caramel apple cake

caramel apple cake

Caramel Apple Cake
Years ago, one of Andy’s co-workers at Allen-Bradley in Cedarburg, WI, gave me this recipe. It’s always been a favorite at our house–on any continent!  It’s great with coffee or tea as a morning coffee cake, or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and serve it as a dessert. It’s great warm or cold and it’s sticky and sweet! The caramel sauce–which I halved–is very rich. But that’s its appeal, that sinful richness that we gladly pay for later?

1 cup vegetable oil ( I used half almond oil and half canola oil)
2 cups  superfine sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups apples, peeled, cored, sliced (use any crisp sweet apple such as Gala)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Caramel Glaze (I recommend halving the following recipe)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and add 1 tablespoon flour. Mix well. Use this butter-flour mixture to grease and flour one 9×13 inch pan.

Combine oil and sugar. Add eggs, salt, vanilla. Sift flour and baking soda together Add flour mixture to sugar mixture in three additions. By hand, stir in apples, walnuts (if desired) and 1 tablespoon flour. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Tap pan lightly on the counter to settle the batter. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until done. Remove the cake from the oven.

Make the caramel glaze while the cake is still hot. To make caramel glaze, melt butter in a saucepan. Add sugar and milk and stir until blended and all lumps have dissolved. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Pour at once over the cake. Slice into squares and serve.

caramel apple cake

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salted caramel brownies

Salted Caramel Brownies (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
A colleague at the office gave me the October edition of this magazine. I promised her I would bake one of the cakes in its pages. I was intrigued by the recipe for silver frosting but that’s for another post.  Instead, I decided to try this brownie recipe. After all, it looked straightforward and simple, perfect for Cake Tuesday tomorrow. That saltiness of the sea salt flakes plays against the sweetness of the chocolate and the gooey stickiness of the caramel. This is a moist and tender brownie, not overwhelming in chocolate or sweetness.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total: 1 hour (plus cooling)
Servings: 12 large brownies or 24 square brownies

Have at room temperature:
1/2  pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon
8 oz plus 6 oz  semisweet chocolate chips
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
4 large eggs (3 extra-large eggs in the original recipe)
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 oz caramel sauce
2-3 teaspoons flaked sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter. Mix in 1 tablespoon flour. Brush the butter-flour mixture on the inside and bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Set pan aside. If the pan has a dark nonstick finish, remember to turn the heat down to 325˚F.
  • Melt the butter, 8 oz of the chocolate chips and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool 15 minutes. It is very important to allow the butter mixture to cool before adding the remaining chocolate chips or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.
  • In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining  6 oz of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a medium bowl and add to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  • Shift pan back and forth on the counter to settle the batter. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t over bake. If you’re using a pan with a dark non-stick finish, test the brownies after 30 minutes. If the toothpick comes out clean, take the pan out of the oven.
  • As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in the microwave and heat until it’s pourable. I don’t have a microwave oven (still) so I heated the sauce on the stove. Stir until smooth. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes. Cool completely. Use a sharp knife and cut into 12 bars or 24 squares.

 

orange angel food cake with caramel sauce and four berry-kiwi fruit compote

Angel food cakes are indeed light and airy but they are tricky to make. This is my second attempt since the first didn’t have the required brown crumb on the outside nor was its height to my satisfaction. I think this version is a little better but could have been higher. The trick is not to make the egg whites deflate when you are adding the flour. I think the trick also entails using a thin rubber spatula, which is becoming harder to find because silicone spatulas are becoming more and more common. The silicone spatula I have is too thick for such a delicate job. I found this recipe on the Bon Appetit site and tweaked it a bit because of the lack of availability of some of the ingredients for the fruit compote.  I must add, though, that this caramel sauce is deliciously sweet and spicy!

Orange Angel Food Cake with Caramel Sauce and Four Berry-Kiwi Fruit Compote

INGREDIENTS
CARAMEL SAUCE
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream (half pint)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of salt

CAKE
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups egg whites (about 9 large)
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel from 1 medium orange
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

FOUR BERRY-KIWI FRUIT COMPOTE
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup strawberries, sliced
2 kiwi, peeled, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1/4-1/2 cup powdered sugar or to taste

PREPARATION
SAUCE First, combine the sugar and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan. I ran out of white sugar so I made it up with brown sugar. If you use brown sugar, be careful it doesn’t burn. Stir the sugar-water mixture over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high; boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 5 minutes. If you use brown sugar, the syrup will become darker but that’s okay. Remove the syrup from the heat source. Slowly add cream. The recipe says the mixture will bubble vigorously but mine didn’t, which makes me suspicious that Bon Appetit forgot to include the sauce temperatures. Place the pan over low heat; stir until caramel bits dissolve and sauce is smooth. In the absence of temperatures, I stirred until the sauce thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat source; add butter, cardamom, and pinch of salt; stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Cool the sauce. DO AHEAD The caramel sauce can be made 1 week ahead. Cover the sauce and chill it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature or re-warm over low heat before serving.

Cake Baker’s Note: I wish the recipe had included temperatures along with the description. It would have made for a more accurate result. Anyway, I found this in an article titled “The Science of Caramel” ( http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Cookbook:Caramel). Basically, a caramel sauce is a sugar solution.

The stages of a sugar solution are generally described by the solution’s behavior when dropped into cold water:

  • Thread Stage (230-234°F) – the solution thickens into syrupy threads when you pull a spoon out.
  • Soft Ball Stage (234-240°F) – the solution can be pressed into a soft gooey ball. Used to make soft chewy candies like taffy.
  • Firm Ball Stage (244-250°F) – the solution can be pressed into a firm ball. Used to make caramels.
  • Hard Ball Stage (250°F) – the solution can be pressed into a dense, slightly malleable ball. Used to make harder chewy candies.
  • Soft Crack Stage (270°F) – the solution solidifies into a glass-like solid that slowly bends under light pressure.
  • Hard Crack Stage (300°F) – the solution solidifies into a hard glass-like solid that breaks or cracks under pressure. Used to make hard candies and brittles.
  • Caramel Stage (310-349°F) – An advanced crack stage, defined by the development of an amber color that becomes tan, brown and eventually dark brown as the temperature continues to rise. Also defined by the development of caramel flavors which becomes deeper, less sweet and more bitter as it darkens.
  • Burned Stage (350°F) – The sugar smokes and eventually turns black. It is completely oxidized (burned) and inedible.

I wonder if brown sugar would have reached the caramel stage sooner? I wonder if the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen have turned  their famously methodical (some would say anal retentive) attention to this problem? Don’t get me wrong! I love ATK. It’s just that I couldn’t test recipes umpteen times just to get a perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookie. I can’t bear to waste food. I keep thinking of my mother, “eat your food! people are starving in America!” (Actually she said China. I just put that in there to mix things up.) Anyway, I digress. Here is the cake part of the recipe.

CAKE Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sifting the dry ingredients. Sift powdered sugar, flour, and salt 3 times. To do this, spread a sheet of waxed or parchment paper on the counter with  a large bowl next to it, and sift the sugar mixture onto the sheet. Rest the sieve on top of the bowl. Pick up the edges of the sheet and pour it into the sieve over the bowl. Place the sheet back on the counter top. Pick up the sieve and sift the sugar mixture over the sheet.  Repeat two more times. (Am I being just a tad too specific here?)

Separating the egg whites. It’s best to separate the eggs when cold. Then allow whites to come to room temperature. This takes about 30 minutes.

Whipping the egg whites. Using the electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat egg whites in a large bowl until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar then beat until whites are opaque and soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium high. Gradually add superfine sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until whites are thick and shiny and fluffy peaks form (peaks should droop over gently; do not over-beat). This should take 1-3 minutes.

This is what the meringue looks like when it has been whipped. It could be stiffer since the peaks on the beaters are still soft.

Adding flavorings and flour mixture. Add orange peel and vanilla to the whipped egg whites; beat just until blended. Sift 1/4 cup of flour mixture over whites. Using a large rubber spatula (preferable to silicone since the batter is delicate), gently fold flour mixture into whites. Repeat with remaining flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time.

Cake Baker’s Note: To fold in flour, cut with the edge of the spatula down the middle. Scraping along the bottom, bring the spatula under the flour to the side of the bowl. Fold the batter over the flour. Turn the bowl one-quarter turn. Repeat: cut, fold, turn until all the flour is incorporated. See this  YouTube video for a folding demonstration.

Baking the cake. Scrape the batter into an ungreased 10-inch-diameter (NOT non-stick) angel food cake pan with removable bottom and 4-inch-high sides (preferably with feet). Smooth the top. Gently tap the pan on the counter to remove any large air bubbles. Bake the cake until golden and springy to touch, about 50-55 minutes. Immediately invert the pan onto work surface if the pan has feet, or invert the center tube of the pan onto the neck of a bottle or funnel. Cool the cake completely, 1-2 hours.

Unmolding the cake. The common way to do this is to use a thin blade knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and around the pan’s funnel. However, Bon Appetit recommends that you gently tap the bottom edge of the pan on the work surface while rotating the pan until cake loosens. Transfer the cake to a platter. DO AHEAD This cake can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover with a cake dome and let it stand at room temperature.

COMPOTE Put all the fruit into a colander and sprinkle on the powdered confectioner’s sugar. Toss gently to combine. To do this I simply shake the fruit in the colander over the sink. That way, if any fruit falls out, I can rinse it and put it back in the colander. Raspberries are extremely delicate so the less handling of them the better. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Serving. Slice the cake with a thin serrated knife. Transfer to plates. Spoon compote alongside each slice. Top the slice with caramel. This cake has a wonderful sugary orange-y smell. Mmm-mm.