Monday, July 05, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

It is impossible to look through Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan and not stop to drool over the photos of this cake. A brownie base with salted peanuts and sticky, gooey, dripping caramel . . . it had my name all over it & so I was very happy to be able to pick the recipe for this weeks' Baking With Dorie challenge

It takes hardly any time to make the cake and it came out looking perfect, but it was cakier than the  super-moist, fudgy brownie I had been envisioning all along. It caved in while cooling, but Dorie already tells us to expect that it will. So, no surprises or panic attacks there.

Next up was the tricky part: making the Caramel. Needless to say, I've never made it from scratch before. Since I made this cake in a frightful hurry, at the eleventh hour, I completely forgot that I could have referred to David Lebovitz's post on how to make Caramel. And Elizabeth of Gluten-Free Baking 101 has added a wonderful step-by-step tutorial within her post this week - just in case you want to get some great visual tips on how to get it right.

Otherwise, Dorie's directions are very clear and guide you right through the process. The only thing was, my caramel took longer to cook than the 10 minutes she said it would. But that has mostly to do with the size of saucepan I used and how much heat I gave it. I really didn't want to burn the caramel since I had very little time to start from scratch all over again, so I watched it like a hawk for maybe 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I had fun doing the 'white plate test' every couple of minutes:

The fun part came next - mixing in the nuts and then pouring everything over the cake. Dorie recommends waiting till the caramel is completely cool before releasing the sides of the springform pan. But I just couldn't wait, because: 

a) I'm highly impatient
b) my kids were hovering around me like flies, wanting to poke their fingers into the cake that they just couldn't wait to eat (now I wonder where they get that from?)
c) I'm highly impatient. 

And this is what happens to impatient people who not only remove their cake from the pan but also slice it right away: 

Yup. Caramel Explosion. Never mind that it looks mouthwatering. 

Next time I'm going to have to listen to the wiser, saner Dorie and let things be. The wisdom in that would have been that the caramel would have set up a little, and some of it would have soaked through and made the cake very moist - almost fudgy. The next morning, this tasted somewhat like a chocolate-peanut version of a sticky-toffee pudding. Do I really need to say it was scrumptious!

One tip: Dorie suggests we don't dump the entire quantity of caramel over the cake and that we should be left with a lot more than we actually need. As usual she's spot on, so, don't be tempted. Less is definitely more as it will make your cake exceedingly sweet.

To check out what the other bakers did with this weeks' recipe, please check the blogroll here and here. Our next challenge, coming up on July 19, is the Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie, chosen by Elizabeth of Gluten-Free Baking 101. If you'd like to join the challenge, please drop me an email. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

You can find the recipe for this cake on pages 264-5 of Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Or you can find it right here after the jump:

Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
From Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan, Pages 264-5

For the Brownie Cake:
 1 Cup All purpose Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 tbsp light corn syrup
2/3 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup salted peanuts


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch spring-form pan, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, line the bottom of the pan with a parchment paper. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet. 

To make the cake,  combine the flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl. Whisk together to mix and set aside. Add the butter and chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set over simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are melted - do not let them get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from heat and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugars till well-blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Add in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, and whisk till combined. Gently whisk in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. The batter should be thick, smooth and shiny. Pour it into the prepared pan and jiggle the pan a little to even out the batter. 

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until  a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out almost clean. Transfer rack to a pan to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife gently between the pan and the cake and carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. The cake may have puffed up during baking, but don't be concerned if it develops a crater in the center while cooling. Allow to cool to room temperature. When the cake is completely cool, invert it, remove the base and peel off the parchement paper. Wash and dry the pan, place the cake back into the clean pan, right side up, and fasten sides.

To make the topping: combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a heavy, medium-sized pan, stirring just to combine the ingredients. Place the pan over medium high heat. Heat, without stirring, till the caramel turns amber (5-10 minutes). As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. To test the color of the caramel, drop a bit onto a white plate. Don't be timid about the color - if it's too pale, it won't have much flavor. 

Lower the heat a bit, stand back and add the cream and butter. When the sputters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts and pour the mixture into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or other heat-proof bowl. 

You will have more caramel than you need, but you want to get all the peanuts onto the cake, so spoon out all the peanuts out of the hot caramel and onto the cake. Pour or spoon over enough caramel to cover all the nuts, drizzling a little over the edges of the cake for presentation. Allow the topping to set at room temperature, about 20 mins, before serving. Keep the leftover caramel at room temperature and save for another use. 


tina_bakes said...

I love everything about your cake!! Now, where do I start:

1. the cake looks very moist..though you said it wasn't as fudgy as you envisioned, it looks like a very very moist choc cake

2. the fact that it caved in is perfect!! just like Dorie's :)

3. love your 'white plate test'.. brilliant and it makes a nice photo!!

very very good pick (especially if you get it right :P

chayacomfycook said...

I want to eat your cake. It looks scrumptious. Why can't I get photos like that?

My caramel took a long time also. My cake was also drier than I expected it to be but it was good.

It was fun to make.

Grapefruit said...

Thanks you so much for your comments! Tina, it only looks moist but wasn't (until the addition of the caramel).
Chaya - I finally get why it's supposed to be a dry-ish cake. Like I said, it reminded me of sticky toffee date pudding which also begins with a not-completely moist cake which just turns gooey and heavenly after adding the sauce.
A fudgy cake would have been disaster with all that caramel on top. Waiting to see your post!

Sage Trifle said...

I haven't seen the book you're talking about, but Dorie's cake couldn't possibly look better than yours.

iram fartash said...

wow this looks sooooo yummy come visit my blog some time :)

Grapefruit said...

Sage Trifle - you are too kind! Thank you.

Thanks for visiting my blog Iram

tasteofbeirut said...

hey, I think your photos are super mouthwatering myself; love these golden peanuts and the caramel that they are smothered with

dorie said...

Even though you were impatient and the cake went oozy, I think it looks luscious. I'm so glad you tackled the caramel. I think the whole process of making caramel is fascinating -- more like magic than anything else, isn't it?

Amanda said...

AMAZING!! That looks decadent!! Just awesome girl!

Be blessed-

Peanutts said...

I think my first reaction was "gasp" very drool worthy

iram fartash said...

hi ,you have an award from arts crafts n hobbies

Grapefruit said...

Dorie: Thank you so much for your comments! And I do have to agree that making caramel is tricky yet fascinating. Thanks for stopping by - I'm suitably honored :)

Thank you Amanada & Peanutts!

Grapefruit said...

Thank you so much Iram. I'm going to head over to your blog right now to check it out.

Jencrafted said...

I just stared at the first photo and gawked! Oh wow! It looks decadent with ooey-gooey caramely goodness - my kind of cake!
Like you, I have always slanted to the cautious side when it came to making caramel, cooking over moderate heat, but have learnt that it's best to not take too long. Dorie's right!!
Excellent, excellent photos, as always.

Mollie said...

WOW that looks fantastic! I think your impatience paid off - the drippy caramel is exactly what I want in front of me right now!

And thanks for reading my blog (and commenting - I love comments). I will definitely do a post of best-ever books soon - that's a great idea!

Midnight's Children was the first Rushdie book I read, and I wasn't that in to it...probably because I didn't know about the whole "mystical realism" thing, so I was surprised when the story got all fantasy-ish on me.

Anywho, happy baking!

creampuff said...

If that gush of caramel and peanuts was a ride I'd line up for it all day long! Beautiful!!! And I especially love your pic of the stages of caramel. Nice!


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