The Daring Bakers' November Challenge: Caramel Cake

Yes it is already a month since the last challenge, this time I decided to put my little heart in it and bake according to instructions which made me realise I was very bad at following up recipes, but this is my problem. Shuna's Caramel Cake recipe is perfect.
I waited a little before baking my cake so I could benefit from the wisdom of other bakers, and thanks to Dolores from Culinary Curiosity , along with Alex from Blondie and Brownie and Jenny of Foray into Food who hosted the event I could tune in to all the comments on the board and get some really useful tips:

a) you can half the proportions easily which to make cup cakes otherwise my personal trainer would have a heart attack.

b) reducing the sugar also works.

I may have done something not quiet right though as my cake was more "puddiny" than it should have been but still very nice.

Refrigerator Cookies

As I write more and more on US sites (catch me on lifestyle Gourmandia and Paper Palate), I get to hear a little more about American culture. I was looking into cookies today and found out that "every presidential election year Family Circle magazine runs a cookie recipe contest between the two possible First Ladies. The winner of the contest for the past four elections has gone on to be (or continued to be) the First Lady". Except for this year, Cindy McCain's Oatmeal-Butterscotch cookies beat out Michelle Obama's shortbread cookies. May be I should suggest that he runs for president next time because I surely stand a chance with this easy recipe.
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these cookies/biscuits are the ultimate in home-baking convenience. They are so easy and popular that the fomula has been "tubed" and you can buy the neatly shaped log ready for cutting and baking. I found the recipe in "The Baker" by Leanne Kitchen and there are as many variations as you imagination allows.


  • Mocha spirals which I attempted though not as neatly as I hoped has 2 tsp cocoa powder into 1 dough and 2 tsp of coffee powder in the other.

  • Maple and pecan with 60 ml maple syrup added to the creamed butter mixture and rolled in finely chopped pecan

  • Spicy fruits : 1 tsp mixed spices and 1/2 teaspoon ground giner added to the flour

  • Coconut and Orange with 1/3 cup desiccated coconut and 1/2 tsp orange essence
If you bake others let me know

Soup of the Week: Spiced Butternut Squash

Of course it all happens at once, I started to write a series on Paper Palate, reviewing the top 50 best cook books, it is a lovely commitment, a week later I also made quite a hit when I got a professional blogging job with Gourmandia, it is all good fun, but my blog is where I feel @ "home", a strange feeling when you know that all this is virtual.
Anyway, I have to keep up to date and this week-end it was the BBC Good Food Show at Olympia so he and I trotted to the fair, I must say I never know how to handle these large crowd and in many way the best bit was the official guide.


The day before, I had seen Anne, their allotment is doing fine; now a piece of advice, if you make a new friend ask them if they have an allotment because if they do, they quickly be your best friend. Every time I see Anne and Oliver, I get some freshly picked vegetable, this time :butternut squashs.
Put 2 and 2 together and you get spiced butternut squash soup which was in the show's official guide.
My soups are usually very good and this was the best I made this season, yeep I know it is only November.

Spiced Butternut Squash

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped (I did not include that)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large mild red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
3 cm piece fresh root ginger, finely grated
1 large butternut squash, deseeded and cut into large chunks
2 large potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock

to serve:
creme fraiche
snipped chives or thyme leaves
croutons

method:
Heat the oil and butter in a large pan. Add the onion, leek, garlic, chilli, ginger and cook gently until the ingredients are soft but not too coloured.
Add the squash and the potatoes, pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat so that the soup simmers gently and cover the pan. Simmer for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes and squash are nice and soft.
Puree the soup in a blender (or use a hand-blender) or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pan, reheat it gently, and season to taste.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve topped with a little creme fraiche, snipped chives or thyme leaves and croutons.

Sorry Monsieur Roux, I Spiced up Your Apple Tart

Michel Roux has 3 Michelin stars and he has had them for 23 years. There is nothing wrong with his cooking, OOOHHH NOOO. His cookbook "Pastry" sold 430,000 copies. So I don't know what wicked force got hold of me, which mischievous cell in my brain took control when I decided to add crystallized ginger to his apple tart recipe. The only thing, I can say is : "Sorry, Monsieur Roux"..........."but it was a really good idea".

Apple and ginger is a marriage made in heaven and the refreshing kick which you get from biting in the already lovely apple tart does not go unnoticed.

So here it is for a truly delicious desert, to be eaten barely cool from the oven you will need:


APPLE TART WITH CRYSTALLISED GINGER

300g puff pastry
6 dessert apples, about 850g
1 vanilla pod, split length-ways
60g butter
80g caster sugar


Roll out the pastry to a round, 3 mm thick, and use to line a lightly buttered 24 diameter (3mm deep) lose bottomed tart tin of flan ring. Pinch up the edges with your index finger and thumb at 1 cm intervals to make a fluted edge a little higher that the rim. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes ( now as yo will see I need a little practice and the final result should look nothing like the picture)

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6, Peel, core and halve the apples. Place cut-side down on a board and cut into 2 mm thick slices, Put a third of the apples (the outer smaller slices) into a saucepan. Keep the other two-thirds packed together (to stop them discolouring). Add 50 ml water, the vanilla pod and butter to the apples in the pan and cook gently until tender. Take off the heat, discard the vanilla pod and work the apples, using a whisk, to a compote consistency. Leave to cool. For the glaze, in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 40ml water. Bring to the boil and bubble for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup. Leave to cool.

Prick the base of the pastry case lightly, Pour in the cold apple compote and spread gently with a spoon. Arrange a border of overlapping apple slices around the tart, then arrange another circle inside, with the slices facing the other way. Fill the centre with a little rosette of small slices, trimming to fit as necessary. Bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry and apples are evenly cooked to a light golden colour.

Leave the tart to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing the flan ring or tart tin. Brush the top with the glaze, place the tart on a wire rack and leave until just cooled. Transfer to a plate and serve cut into slices.
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