Saturday, February 22, 2014

Brown Sugar Caramel Pound Cake

Day 61

Remember that I’ve been baking pound cakes on a disturbingly regular schedule for years now? That has been no secret on my blog, and it’s my pleasure to share with you the news that…I think I’ve found the absolute BEST pound cake recipe yet! In fairness, maybe I shouldn’t count it as “the best” since it’s not a plain pound cake, but I have to give credit where it’s due. This cake is incredible. 

You’re going to use this recipe over and over, and the world is going to love you for it. I fully understand that you are probably not quite as excited as I am, but just wait until you try it.
Photo by Ali Kapustin

I found the recipe on Facebook, actually. My dear friend from home, Deborah, had shared it on her page, and the picture looked lovely. So often though, I don’t trust Pinterest’s or Facebook’s “shared” recipes because they are frequently missing important ingredients or instructions, and rarely do they turn out as the pictures and directions promise. Having made pound cakes for so long, I’ve essentially memorized all of the possibilities out there, and these directions certainly looked legitimate. 

So, I gave it a try. The only issue I had was the baking time. It took mine much longer than the suggested 85 minutes, but every second was well worth the wait. Once the cake was out of the oven and cooled, I drizzled the caramel sauce, and it gently hardened as promised. 

Our family shared some of the cake with friends and kept the rest for the week, nibbling here and there as we passed the cake stand. It was rich, moist, dense, packed with brown sugar and caramel flavors, and absolutely beautiful. It was everything I expected from the perfect pound cake, and more. And as if that wasn’t enough, it was gorgeous, sliced on dessert plates next to steaming cups of cafĂ© au lait. 

Today’s accompanying picture was taken by my stepdaughter, Ali; she agreed to quickly get a shot with her phone before we sliced it. If I had planned better, Doug could have taken a picture of the sliced cake, but it was a completely unexpected and spontaneous success—the best kind, really. Ali did an outstanding job, contributing the second set of photos for my recent blog entries. Thanks Ali! 

Pound cakes are the most comforting desserts out there, I think. They are so versatile and so easy to make. As a child, I made a promise to myself that I’d always have a homemade dessert for my family when I grew up, and I’ve tried very hard to keep that promise. As I sit here writing, this morning, I am really pleased that I made such a personal resolution because I do believe that my family really enjoys having something sweet to soften the hard knocks of our jobs and daily responsibilities. Some days, it’s just what the doctor ordered, to come home, put the kettle on for hot tea or for coffee in the French press, and unwind with a dessert and some peace and quiet. Life is good, for sure, but life is even better with pound cake. 

Thanks to Deborah for sharing the recipe and her friendship, and here’s hoping that each of you will put the kettle on, and have some of this caramel decadence. Go ahead, you deserve it!

Brown Sugar Caramel Pound Cake

1½ cups butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1-8oz. bag toffee chips
1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Caramel Drizzle:
1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray with flour (or grease with shortening and dust with flour.)

Beat butter until creamy. Add sugars, beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mix to batter alternately with milk, beat until just combined. Stir in toffee bits and pecans. Spoon batter into pan and bake 85 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. To prevent excess browning, cover cake loosely with foil toward the end of baking if needed.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Spoon Caramel Drizzle over cooled cake.

Directions for Caramel Drizzle:
In a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk and brown sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Reduce heat, and SIMMER for 8 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla. Let cool for 5 minutes before using. NOTE: Make sure you drizzle the caramel while it’s still HOT. 

When cooled, the caramel does somewhat harden.

(Originally shared by my friend, Deborah Kokinda, on Facebook; originally from Itty Bitty Homestead, also on Facebook.)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Crab and Bacon Hush Puppies with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Day 60

For this Valentine’s Day, I originally made dinner reservations for two at a local country inn, but then decided to do a family dinner at home. My rationale was that we could eat much cheaper for up to seven people if I made a special home cooked meal, including the wine, champagne, and beer. 

The kids set the table, replete with all the candles they could find. We lowered the dining room lights, filled the glasses with sparkling wines and mineral waters, pulled out the good napkins, and our much more cost-effective take on a 5-star dining experience had begun. Okay, it was really closer to a 2- or 3-star, but that’s neither here nor there.
Photo by Ali Kapustin

To begin choosing a menu, I did an Internet search for what some of the local restaurants were serving for Valentine’s dinner, and I went about creating my own menu. I chose to make an appetizer of crab and bacon hush puppies with homemade tartar sauce, a second course of goat cheese field green salads with homemade pretzel roll croutons, praline pecans, and a homemade balsamic honey vinaigrette. I opted for a main course of prosciutto and Gouda stuffed chicken breasts and roasted green beans atop a bed of smoky creamed potatoes, all smothered in a shallot and chive cream sauce. For dessert, we made mini-chocolate salted-caramel tarts, sprinkled with pralines and finished with a generous dollop of whipped cream.  

Overall, I think our family and guests were pleased, and I’d say it was a hit. Because we weren’t planning on sharing any Valentine recipes for the blog today, I didn’t ask Doug to photograph the meal. But, my stepdaughter, Ali, was kind enough to take some impromptu shots with her phone that I’ll use here to show the hush puppy recipe I’m sharing today. 

About these hushpuppies—they were delicious, and so easy to make. Since I wanted to prepare an appetizer that was a variation on the traditional Southern hushpuppies of my childhood, I turned to Paula Deen. Her repertoire of outstanding Southern fare is always extensive, and frying is definitely her specialty. If you’re ever in need of a good twist to most Southern dishes, she is your go-to girl, for sure. I found the recipe quickly, and immediately knew it was the one I wanted to use. I did make a couple of changes to suit our menu, but they were subtle. Paula’s original recipe can be found at this link in case you’d prefer to make it exactly to her recipe:
Photo by Ali Kapustin

When we think of frying, often we assume that we need a deep fryer. That’s not the case at all. In fact, growing up, the best fried foods I ever ate at my grandparents’ tables were made in a cast iron skillet. For less mess, I’ll recommend that you fry these crab hush puppies in a Dutch oven since it’s deeper, but that’s up to you. You don’t need any fancy equipment. Just have a slotted spoon ready to remove them from the oil when they are ready and a plate with several layers of paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Have salt at the ready to sprinkle on them while they are still hot and wet with oil too. 

Although you do have to be careful with overheating oil, if you don’t have a thermometer to test it, it’s okay. When you think the oil might be hot enough, just drop a tiny bit of the batter in it and see if it immediately begins to fry and floats to the top. If so, you’re ready. If it just sinks to the bottom and stays, as if in water, it’s not hot enough. Contrarily, if the batter immediately spatters and pops, it’s too hot and the temperature needs to be lowered. 

Crab and bacon hushpuppies can be prepared and ready to eat in less than 30 minutes, so you want to have the tartar sauce prepared before you begin the frying process. Naturally, these appetizers are best served hot. 

Here’s hoping you had a lovely Valentine’s Day and that you enjoyed some really good food with someone you love. Of course, if you’re a food lover like I am, you won’t wait for Valentine’s Day each year to do that. I hope you will try these for your next special dinner, no matter the occasion. 

Crab and Bacon Hush Puppies with Homemade Tartar Sauce


Frying oil (best with a blend of soybean and peanut oils)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbs. dried chives
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic pepper
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup sour cream
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup very fine bacon crumbles
1 cup fresh blue crabmeat

In a Dutch oven, heat oil to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, chives, baking powder, salt, garlic pepper, baking soda, and cayenne pepper.

In a small bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, and sour cream. Add to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in onions, garlic, bacon, and crabmeat. 

Dip a tablespoon in water, then scoop a spoonful of the hushpuppy mixture. This will allow the batter to easily fall from the spoon. Drop by tablespoonfuls into hot oil, and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, lightly salt, and serve immediately. Be sure not to crowd the hushpuppies as they fry. This batter will make two frying batches for a large Dutch oven. 
Serve with tartar sauce. Recipe below. 

(Hushpuppy recipe compliments of

Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
4 tbs. drained dill pickle relish
1 tbs. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. coarse-grain mustard
¼ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Baked Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze and Candy Bar Crumbles

Day 59

Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, fresh from the oven, are my favorite. Just seeing the big red “Hot Now” light makes me pull over my car and walk inside, zombie-like, demanding one dozen discs straight from heaven, all for me. So, let’s face it, trying to duplicate such perfection is futile. As long as we all agree, you’ll have fun making your own doughnuts at home.
Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2014
There are various recipes we all know, ranging in levels of difficulty from frying canned biscuits to transforming yeast dough. They are all tasty, for sure. 

The recipe that I’ve chosen is for baked doughnuts. It is quick and simple, and it perfectly compliments a breakfast coffee or serves nicely as a simple after dinner treat. 

Before this blog entry, I tested several recipes and found that using Ina Garten’s batter for the doughnuts and creating my own glaze was ideal. For the doughnut pan, I found a perfect non-stick one at Target. I suggest buying two pans so that you can bake 12 at a time to make the process faster. 

I hope you like this alternative to store-bought doughnuts! 

Baked Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze and Candy Bar Crumbles

For the doughnut batter
Baking spray with flour, such as Baker's Joy
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½  cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1¼ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the glaze and topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. instant coffee
6 mini-Butterfinger bars, crushed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 doughnut pans well.

In a food processor, blend 6 mini-Butterfinger bars until completely crumbled.  Set aside for later.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the baking pans, filling each one a little more than three-quarters full. Bake for 17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then tap the doughnuts out onto a sheet pan.

For the topping, combine one cup of heavy cream, one teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, and 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips in a saucepan. Heat on low until melted and smooth. 

Take each cooled doughnut and dip the rounded side into melted chocolate, coating thoroughly. Place on sheet pan, chocolate-side up, and sprinkle Butterfinger crumbles on top. 

Serve immediately or store in airtight container for up to 24 hours.