Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sweet and Salty Caramel Brownies

Would you just look that these brownies! They were delicious - maybe the best ever.  Fudgy chocolatey goodness with caramel oozing out the center and drizzled on top, sprinkled with sea salt and coarse sugar.  A glass of milk with these is not optional.

I had given some away...

...but there were plenty for us too.

The ones hanging around were devoured, and then the kids, realizing that they were all gone, had that surprised, shocked, sad, disappointed look on their faces when they asked, "Who ate the last brownie?".

No one confessed.  I suppose I'll just have to make more.

Sweet & Salty Brownie
from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Makes one 9x13 pan of brownies - how many you decide to cut from that is a personal decision!

For the caramel filling:
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, or other mild sea salt
1/4 cup sour cream

For the Brownie:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60 to 72 %), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For Assembly:
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar

Make the Caramel:
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan.  Cook over high heat until and instant read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), 6 to 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up ) and then the fleur de sel.  Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

Make the Brownie:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal 9 by 13 inch pan.  Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl,whisk together the flour,salt and cocoa powder.

Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of the double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined.  Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars.   Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan.  The mixture should be at room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.  Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined.  Add the vanilla and stir until combined.  Do not over beat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate.  Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible.

Assemble the Sweet & Salty Brownie:

Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn.  Use your offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer.  In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer.  Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan.  The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Remove the brownies from the oven, drizzle on desired amount of extra caramel and sprinkle with fleur de sel and coarse sugar.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

The brownies can be stored, tightly wrapped at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Baby Block Mini-Cakes

It's been a week long celebration of babies - from baby brownie pops, to bootie cakes for a girl or a boy.   Now on to Baby block mini-cakes!

If you make these, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time for freezing, crumb-coating, chilling, and decorating.  Start at least 2 days in advance.

Baby Block Mini-Cakes
(makes about 15)

1.  Make a 1 and 1/2 quantity (requires a little math!) of my favorite buttermilk cake batter (I added the zest of one lemon) and divide the batter evenly among two parchment-lined rimmed half-sheet pans (like the one in the photo).  Bake at 325 degrees F convection (350 non-convection) for 16 minutes, or until done when tested with a toothpick.  Cool completely, remove from the pan and transfer the cake to another plastic wrap-lined half sheet pan.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm.

2.  Cut out the animal shapes from marshmallow fondant and keep them in an airtight container until ready to use.

3.  Once the cakes are frozen, make the vanilla swiss meringue buttercream (recipe follows).  Unwrap one cake layer and place in a plastic wrap-lined sheet pan, apply the desired amount of icing, then place the other cake layer on top.  Chill until icing is firm.  Cut the edges from the cake (where the cake is not level) and then cut the cake into squares approximately 3 inches on all sides.  Apply a thin layer of icing to all sides of the block except the bottom (this is called the crumb coat).  I held each block on the top and bottom and coated the sides first, then set the block down and applied icing to the top.  A small offset spatula works well for this.   Chill or freeze again until icing is firm.

3.  Apply a second coat of icing to the blocks, place the fondant shapes onto the blocks where you want them.  It helps if you place a fondant shape on at least two opposing sides of the block, because you can then pickup the blocks, touching where the fondant is, and it will be easier to work on them without messing up the icing.   Carefully place the blocks onto slightly flattened cupcake papers or other liners.  Chill again until firm.

5.  Pipe the border and letters/numbers on the remaining sides using a #2 or 3 piping tip.  Chill until set.  Allow the cakes to come to room temperature before serving.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

9 ounces egg whites
15 3/4 ounces granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
24 ounces (6 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla
Place 2 inches of water in a medium saucepan and bring the water to a simmer. Choose a saucepan that your mixer bowl will fit on top of without touching the water. In your mixer bowl, place the egg whites, sugar, and salt and whisk to combine. Place the bowl over the simmering water and continue to whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is very hot to the touch, about 130-140 degrees F.

Remove the bowl from the double boiler and place on your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until the outside of the mixer bowl is room temperature. It is very important that the meringue be completely cool before adding the butter.

Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, letting each tablespoon disappear before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, switch to the paddle attachment and beat until the mixture becomes fluffy and thick. This could take up to an additional 5 minutes or so. The mixture will go through a stage where it looks curdled before it reaches the proper consistency.

Add the vanilla and beat until completely combined, about a minute.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Baby Converse Cake

We're in the middle of baby shower week!  Who can resist tiny little shoes - they're simply adorable!  Yesterday I showed you a baby bootie cake that was all pink and girly - but it doesn't work so well for a boy.  These converse shoes, on the other hand, are perfect for a little boy baby shower.  

The shoes are made of gumpaste and the other decorations are homemade marshmallow fondant on buttercream icing.  The template for the shoes is shown below.   You can find the video tutorial to make the shoes here.  (The plastic wrap inside the shoe is there for support during drying - it was removed before the party.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baby Bootie Cake

I'm celebrating babies this week!  These super adorable baby booties are made from gumpaste which I colored pink.  Gumpaste dries quite hard, so you'd not want to eat them, but they can be saved virtually forever in a dry place, so they would make a good baby shower keepsake for the mom-to-be.

I made ribbon roses and green leaves and attached them to the shoe using water and a paintbrush and let the shoes dry for about 3 days.

The template for the booties can be found at Cake Central or see below.  Enlarge the image to get the size you want.
Making ribbon roses tutorial can be found at Glorious Treats.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baby Brownie Pops

It's Baby Shower Week here at Marzipan!  I have recently made a few things for baby showers that I wanted to share with you, so I'm taking this week to do it all at once!   These adorable little babies  were so fun to make.  The gender of the baby was not known, so I made both boys and girls.

The basic brownie pop instructions are here.  I dipped the pops in a mixture of  80% white, 10% pink, and 10% yellow melted candy melts so that the coating would resemble skin color and not be stark white.

I piped the face and hair on with royal icing using a very small tip.

The cheeks were painted on using a mixture of pink luster dust mixed with a drop of vodka and applied using a food-only paintbrush.

While the hair is still wet, attach a small heart-shaped (or other shape) candy to the girl pops.

When dry, place a regular-sized cupcake paper around the girls' heads and tie at the base of the pop with a pink ribbon.  Boys get tied with blue.

So cute!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ganache-glazed Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope your sweetie showers you with a gift of chocolate, raspberry, and chocolate ganache ... maybe with pink and red and white jimmies on top.  Or make this cake for someone you love - they won't soon forget it - they may even thank you with a great big hug and a kiss!

Chocolate Cake
from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

For the cake:
3/4 Cup Dark Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/4 Cups Hot Water
2/3 Cup Sour Cream
2 2/3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
3/4 Cup or 1 1/2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, softened
1/2 Cup Vegetable Shortening (or substitute softened butter)
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Firmly Packed Dark Brown Sugar
3 Large Eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325F.  Spray three 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper and then spray the parchment.  Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl combine the cocoa, hot water and sour cream. Whisk together and set aside to cool.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

4. Add the butter and shortening to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle and beat on medium until light and fluffy - about 5 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Give the sides of the bowl a scrape and give one last mix for 30 seconds.

6. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the cocoa mixture in two additions, starting and ending with the flour.

7. Divide the batter equally among the three pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 35 to 4o minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing cake from the pans to cool completely.  Wrap the cake layers and freeze for 30 minutes or up to one week.  Allow to thaw slightly before applying icing.

Raspberry Buttercream
adapted from Katherine Seeley/Fine Cooking

Yields 7-1/2 to 8 cups enough to fill and frost a 9-inch four-layer cake or about 5 dozen cupcakes

5 large egg whites
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 lb., 4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup raspberry puree, strained

Place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed until foamy. Sprinkle in 6 Tbs. of the sugar and beat on high speed to medium peaks (the whites should be smooth, full, and shiny, and the peaks should curl a little). Turn off the mixer.

Combine the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar and the corn syrup in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over medium high heat, stirring briefly to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook just until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.

Immediately remove the syrup from the heat, turn the mixer onto medium-high speed, and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream, being very careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk.
Reduce the speed to medium and continue whisking until the whites are barely warm, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the butter 1 Tbs. at a time. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.  Add raspberry puree and beat until combined.  Add additional pink food coloring if desired.  Use at room temperature.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze
from via

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.  Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat until the cream starts to bubble at the perimeter and feels hot to the touch.  Pour the heavy cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for one minute.  With a whisk, begin whisking the mixture in the center and continue outward until the mixture is shiny and smooth.  Allow to cool 15 minutes before using.  Pour the ganache on top of the cake about 1/4 or 1/3 at a time and use a large offset spatula to cover the top and as the ganache drips down the sides of the cake, carefully spread it around the sides in a thin layer.  Decorate with jimmies.


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