Oct 3, 2010

Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes

The best part of this cake was the homemade brioche, which I wrote about on breadbasketcase.com. The roasted pineapple was delicious, as was the thickened roasting sauce and the creme anglaise. The only problem I had was the caramel itself--it looked perfect when I poured it into the custard cups, but when I turned them over onto the plate, the hardened caramel stayed stubbornly in the bottom of the cups.
With a few more seconds in the microwave, it softened enough to pour over the cake and it looked very attractive. It hardened immediately on contact, however, so it was more like caramel crunch than caramel sauce. Tasty, but not right.

As I am somewhat wont to do, I missed the instructions telling me to cut up the bread and let it dry out gradually. In fairness to me, I just got back from vacation last night and got out the cookbook this morning (Sunday). Fortunately, there was a one-hour alternative in a 200-degree oven. I chose that option.
The creme anglaise was easy--really just a matter of whisking eggs, milk, and cream, along with vanilla beans and grated nutmeg.
If you cut up pineapple about twice a year, you don't get good at it. I remember Julia Child showing me how to cut up pineapple. Somehow you're supposed to be able to see that the "eyes" are in a diagonal row, and it's supposed to work very slickly to slice the eyes off row by row. It didn't work very well. I whacked off the most noticeable eyes and decided to ignore the little spots.
I also mistakenly added the pineapple juice to the roasting and basting sauce, but that seemed to work out all right. The pineapple was ripe and very sweet. Actually, the whole dessert was a little on the sweet side. I'm not sure it needed both the caramel on the bottom (top) and the thickened caramel-y pineapple juices.
I thought I had caramel down pat. However, I didn't use my thermometer because I usually overcook the caramel mixture with the thermometer. I suppose it would make more sense to use the thermometer, but take the caramel off the heat before it reaches the recommended temperature. In any case, I believe the operative words here are "pale amber." I think I let mine turn at least medium amber, and that, I assume, is what made the caramel turn to stone.
Cutting the pineapple went pretty smoothly, although--of course--my fan arrangement was not as attractive as the picture in the book. So I'm not a food stylist.
I drained the creme anglaise off the soaking brioche cubes, and was looking forward to having extra for the puddings. Here is some advice: do not answer the doorbell while you are warming the creme. If you do, you will find that your creme has turned into scrambled eggs, and there is nothing to do but pour it down the drain.
After the pudding cakes are layered, they're put into a roasting/baking pan which is filled with boiling water, and they're covered loosely with foil. (No browning of the bread cubes). After about 35 minutes, they're heated through and ready to turn upside down on the plate.
That is when I realized that the caramel wasn't coming out. And then I realized that the caramel in the bottom of the dish wasn't just sticky; it was rock solid.
It took 32 seconds in the microwave to warm it back up to sticky caramel, which promptly turned rock solid again.

I thought the pineapple basting sauce, which was also somewhat caramelized, but still liquid, might have been enough of a caramel flavor, and I think if I made it again, I might try it without the bottom caramel layer. Or I might just try cooking the sugar and water until it was very pale, as instructed to do. Following instructions is rarely a bad idea.

Sarah: "It tastes like Mad Men. Something about the pineapple and brown sugar makes me think of the 60's. It makes me want a Manhattan. I like it."

Karen: "I like it too. I can't imagine having it any other way than warm. It's quite a bit sweeter than most of Rose's other cakes."

Jim: "The caramel was a little hard to deal with, and I wish the bread had been a little firmer, but the flavors went really well together."


faithy said...

I had the same problem with my caramel too!! It turned rock hard pretty soon and it is impossible to eat with it. And like you i too love the homemade brioche too...it is a winner imo. :D

faithy said...

i don't know how to core pineapples too..but i got help from my domestic helper and she can see the buds diagonally and remove them all in a nice swirl..so i got her to do it..lol! :p

Monica said...

Welcome to caramel hell. Same issue with my caramel and I totally took the temperature so I know that I follow the instructions to a T. I'm connivence there is a typo in there somewhere and we were not suppose to put butter in there. A straight up caramel without the butter would have worked so much better here.

I totally dumped the caramel that stuck to all 6 baking dishes and instead used my roasted syrup to pour over the top.

Worked just fine and got really good feedback.

Vicki said...

Wow, making this after vacation is an accomplishment!I always need a vacation to recuperate from vacation. They look quite pretty! I liked the flavor without the caramel. The sauce was exotic enough. I expected the caramel to basically melt like the little Pineapple Upside-down cakes.

Katya said...

yep, same caramel trouble. when I tipped it out on top of the cake it twisted up in a wonderful, taffylike mold ribbon.

I also thought it was very sweet. And I have a lot of leftover pineapple poaching juice left...wonder what to do with that...

faithy said...

I thought the typo was in the temperature cos the reason the caramel was this way was because of the temperature to which it was cooked to at 154c..at hard crack stage (to make lollipops, nut brittles..etc) cos i think at this stage, it will turn rock hard like candy irrespective whether butter is added or not..i tot add butter means becomes toffee.. My guess is the temperature should be higher..for caramelizing stage..at 160c-170c where the sugar breaks down and caramelize.

Vicki said...

Faithy is on to something. This is from http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html

Hard-Crack Stage
300° F–310° F
Sugar concentration: 99%

The hard-crack stage is the highest temperature you are likely to see specified in a candy recipe. At these temperatures, there is almost no water left in the syrup. Drop a little of the molten syrup in cold water and it will form hard, brittle threads that break when bent. CAUTION: To avoid burns, allow the syrup to cool in the cold water for a few moments before touching it!

faithy said...

i was thinking of what Vicki said about the pineapple or apple upside down cake..did we use the same caramel recipe?..i can't remember..hahaha..but if we did and it works probably also because the cake was further baked at 180c (on baking stone?) and then the sugar got broken down quite unlike this time ..the pudding was bake in waterbath at a much lower temperature..so the sugar didn't get broken down to caramelize stage. That's all my guess ..have to wait for Rose to see what she says..:D

NancyB said...

Yep, same caramel problem here, too--I had a rock hard layer left in the molds after turning the cakes out, except for a few shards of unpleasant crunchy crust that did come out. I just dumped what stayed in the dishes, figuring there were enough flavors and sauces without it.

Katya said...

Oh, and by the way, Marie, your initial in-bowl picture totally had me fooled for a few minutes there.

Andrea said...

Marie, your pudding cakes look very pretty! I also had problems with the caramel sticking to the bottom. I tried reheating my caramel and putting it on top, but it immediately re-caramelized. These were good, but my favorite part was definitely the bread. I finished making them around 11:00 last night so my post will be up this evening.

Marie said...

OK, I'm perfectly willing to believe that I made a mistake with the caramel, but that we all made the same mistake? That seems more unlikely. But I'm not sure about the typo theory--310 to 320 seems to be the internet consensus for "pale amber."
I think caramelizing requires even higher temperatures than the "hard-crack stage,"--at least according to Vicki's exploratorium.edu site, which says that caramelizing occurs if you "heat a sugar syrup to temperatures higher than any of the candy stages."
I loved the taste of the caramel, and I think it would be perfect if we could only figure out how to get it to stay in a sticky stage.

Shandy said...

I had the same caramel issues and like reading everyone else's consensus on the subject. I followed Monica's step of using the pineapple syrup to drizzle a glaze over the top. I have a large collection of individual souffle dishes, measured for holding capacity and completely spaced on Rose's souffle measurement of 3 x 2 inch dish. Mine were wider, so I ran into issues with this too.

Your pineapple pudding cakes look beautiful! I can not believe you bake this coming directly from vacation. I spread this out into 4 days!

Jenn said...

Marie, that 1st picture totally fooled me. I was wondering why your pudding has some sort of gelatinous outer shell. Only until I saw Katya's comments that I realized it's a glass ramekin.
The caramel seem to give everyone trouble. Same here for me, I followed the instruction and got the same hard rock candy!

Andrea said...

One of my coworkers suggested that our caramel probably needed some heavy cream to keep it from turning rock hard.

Vicki said...

It's all about sugar chemistry, according to the loads of google reading. Rose and Woody will figure it out. Not only is there the temperature factor, there's also the moisture to sugar ratio and set time. Crickey, who knew sugar was so finicky?

Vicki said...

Hahaha ha ha! The glass custard cup went right over my head! Good one, Marie.

evil cake lady said...

aw man, your creme anglaise!

i actually didn't end up with the rock hard caramel, but i ended up putting the caramel (with butter) back on the stove until the whole thing was a medium amber. maybe browning the butter helped somehow?? i thought the key was cooking the caramel to a darker color, but marie, yours looks the same color as mine did (after reheating). sooo....don't know. can't wait to hear what rose and woody say about it!

Mendy said...


Love the step by step. I also had caramel issues.

Monica said...

See... the caramel from hell! We are still not in speaking terms.

Tom ate the last one yesterday and instead of re-heating it in the oven... I did this:

Place the baking dish in a container with water, cover with a towel and put in the microwave for 2 minutes of high... out they came perfect... Ok, almost perfect, the pesky caramel, of course once more STAYED PUT at the bottom of the baking dish.


Hanaâ said...

Sorry to hear about all the caramel issues. Your pudding cakes turned out lovely nonetheless. I really liked the caramel from the Plum-Blueberry Upside Down cake. Maybe that recipe would have worked better here.

faithy said...

LOL! Monica, we both think alike! I too reheat by microwave the ones i kept in the fridge. I'm not going to turn up my oven and waterbath for 30mins!
But i cover mine with cling wrap and then place a glass of water next to it and microwaved for 2mins. The caramel i must say partially melted and left only with a tiny hardened piece.. but it wasn't soo hot so i guess if i were to reheat it longer, the caramel will probably melt totally.

Jenn said...

Faithy and Monica, what I did is I put some water in a pot to halfway cover the ramekins, then heat it over the stove. First I bring it to a boil then let it simmer (med heat) for about 20 minutes. By then the pudding is warm and caramel is COMPLETELY melted.