Monday, April 17, 2006

I Heart Brownies

Better than Brad Pitt - ya think?

Brownies, you love um right? That sweet slightly under cooked yumminess that makes you close you eyes and smile. Well, have you ever come across something that try as you might you just can’t make properly? Everyone humanoid on the planet can simply dump a box and ♪ta da♪ beautiful brown onion skin on the outside and chocolaty goodness on the inside. Well, not me; bricks, that’s what get, I can make the lightest sponge you ever had the joy of tasting, but brownies? Bricks. Why I ask you?!?! What is the magical secret to making brownies? Is there a club? Can I join? Am I over thinking this? It’s very sad, I call myself a baker and I can’t bake a recipe that was a mistake to begin with –brownies supposedly were created when someone left the baking powder out of a chocolate cake. I’ve tried the box, I’ve tried scratch – I’ve tried blondies. Nope, could’t do it. I started to think that I should just stick to cheesecake!

Well, finally I have found a recipe that I can make to perfection. Not quite the usual fudgy yet cakey brownie we are all used to but - WOW. My dear friend Chocolatier Magazine has come to the rescue yet again! This recipe is not your grandma’s brownie that’s for sure. It is also not one to whip up for the kids. Go ahead give one to the little ankle biter in your house and – if he likes it, which he might not – watch his head explode from the sugar. The chocolate taste is deep, intense and sweet but not the sweetness that would appeal to most kids. It definitely has a grown up taste and – cut small - would make a great passed desert for a cocktail party or event. The texture is little grainy, but fudge like as well, no real cakeness to it - but it goes will with the smoothness of the topping.

Of course I won’t give up my search for the perfect brownie, but this will definitely be on my top 10 hit parade of desserts to impress. Now the name is a bit hokey, but don’t be afraid! I mean “Better-Than-Brad-Pitt Brownies” come on…what could be better? These are pretty darned close!

Better-Than-Brad-Pitt Brownies
(Polka Dot Cake Studio Taken from Chocolatier Magazine Feb/March 2006)

14OZ unsweetened chocolate, chopped.
1/4C non-alkalized cocoa powder
1 1/2C (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
2C all purpose flour, sifted
10OZ semi sweet chocolate morsels
2C chopped walnuts

4OZ semisweet chocolate
4T unsalted butter
1/2T light corn syrup

Make the brownies: Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 300°F. Butter bottom and sides of 9 X 13 baking pan. Line bottom with parchment (I allowed enough to hang over sides of pan to use as handles).

In a large bowl, combine unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder. Place bowl over pot filled 1/3 of the way with barely simmering water and heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth.

In bowl of electric mixer, using paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and salt together at high speed until combined and light, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. At low speed, add flour in three additions, mixing just until blended. Add melted chocolate, chocolate morsels and walnuts and mix until combined. Scrape batter into pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until top is set but still soft and edges are just beginning to pull away from sides of pan (a tooth pick will still come out gooey at this point). Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Cover pan and refrigerate brownies for 6 hours or overnight before glazing)
Glaze the brownies: Combine all the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl and place over a pot filled 1/3 of the way up with barely simmering water. Heat stirring, frequently, until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Invert brownies and remove from pan. Peel off parchment and re-invert so they are right side up. Pour glaze over brownies and, using off-set spatula, spread evenly to edges. Refrigerate brownies for 10 minutes (no longer or the glaze will harden too much and the brownies will be hard to cut), to set glaze.

Using a sharp knife (use a long one), cut brownies into 24 rectangles (I made triangles).

*Note. Don’t leave out the nuts; they are a needed texture here. If you want nut free make a different recipe!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Did Someone Say Cake?

Well, not having a lot of time on my hands – means that occasionally I need to think ahead when a few unaccounted for minutes come my way. On one such an occasion a week or so ago I got the urge to bake. Now for me, baking is the fun part. I don’t necessarily have to eat it – well not right away anyway. So, I whipped up a nice hazelnut sponge from my old friend the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. They call it the "Filbert Torte", but that's a little high brow for me. Sweet, but not too sweet and nutty but not like a mouth full of nuts. My urge being satisfied I popped that little treasure into the freezer for a rainy day.

Okay, so it didn’t rain on Saturday, but M mentioned cake and I was off.

Cake I said, yes, we can do cake. Out came the sponge to thaw. I didn’t need a lot of thought on what to pair with it, White Chocolate Ganache from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible would do the trick quite nicely. Out came my prized stock pile of Callebaut White Chocolate (time to buy some more I am getting desperately low) and Lindt White Chocolate bars. I prefer the Lindt bars for creaminess in the ganache, but nothing beats Callebaut for taste and snap for the chocolate leaves I planned for garnish. Since it is spring I thought a few raspberries in the middle might be nice too.

After one failed attempt on the ganache – boy am I out of practice – I have some advice for anyone who tries Rosie’s recipes - follow the instructions exactly! Sadly I didn’t the first time and had to toss the result due to solid chocolate on the beaters! Well, when I did follow the instructions I got the silky smooth whipped cloud I was looking for.

You don’t have to go to the trouble of making your own chocolate leaves if you don’t want to. Nowadays you can buy chocolate shapes in the grocery store. I prefer to make my own, but hey that’s just me.

Hazelnut Sponge
(Adapted from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook 1988)

6 Eggs, separated
3/4C Sugar
1/3C Dried, plain bread crumbs
1/4C Flour
1C Ground Hazelnuts (available from King Arthur Flour)
1t Vanilla (the recipe calls for this in the topping I add it to the cake)
1 tray of fresh raspberries

2 Recipes White Chocolate Ganache (The Cake Bible)
White Chocolate Leaves

Preheat Oven to 325°F

Beat Whites to soft peaks at high speed. With mixer on gradually add ¼ C sugar. Continue eating until stiff peaks form (do not over beat or your cake will be dry).

In another bowl beat egg yolks at medium speed until lemon colored and thick. Gradually beat in sugar and vanilla until blended. Stir in bread crumbs, flour and 2/3 C nuts.

Lighten egg yolk mixture with a few tablespoons of egg white; fold remaining whites into yolk mixture. Pour into 9 x 3 inch spring form pan (DO NOT use a non-stick pan, and DO NOT GREASE PAN.)

Bake 40 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert cake in pan on wire rack if it has not grown over the edge of pan. If it has; place an empty ring from another 9 inch pan under it and place all that on the rack to cool complete. This keeps the lightness and height in tack.(Now you can freeze this cake for up to one month with no adverse effects.)

Split the cake in half horizontally. Spread about a cup of ganache over cake and place an even layer of raspberries into ganache, reserving a few for garnish. Press down lightly and cover raspberries with more ganache.

Top with remaining layer, coat liberally with ganache, top and sides – it doesn’t need to be perfect, but as smooth as you can.

Lightly press remaining nuts onto the sides of cake and arrange chocolate leaves on top in a flower pattern. Place reserved raspberries in the middle.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

In Search of Butterscotch

When I was a kid any occasion for a gathering of people was an occasion to bring food. Weddings, funerals, visiting the family of a sick friend, you name it; the little old ladies would bring out their “secret family recipes”. Heaps of casseroles; a virtual landscape of cakes and cookies as far as the eye could see. (Keep in mind this is the memory of a twelve year old so…) Not one single cold cut tray in sight – for shame – no; only things made with their own hands were acceptable to bring to someone’s house.

It was on one such occasion when I was twelve that I was introduced to butterscotch. It’s funny how the weirdest things stick in your mind, but well there was this butterscotch cake. (My eyes have now rolled up into my head and I might faint…) I can still remember what it looked like, all burnt orange colored with a dark chocolate glaze. It was cooked in an angle food cake pan – I didn’t know that then, but that was the shape of it. It was dense and moist, almost pudding like, and oh so yummy. I swear that I ate half that cake all by myself that day. On occasions like these no one monitored what the kids were eating! No such thing as too much sugar, or too many calories. When I was a kid kids played outside all day; so over eating was never an issue. Heck, sometimes we even ran with scissors! Oh to be twelve again.

Well, ever since then I have been in search of that taste. I haven’t found it yet – try though I might. I’ve tried blondies and cookies, cakes and candy. Nope I just can’t get there.

Recently I visited the site of The Canadian Baker and clicked on the link there for the Hershey’s Kitchens web site. As I always do with any new site; I clicked on recipes and like wise candies…it’s that chocolate thing again. Anyway, the first recipe, staring at me like a beacon was their “Butterscotch Nut Fudge”.

Well guys, this has to be the best butterscotch recipe I have tasted so far. Okay, so it’s not THE cake, but the flavor is right and the creaminess brings to mind all things buttery. Give it a whirl you’ll be glad you did!

Don’t get crazy and cut the pieces bigger than an inch, this is one sweet, rich treat; less is definitely more here.

Butterscotch Nut Fudge
(from Hersey’s Kitchens)

1-3/4 C Sugar
1 jar Marshmallow fluff (7.5 oz.)
3/4 C Evaporated milk
1/4 C Butter (1/2 stick)
1-3/4 C HERSHEY'S Butterscotch Chips (11-oz. pkg.)
1 C Chopped salted mixed nuts (I used cashews)
1 t Vanilla extract

Line 8-inch square pan with foil, (I used parchment it worked fine) extending over edges of pan.

Combine sugar, marshmallow fluff, evaporated milk and butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to full boil; boil and stir 5 minutes. Be REALLY careful here because this stuff spatters a lot, I’ve got the burns to prove it!

Remove from heat; gradually add butterscotch chips, stirring until chips are melted. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan; cool.

Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours. Remove from pan; place on cutting board. Peel off foil. Cut into squares. Store tightly covered in refrigerator. About 5 dozen pieces or about 2-1/4 pounds candy.

NOTE: For best results, do not double this recipe.