Monday, October 18, 2010

Sourkraut's Kitchen Nightmares

Ever have one of those kitchen catastrophes that makes you want to pack your bags and move out to avoid having to clean it up? Such was my first attempt at making dulce de leche from condensed milk. I'm seriously considering not using my oven again for the next ten years because by then it'll be old enough for us to justify buying a replacement. It's either that or buy stock in Easy Off since I imagine I'll need a couple of cases of the stuff to deal with the disaster area that is my kitchen.

I should say that the recipe I used is in no way to blame. It's all on me. The recipe said to pour a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pie pan and bake for an hour. I wound up using a casserole dish instead. Mistake #1, I suppose. I do own a pie pan but because I only use it maybe twice a year I loaned it to my mom, who lives three states away, to use while making quiche for her book club this week. I figure since I purloined half of her kitchen supplies when I moved away it was only fair. While I'm driving down to VA this weekend to supply her book club with desserts and to collect my pie pan, I couldn't wait that long to try Sweetest Kitchen's amazing-looking pumpkin dulce de leche cupcakes. I might have thought to combine pumpkin with caramel but it would have never occurred to me to take it a step further and go for dulce de leche instead. That woman is an evil genius, I tell ya!

To begin the disastrous day, at the last minute I decided to whip up a second batch of those cupcakes for the book club gals. It occurred to me that some might not be as addicted to sugar as I so they might require a more grownup cupcake than the Butterfinger cupcakes I made earlier in the day. I planned to cheat and buy canned dulce de leche at Wal-Mart because they have a huge international foods section and I'd bought some there before. Well, they've either discontinued it or that particular branch never stocked it because I couldn't find any there. As the cupcakes were already baked and I was so keen on the idea of using dulce de leche I decided to make my own.

So here's where I really went wrong: in addition to swapping in the casserole dish I also added a scant teaspoon of baking soda. In the comments section of the recipe someone mentioned that that's a good way to make sure the mixture gets nice and brown. I should have realized that it would also make the mixture bubble up like crazy. I do know better than to leave my baking unattended but it was late at night, I was pooped, and Dexter was on TV. Are those enough excuses to atone for my shameful sin? About 45 minutes into the one-hour baking process, I noticed the smell from upstairs. Ran downstairs to find a small plume of smoke coming out of the oven and a scene from Hell waiting for me inside. Seems the dish I used was not wide enough so the condensed milk bubbled up and over the edge of both that dish and the water-filled one I'd set it in. Both pans were covered with sticky, burnt brown sweetened milk and the bottom of the oven looks like I locked The Blob in there and cranked the heat on high.

Beware of The Blob, it creeps and leaps and glides and melts in the bottom of your oven

Oh, and did I mention the smell? Even my husband, who has no sense of smell to speak of, asked me when the odor would go away. Sometimes it smells quite pleasant, like caramalized sugar. But most of the time it smells like sour milk and burnt feet. Not that I know what burnt feet smell like but I can imagine.

In my defense, I did do a quick Google search to make sure the baking soda tip wasn't totally off the wall. I saw a few dulce de leche recipes used it to balance out the acidity of the milk to result in a smoother and browner dulce de leche. But those recipes seem to be for cooking on the stove top not in a sealed pan in the oven. So it's a good tip but not for this method. Next time I'll heat the condensed milk alone and maybe transfer it to a saucepan towards the end, add the baking soda at that point, and heat it long enough to turn nice and brown.

Miracle of miracles, I was able to salvage some unscathed dulce de leche from the bottom of the pan and it just so happened to be the exact right amount for the frosting. The rest was supposed to be used as filling so I simply skipped that step. As amazing as I'm sure they are with the dulce de leche filling and frosting combo double whammy, they are still utterly divine with just the moist pumpkin cake topped with creamy dulce de leche buttercream. That frosting is to die for. I know I've said that a few times already on this blog but this one really takes the cake.

Despite my troubles I will most certainly be making this recipe again. And again and again. Assuming my oven's ever clean enough to use again, of course. You should make them too. They're sure to be a crowd pleaser so whip some up when you have friends, relatives, or foreign dignitaries visiting. Just try to learn from my mistakes so you don't have to spend the next three years of your life scrubbing out the bottom of your poor oven.

Pumpkin Cupcakes w/Dulce De Leche Buttercream
Recipe from Sweetest Kitchen

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
7.5 ounces pureed pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cupcake wells with paper liners; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.

4. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Cool in pan on wire rack for ten minutes, then remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely.

Dulce De Leche
Recipe from Sweetest Kitchen
Makes just enough to fill cupcakes and use in frosting

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
Boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Open up the can and pour the sweetened-condensed milk into a pie pan. Cover tightly with foil. Place into a larger pan and pour boiling water in larger pan & around pie plate (level of water should be about halfway up the pie plate). Don’t let any water seep up and into the pie plate.

3. Place in oven and bake for one hour. At the one hour point, peel off foil and check for progress. If the mixture has thickened and turned a caramel color, it’s done. If it doesn’t quite look thick enough or dark enough, cover it up and bake it a little longer (might take up to 75 minutes or more).

4. When the mixture appears to have turned into a nice, thick caramel, remove from the oven. Let sit for a few minutes, and then beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

5. Measure out 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of dulce de leche and set aside for buttercream. Using the cone method, fill each cupcake with a small spoonful of the remaining dulce de leche and replace cake tops.

Dulce De Leche Buttercream
Recipe from Sweetest Kitchen
Makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons prepared dulce de leche

1. Cream together softened butter and powdered sugar on low using an electric mixer. Add cream and vanilla and beat on medium speed until smooth and no lumps appear. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the prepared dulce de leche and beat to incorporate. Pipe generously onto cupcakes.

PhotobucketMake it Yours @ My Backyard Eden


Bree said...

Oh no!!! Those sound delicious, but I certainly don't envy the clean up you're now facing. No bright ideas on the best way to clean it up, unfortunately, although I'm trying to remember some of the no-chemical ways I've heard recently. I swear I saw one just the other day, but of course I can't think of it now. I'm assuming you don't have a self-cleaning oven?

HoosierHomemade said...

Glad they turned out well...sorry to have to clean up the mess. My hubby is always getting on me for changing the recipe.
Thanks for sharing these fun cupcakes on Cupcake Tuesday!
I hope you can join us for the Holiday Cupcake Challenge in November!

Bella @ Bella before and after said...

What a nightmare, I can't believe you were able to salvage something, and to look at your end result, I would NEVER believe you had any trouble at all. THANKS for sharing at **Amaze me AUgust**.

Also THANK you for leaving such a sweet comment on my BODY FOR LIFE post, and of course all your other words of encouragment. I know that I will reach my goal of losing another 13 pounds, especially with all of you checking in on me like you do. I love that you come see what I am up too, and appreciate it so much. Thanks again, Bella ~~

booturtle said...

This sounds amazing. I plan to try it. I have a friend that just told me how to make dulce de leche in the can. Just pop it in a pot of water and boil for several hours. I've been meaning to try it but had no idea what to do with all that caramel goodness. Now I know. Thanks for sharing!

Ketcham Family said...

Found you from thrilling thursdays!

Ashlee Marie said...

I've had a few oven disasters in my life as well. Just SURE I wouldn't be able to use them again. Good luck getting it clean. I just got a BRAND new oven, I'm kind of scared to try anything risky!

Alexa said...

I might have to make these!!!

Kimberly Johnson said...

Sorry about your kitchen disaster. Watching Dexter takes precedence over all else. A couple years ago a potential beau broke up with me because I chose to watch Dexter rather than IM with him. Whatever! :) Thanks for sharing the recipe - can't wait to try them.

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