, with his 3 loaves of whole wheat bread, each a different size, but obviously hand made. What is fresh bread, though, without butter?

So he made some butter too, putting whipping cream into a container, making sure the lid was tight and got another arm work out. Sure, it looks rather ugh, but after he poured off the buttermilk and mixed in a bit of salt, he had very nice butter for his bread.

His classmates loved it, one even asked for the recipe so his mother could make it for him at home.

While he did very well, markwise, on this project, and raved to me how good the bread was, how easy it was to make, I've noticed that he never did ask if he could make it again. Maybe if the pioneers had also make home made peanut butter, he'd have come back asking to make that again.

Still working on pantry clean up menu plan

This isn't my regular pantry. Normally I have a much larger area, with big wooden shelves and alot more space. Instead we moved on of our bookshelves out into the hallway and I tried to organize it as a temporary pantry. The amount of items in it has gone down significantly lately.

Looking at the contents now, it doesn't look like I'm using too much from the pantry this week for dinners. Of course it is meager pickings there anyways.

Monday: Roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes and carrots and bean mix (yes, I know this was supposed to be yesterday's meal, but yesterday was very busy and turned into the kids eating hot dogs and pizza they received free at the Santa Claus parade, the hubby eating left overs and my making alfredo with salmon and shrimp late at night.)

Tuesday: spaghetti with homemade sauce, made using the oven roasted tomatoes from the freezer, augmented with a can or two of tomatoes from the pantry

Wednesday: Roast chicken with roasted potatoes and broccoli

Thursday: turkey meatballs with pineapple sauce and rice

Friday: we are away for the next two nights

In the meantime, today I am working on the November baking challenge recipe, and in a few days expect to be working on a special birthday cake. As I still have several pounds of butter in my other freezers (along with waffles, frozen bananas, hamburgers and a mountain of freezies), making cake still counts towards cleaning up the pantry and freezer.

You know it is good when you can't get a picture

White chocolate, raspberries and a sprinkling of sugar on top. How bad could that be?

Let me tell you, bad is not a word you can use to describe these blondies. They were so good I actually had to wrap up and hide the last piece so I could take a picture of them before they were gone.

I picked this recipe up awhile ago from Jenny over at Picky Palate, who was celebrating her blogaverssary with these amazing blondies, topped with ice cream. Thank goodness I did not have any ice cream in the house or I might have been tempted to try that!

The only change I made to the recipe was omitting the nuts. Oh, and I didn't have sour cream, so used a splash of buttermilk instead. Divine!

Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies

recipe from Picky Palate

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons sanding sugar (I had Turbano)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a 8x8 baking dish with tin foil, so the edges hang over the sides, and coat the foil with cooking spray. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in the ¾ cup white chips until melted and smooth.

In a large bowl add the sugar, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and the ½ cup of white chips. In a small bowl whisk the eggs and sour cream (or a splash of buttermilk). Pour into the dry ingredient bowl along with the melted white chip mixture. Mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and top evenly with the raspberries. Sprinkle the sanding sugar over the top before baking for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean from center.

Makes 9 really good brownies.

Cleaning out my freezer and a dinner plan

As we are getting closer and closer to our moving date, I'm being forced to look into things I might generally prefer not to. The hidden depths of the storage space, or the children's closets. Boxes are piled up everywhere, some full, some empty, some in between full and empty. And I am running out of things I feel I simply cannot pack when we are 4 weeks away from moving.

One thing I can do, however, is clear out my freezer and my pantry. Since my new home will also be coming with a nice shiny new stand up freezer, clearing out and defrosting my tiny little chest freezer is now a priority.

With that thought in mind, I dove right in and found out exactly what I had hidden in there.

No surprises really. I'd forgotten about the flank steak, but aside from that, I knew what was in there.

And now that I have it officially written down, I'll use it to help me in my menu plan:

Monday: Butter chicken with rice and naan bread (the chicken is already defrosting, hence not on the list)

Tuesday: Baked pasta with baguette (sauce also defrosting, again, not on the list because it isn't currently in the freezer.)

Wednesday: steak fajitas

Thursday: Balsamic chicken with California mix veggies

Friday: pancakes with mixed berry smoothies

Saturday: Husband's night for dinner, he gets to figure it out.

Sunday: Roast beef with mashed potatoes, bean and carrot mix

That takes care of a few things in my chest freezer, at least. (I've highlighted everything from the freezer in this lovely blue color.) Did I mention I also have 2 fridge freezer's to go through and clean out?

All Things Edible Pizza....May I take your order please?

Hello? Is anyone out there? I know I'm late, but I brought pizza! And not just any pizza, homemade pizza, with Daring Baker Challenge Dough!

Last month Rosa, from Rosa's Yummy Yums chose pizza dough for us to make, in memory of Sher, who was to be one of her co-hosts for the month. And I missed the party. Actually, I missed most of the month due to illness, so did not get my dough made in time to join the 1000+ other Daring Baker's who brought pizza to the party.

Now I have a pizza dough I am pretty happy with, nothing fancy, but it comes together in a jiffy, and rises in about an hour. It works for us. Which doesn't mean I'm not willing to try other recipes, I'm open to them. Maybe one of them will be even better and come together even quicker than my current recipe.

The challenge was to make pizza dough using the recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, easy enough to do. Oh wait, there was a twist - we had to try and toss at least 2 balls of the dough, and try and get a picture of us doing so.

Do you see a picture of me tossing dough anywhere? Don't go straining your eyes, it isn't there. I tried, I really did. Several times. But this dough is soft! And very pliable. So soft and pliable that picking it up off the counter usually resulted in it being stretched very thin, ready to be topped.

Oh, did I mention I had cleaned up my pantry recently, and had thrown out my cornmeal? It was a surprise to me as well, and a bit of a pain for transferring pizza, ultra thin, pizza too. By the 4th pizza, I gave up trying and simply pressed the pizza out onto a pan instead.

Homemade pizza in my home is usually "make your own pizza" night. I set out toppings that the children will eat, and they each make their own. My youngest always makes a face on his (which did not survive the transfer to the oven, but was still eaten.) I have found I usually go vegetarian on my pizza's when we do this, but went a little different to try out this dough: On half of my pizza I brushed garlic butter, generously, then topped it with marble cheddar, mozzarella and parmessan cheese. On the other half I spread homemade tomato sauce, then used crumbles of a medium Italian sausage and a generous amount of mushroom slices, which I had sauted in garlic and butter, before I put on both mozzarella and parmessan cheese.

It was yummy, though not exactly pretty.

Now this dough did come together quickly in the mixer, though it required the advanced planning of being made a day ahead. It was soft, almost too soft, and while I like thin crust pizza, I like to have the option of a thicker crust, which I really didn't have. It also didn't have much flavor to it, not even the slight yeasty aftertaste which most dough has.

So while it might be good for an ocassional change, it won't replace my regular dough.

Normally about now I'd suggest you get out there and read all kinds of other Daring Baker post about this month's challenge, but I suspect everyone but me has done that already. Personally, I am far behind on my reading, but at least I finally caught up on making the challenge.

Oh and I'm really looking forward to this month's challenge, probably making it this weekend, so no worries about being late with that one!