I don't think there has been another week where almost everyone who baked the cake had the same problem. In Mendy's words, we all had "caramel issues."
Just see if this doesn't sound like a broken record:
First came Faithy: "The caramel stayed at the bottom of the ramekins and didn't quite dissolve after 40mins in the waterbath..and i had to microwave it to soften so i can pour it out. But the moment it is poured on top of the pineapple, the caramel hardens really HARD like toffee candy (and at times like spun sugar like strings)! How to eat?"
And Vicki, who said: "The caramel didn't quite cooperate with the puds. It stuck to the bottom of the ramekins and was rock hard. As I pulled the pineapple and sugar out, the caramel pulled into long ribbons! It also turned itself into spun sugar without benefit of being swung across the kitchen with a lopped off whisk." But she made the best of the situation: "It made me feel very creative and quite avant-garde, turning out hip and modern sugar garnish."
Katya was poetic: "The caramel stayed in a hard, thick layer in the pan, as all the rest flipped semi-neatly out. I went after it with a spoon and it cascaded down onto the pudding in taffy-like waves."
And Monica was just mad: "I took them out and inverted one unto a serving plate. Let’s call this move, a “test run”. And my screams were heard around the world. Mold to plate, nothing. Ran the metal spatula once more between the sides and tried again. Felt it come out of the mold. Looked at the mold and what do I find? Caramel sauce - not.melted! Half of the pineapples stuck to the UN-MELTED caramel sauce."
Well, you get the picture.
Poor Julie! Not only did she have difficult caramel, but--much worse--she ended up at the emergency room after absent-mindedly testing the temperature of the caramel with her finger. Looking on the bright side (as she did herself), she "ended up with a pretty nice dessert." And she finally got a chance to test her pineapple corer, which she now enthusiastically recommends.
But did people like the pineapple caramel bread pudding? By and large, they did. I liked how Nancy B. described her niece's reaction: "Younger niece (who'd been looking ahead at this recipe and thought she wouldn't like it at all) tried a small bite, and pronounced it as not having much of a flavor. A few minutes later, as the rest of us praised the flavor combination, she took another bite from her father's serving. Another 5 minutes or so and she asked me to get her a full cake. I suspect none of us would have picked this recipe out of the book as something we'd really like, but there certainly were no bites of cake left on the plates at the tasting."
Jennifer's description was more succinct: "pretty damn delicious."
But the real star of this show was the brioche. Shandy said she "loved everything about the brioche." And Andrea said she would "definitely make the bread again." She also noted that it "helped [her] get over [her] fear of working with yeast breads."
In fact, so popular was the brioche that two of our bakers--Raymond and Sarah--made the brioche only and skipped the final step of the cake.
Not that the brioche--delicious as it was--lacked its own complications. Jenn found that out when she put the loaf in the oven and "noticed that there's not much head space between the top of the brioche and the top of the oven. I didn't think that much of it because hey, there's still some room. Well, next thing you know, about 10 minutes later, I smell something burning, opened the oven and saw that the top of the brioche is stuck on the oven ceiling. On another circumstances I would have said: "hey Rose's brioche has nice oven spring!" This is not one of those circumstances. What I said was: "Oh shit!" I frantically grabbed my oven mitts, pulled the brioche out, pulled the baking stone out, put the cheapo baking stone in (it's shorter), put the brioche back in the oven, checked the head room (there are plenty of space!), went to the liquor cabinet and treat myself to a little sip of Grand Marnier."
As marvelous as everyone's final pudding cakes looked, even with caramel mishaps, this week's FEATURED BAKER award must go to Kristina. She definitely deserves notice for her savoir-faire in unmolding the cakes: "When it came time to unmold, I was expecting a bit of a mess, really. Much to my surprise, they turned out perfectly." Folks, Kristina holds the secret to the caramel! And not only did her pudding cakes turn out perfectly, but she also did a marathon blog about 1) the pudding cakes, 2) the tomato-chocolate surprise cake, and 3) the lemon meringue cake.
On to next week, which is also from the "Baby Cakes" chapter (how did that happen?). It's Rose's take on the modern classic, the lava cake. Realizing that the success of this dessert depends totally on taking it out of the oven at the exact right time, because otherwise it's just chocolate cake, Rose decided to substitute ganache for the underdone center that gives the cake its molten lava quality. For these babies, Rose specifies silicone cupcake or brioche molds. The brioche cakes pictured in the book are attractive, but I have the cupcake pans, so that's what it's going to be for me.
You will be happy to learn that we're back to the Q&E list for the following week: the Many-Splendored Quick Bread, which, with its oatmeal, banana, zucchini, and carrots, you could even call healthy.
One last thing: this week is the first anniversary of the onset of this project. In honor of the group's birthday, Raymond suggested that we conduct a poll to figure out the bakers' favorite cakes. Vote for up to five of your very favorite cakes--just email your answers to me, at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll tally the votes and announce the top five vote-getters next week. Polls close on Wednesday, October 13, at 9:00 AM CST. Don't forget to vote!