Caramel Cupcakes

I’m home now and have access to a whole, complete, real kitchen, as well as cars to go to real-people grocery stores. This means I have a couple of weeks to bake delicious food, before I go back.

I’ve always loved caramel, and I have a bazillion or so different caramel recipes bookmarked on my computer from foodgawker (such as this one, this one or this one). I’ve never made caramel, though, so I figured today would be a good day to start.

I used a caramel cupcake recipe from Dragon’s Kitchen, which I think I found through foodgawker at some point. The cupcakes were especially awesome, nice and caramel, without being overly sweet. They were nice and moist, which is a big necessity for me in a cake. And the other awesome thing about this cake was that it is all made of things that I could find on campus, so it could easily be an impromptu/late night baking recipe (although it is a bit long, because of the caramel syrup step). The frosting wasn’t quite right, but that could have been because I had difficulties in actually browning the butter (still not entirely certain how to do that, although the internet gave fairly good answers. I’m just afraid of burning it, I think).

The recipe says it makes 12, but I found it makes closer to 16 cupcakes. I didn’t really change anything from the original recipe, except for making the syrup first (which you have to do anyway, the directions are just slightly our of order in the original) and browning the butter (which I think was just a fail). Most of this is exactly the same as the original, except I cleared up some of the confusing stuff (for my own future reference, mostly) and re-ordered the recipe in a more logical order.

Lots of delicious caramel-y cupcake deliciousness.

Caramel Cupcakes:
·      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 temperatur
·      12 tablespoons unsalted butter
·      1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
·      4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
·      2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·      2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Caramel Syrup:
·      2 cups sugar
·      1/2 cup water
·      1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)

1.     First, make the caramel syrup.
a.     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.
b. 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.
c. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers.
2.     Preheat oven to 350F
3.     Cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
4.     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.
5.     Sift flour and baking powder.
6.     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.
7.     Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cupcake pans.
8.     Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are slightly brown and skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
9.     Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.
10.  Make the frosting:
a.     Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
b.     Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
c.     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. 


Top 100 Books: A to-read list

A to-read list (top 100 books from the BBC)

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck

53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett Read As of May 2013. I love Terry Pratchett. I wish our library had more.
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman An excellent book. I highly recommend it.
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley 88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

I’m not sure how much I’ll get through this, especially with the Joyce and the various Russians on here. Crime and Punishment was a chore to read. But I’ve got a decent amount finished, and there should be some good ones in here. The bad ones can always be read before bed/read when I can’t sleep ones.

Something cool about horses

Horses originally evolved in the Americas. They then migrated to Europe and became extinct in the Americas. However, when they were brought over by settlers, some then escaped and adapted quite well to life as wild horses again, which is where mustangs come from. I think this is especially awesome, because although I knew horses were introduced to the US from European settlers, I never knew before that they ORIGINALLY EVOLVED HERE! They fit in so well in the West and with all those cowboy tales because they were supposed to be here.  (Although, admittedly, they went extinct, so obviously a problem happened somewhere along the line).

Peanut Noodles

My all-time favorite, easy-to-make meal. We compiled off of various internet recipes at some point last summer, although unfortunately, I don’t really remember which ones. I think we used this one (starter peanut noodle recipe) as a starter and then worked off of it.

It is a rather inexact recipe. It’s also pretty quick. If you time it right, you can get everything done while the noodles are boiling. Over the summer, we would usually make it with stir-fried broccoli and carrots (well, stir fried is what we call them when I stick them on a pan on the stove and sometimes add olive oil, sometimes add water, and heat them up until they are just cooked–sometimes I get frustrated and would put the top on our pot-pan so they would cook faster). I like my broccoli very barely cooked–just enough that it turns into a pretty green from the gray-ish version of green it was before. We also liked our carrots crunchy and just barely cooked.

It also makes a lot. Admittedly, my roommate and I were always making it just for the two of us, so we didn’t eat a lot. But we never scaled down the size because it made lunch for the next week awesome.

Peanut Noodles

1) Cook the noodles. I usually used spaghetti, because we didn’t have a car and that was all that was at the grocery store within biking distance. And because spaghetti is very versatile. I like them to be slightly al dente for this recipe. The original recipe says 10 oz, which I will admit, I have absolutely no idea what it is. We usually used about 1/3 of a spaghetti box, but it really varied depending on the amount we had and the amount of vegetables we had. (Drain the noodles when they are done).

2) Cut up your vegetables and stir-fry them or cook them however suits your fancy. Again, the original one says 3 cups steamed vegetables. We never really measured, but just cut up a couple of carrots and a couple of heads of broccoli. If you have 2 people cooking, which we did all summer, you can have one person be in charge of the vegetables while the other person gets the sauce.

3) If you want any protein in the meal, you should probably also get it ready about here. A lot of the time, we would throw a chicken breast into our peanut noodles. A couple times we threw in shrimp because we needed to use up the bag. I’ve also added a scrambled egg or two before. This is also quite good and filling without added sources of protein, probably helped by the peanut butter.

4) Make the peanut sauce. I would add peanut butter to soy sauce in a 2:1 ratio, add a couple of spoons of brown sugar, some delicious fresh garlic and ginger and a dash or so of rice vinegar. If you are pickier about proportions, the original recipe says (1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 Tb brown sugar, 2 garlic cloves, 2 Tb ginger, 1 Tb rice vinegar). You mix it all together, which is a bit frustrating because of the peanut butter. And then you add 1/2 cup boiling water (or just the same amount as you added peanut butter). It likes to separate and get ugly here, but eventually it stirs back together. I usually used a fork since our whisk was large and didn’t really fit in this bowl. It worked better than a spoon.

5) Throw all the ingredients in a pan or a pot or a bowl and mix together.

6) Add crushed red pepper to your liking.

Enjoy the deliciousness.