#16 Boston Cream Candy

I’ve already gushed over my love for Boston (even though I’ve never actually been there), so trying this recipe was a bit of a non question for me.  Yes please!

I gravitate towards candy recipes because they are almost always things that I can actually eat.  But the truth is that I’m just not very good at them.  And I can’t figure out why.  I watch my candy thermometer really closely, and I do everything the recipe tells me to, and yet I rarely get it right.  I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to turn out from the second step.  I had my sugar mixture on the stove for 40 minutes and my sugar never dissolved.  I went ahead and finished it out anyway, knowing the taste would still be wonderful, even if the texture wasn’t right, and that absolutely proved to be true.  It was slightly grainy, but tasted oh so wonderful!

Boston Cream Candy (recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking)

Makes about 1 pound

4 Tbsp unsalted butter; more for the pan

2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans

2 cups sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup light Karo syrup

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup whipping cream

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

  • Butter an 8×8-inch baking pan. Line the pan with a piece of parchment large enough to hang over two sides. Butter the paper, too, and tuck it flat against the pan. Put the chopped pecan pieces in a handy spot where you’ll be working.

  • Combine the sugar, salt, Karo syrup, half-and-half, cream, and butter in a heavy-based 3-qt. pan, stirring with a wooden spoon over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. This can take a while, and it’s hard to see; you should feel the texture (rub a little between your fingers or run your finger along the mixture clinging to the spoon) to be sure all the sugar is dissolved.
  • Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the mixture foams to a boil. Add the baking soda. Lower the heat and stir like mad. The mixture will double in volume and then gradually subside and begin to take on a golden hue. After the mixture settles a bit, put in a warmed candy thermometer. Continue to stir constantly, scraping the sides, and cook over medium-low heat until the thermometer registers just 240°F. Watch very carefully, as the thermometer will hover at 239° for a while and then move up. You must remove the mixture before it passes 240°F.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and take out the thermometer. Continue to stir quickly. The candy will look like a loose caramel sauce. Add the vanilla (watch out, it may sputter) and stir carefully to incorporate. Add the pecans and continue stirring quickly. Don’t take your eyes off the mixture at this point. Watch and feel it as it begins to thicken, lighten in color, and become harder to stir. When it has thickened enough to leave a path on the bottom of the pan while you’re stirring, it’s just about ready. The moment you notice that the mixture is just beginning to lose its glossy shine, turn it out into the buttered pan.

  • Don’t wait until the mixture looks completely matte or it will be too dry when you try to cut it. If you stop stirring at the right moment, the mixture will firm up almost the second it hits the pan. Too soon, it will never be anything more than caramel (although very good caramel); too long, it will harden in the pot.
  • As soon as the candy cools (15 to 20 min.), cut it into squares. It will probably have tiny bubbles on top. It may well crumble when cut. If it doesn’t harden immediately, just let it sit for several hours, even overnight, and it may harden. If not, you have great caramel.

What I love about this caramel candy goodness:  It tastes amazing, even when you screw it up.

What I hate about this caramel candy goodness:  Eh…it was difficult.  Really, really difficult.  And I think I still have a cavity.

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#8 Cocoa Banana Muffins

Today’s new recipe is a muffin that sounded scrumptious, but turned out to be unexciting.  They had practically no flavor at all.  I thought about not even including the recipe because it just doesn’t seem to be worth it at all, but decided I would let you decide for yourself if you wanted to try it.  Should you decide to give it a go, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I noticed on the recipe that it states you need to use VERY ripe bananas for the flavor to be there, and mine were literally black, so I don’t know what else to do to get some flavor to burst out of these little muffins.  This is the risk you take in trying new recipes.  Sometimes they turn out, but it’s not a good recipe to begin with, so even following directions perfectly doesn’t help.

I was completely distracted today.  Life’s heartache got in my way several times, and I just had trouble concentrating on anything.  Tomorrow is a new day, with new mercies from Jesus, and more grace than I deserve.  And definitely no cocoa banana muffins. 🙂

Cocoa Banana Muffins (recipe courtesy of The Modern Baker)

Makes 16 standard size muffins

1 1/2 cups flour

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 medium bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork to make 1 1/2 cups**

1/2 cup sour cream

12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

3 large eggs

  • Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir well to mix.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the mashed bananas and sour cream; set aside.
  • Combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed until well mixed and a little lightened in color, about 1 minute.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating smooth after each addition.
  • Decrease the mixer speed to low and beat in 1/2 the flour mixture.  Stop the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to scrape down the sides.  Beat in the banana mixture and once this is well absorbed, add the rest of the flour mixture and mix well.
  • Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to give a final mixing to the batter.
  • Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups in the pan.  Bake the muffins until they are well risen and feel firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.
  • Cool the muffins in the pan on a wire rack.

**For the best banana flavor, make sure to use very ripe bananas.  Their peels should be covered with dark brown, if not black, speckles.  If the bananas are not ripe enough, these will taste no better than cocoa potato muffins.

What I liked about these muffins: Absolutely nothing.

What I hated about these muffins: Absolutely everything.

#1 Roasted Banana Rum Cake

Yesterday marked the first day of my 30 day challenge!

I left for work yesterday morning at 7:00am, got off at 4:30pm, went straight to the high school for this year’s cheer team uniform fitting, and walked in the door to my house…at 7:48pm.  It’s day one and all I really want to do is sit down with some dinner and immerse myself in the Modern Family season finale.  But instead I’ll be making a roasted banana rum cake.  I’m excited, ready, and completely overwhelmed!  I’m certain these next 30 days are going to be incredibly busy, and many of you are going to be sick to death of getting sweets from me, but I’m also ready for a new challenge.  So tired or not, here goes!

1. Banana…yes please!

2. Rum…do you even have to ask?

3. Cake…heck yes.

What’s not to love about this?!

Roasted Banana Rum Cake

For the cake:

3 bananas

1 package white cake mix

1/4 tsp. baking soda

2/3 cup dark rum

2/3 cup water

2 eggs

For the glaze:

1 1/2 sticks butter

1/4 cup water

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup white rum

  • Preheat your oven to 400 and line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Peel the bananas and cut them into one inch thick slices.  Spread the slices around evenly on the pan.

  • Bake about 20 minutes, or until brown.  Let cool and lower the oven to 350.  Grease a bundt pan.
  • Place bananas in a large bowl and mash them with a fork.  Add the cake mix, baking soda, rum, water, and eggs and mix until smooth.  Pour into the bundt pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • When the cake has about 10 minutes left to bake, start the glaze.  Start by putting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat to melt.  Add 1/4 cup water, and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Stir together and bring to a gentle boil.  Continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • Turn the burner off and add the 3/4 cup rum.  Stir together and turn on the burner for about 30 seconds to give it a quick boil.  The mixture will be pretty thin, but syrupy.
  • Once the cake is out of the oven, while still bottom side up, drizzle about 1/3 of the glaze over the cake, with the intent of getting the cake as moist as possible.  Drizzle it on slowly, letting it seep in, and allowing it to run down the sides of the cake as well.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes, giving it a good chance to completely soak in.  After 5 minutes invert the cake onto a cake plate.
  • Next prick the cake all the way around the top and sides with a fork.  This is an important step to make sure that the glaze seeps into the cake really well.  Begin slowly drizzling the glaze all over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.  Some of this will end up pooling at the bottom of the cake, and that’s okay.  Allow the cake to cool to room temperature so it has plenty of time to soak up the rum glaze.
  • Lastly…enjoy!

Here’s what I love about this cake…it is so stinking easy!  It uses a box cake mix, which normally I try not to do, but considering how exhausted I was when I got home, it was a welcome compromise.

Here’s what I hate about this cake…

To be fair, it’s not the cake that caused this catastrophe. I should have known better.  I have had problems with my bundt pan every time I’ve used it.  I own a stoneware bundt pan from Pampered Chef and I hate it.  My cakes always stick, no matter how well I grease it beforehand.  However, I’ve made many bundt cakes in my married life with normal metal bundt pans and they work excellent, so I have every reason to believe this heavenly smelling cake would have come out perfectly had I used a different pan.

Double sigh.  What a way to start!  Here’s to hoping this isn’t an indicator of the next 29 days for me.  Onward to day 2!

Massive Fail

Failure is a clever thing.  At its core lies some of the most adverse feelings a person can experience, and yet it drives us toward accomplishment.  Clever little idea.

Even though I hate to admit it, I fail a lot.  It comes with trying new recipes.  Not every recipe is going to turn out the way you like.  And sometimes outside circumstances don’t allow a great recipe to turn out the way it should.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Aaron’s Grandma Wilson say that her divinity didn’t turn out because of the weather in Salem that particular day.  There are so many factors involved when it comes to a success or a failure in baking.  But when you are left staring at a complete failure after spending loads of time on it, it’s hard to maintain an optimistic attitude about possible future achievements.

And in some cases you can make a family recipe that you’ve made a hundred and fourteen times with extreme success, and on the one hundred and fifteenth time…it fails.  It’s completely annoying.

It all started with this awesome copper bowl that my mother-in-law so thoughtfully bought me for my birthday.

I’ve been wanting one for about two years because expert bakers say that when beating egg whites the reaction between the copper and the whites generates a much more stable foam, with one-third more volume than you get in a standard bowl.  Sweet!

So far so good!  This is the largest size copper bowl available and it was nearly overflowing with whipped egg whites from only 12 eggs!  I was so excited!  Everything looked completely normal up to the point of putting it in the oven.  It smelled divine and baked wonderfully.  I took it out and immediately inverted it just like I always do.

And

then

it

happened…

Sometimes I fail.

And this made me real mad.  I had every intention of bringing this cake with fresh Oregon strawberries and freshly whipped cream to a dinner party.  Instead they got Safeway angel food cake.  I have no idea why it happened.  But I am bound and determined to figure out that expensive copper bowl, and when I do, you’ll know.