Well, after many internet issues, I'm finally here to post my November Challenge!
• Recipe Source: the website link of the author Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/), as published on Bay Area Bites (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/).
Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111
• Host: Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/) assisted by Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/), Jenny of Foray into Food (http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/). And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (http://glutenagogo.blogspot.com/) to assist us.
I waited until the end of the month for this challenge because I decided right away to bring them to Thanksgiving dinner, as a lovely compliment to my usual (and very non-challenging) pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. However, I think because I waited so long and wound up reading so many other Bakers' posts, I was nervous not only about the degree of the challenge, but also about how they would taste! I do love sweet, but I was very concerned that these would be beyond my threshold and, therefore, a sad miss with the family. Well, I'm happy to report that I was thrilled with the flavor combination and so was the family :) I thought the cake had a wonderful flavor on its own; not nearly as sweet as I expected. Coupled with the frosting, I thought it was an excellent combination.
My biggest challenges were really all in my head - I have worked with caramel before, but very sporadically, so every time I attempt, I go back to feeling like it's going to be impossible. Again, happy to report there were no real disasters - although I will say I was petrified of having my strainer melt when I made the browned butter. Plus being that I only had a regular strainer and not a super-fine sieve, I wound up with quite a bit of the "brown" in there - however, not only do I think it had no effect on the flavor, but I thought the specks gave it a lovely appearance. My intention with presentation was to create leaf cut-outs from the caramel (which I made with regular pure vanilla extract because I didn't have time to hunt down vanilla beans, sadly) and serve them with the cupcakes. I blame my lack of a candy thermometer (which I really should own by now) and fear of over-cooking the caramel. I wound up with caramel that wouldn't really set up - great for heating and pouring over just about anything, but not so much for cookie cutters (what a mess!). Also, I used the remaining caramel sauce, in place of the golden syrup, which may or may not have had an impact on the set-up.
Well, here is the final result - I will definitely hang on to this recipe for future use and will probably attempt the caramels again as an addition to my Christmas cookie platter: