So the birthday parties were a blast, but did leave this birthday girl a bit exhausted (I guess I am getting old!). Luckily, my gym gave me a free massage for my bday, so I´m all better now, and ready for a quick recap of the menus.
On Friday, I made a simple meal that didn´t need knives and forks, because, well, I really don´t have that many forks! So it was time for homemade burgers (with store-bought buns because making the buns would have added another layer of stress, and another layer of dirt to my overworked, tiny kitchen). As a “starter”, I served these arugula-sundried tomato-prosciutto-cheese bread rolls I discovered last year… which, incidentally, if you haven´t made them, you really, really should, trust me on this one.
And for dessert/birthday cake, I went with something that had no way of going wrong: Dorie´s Caramel-Peanut Topped Brownie Cake. It was marvelous, as is to be expected, but I think next time, I´m gonna underbake the cake even more because it came out a bit drier than brownie-style cakes are meant to be even though I baked it for 30 minutes instead of the 40-45 indicated in the recipe. Other than that, the cake is a keeper, especially the caramel sauce (which produces about half a cup of extra sauce and Dorie instructs to reheat later on with some more cream and drizzle on ice cream… I haven´t tried that yet, but I see that working and I also envision that sauce over homemade flan, that would be just sigh-inducing deliciousness.)
I´ll tell you about Saturday´s menu next time, but in the meantime, I´d like to recommend another recipe I made for my birthday (this time for the pre-bday party on Thursday night): David Levovitz Black bottom cupcakes. The combination is very interesting and easy to whip up. Though next time I´m gonna try making my spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa a bit skimpier because I´ve discovered there is such thing as too much chocolate sometimes.
Caramel-Peanut Topped Brownie Cake (From Dorie Greenspan´s Baking: From my Home to Yours, more pictures at Peabody´s site)
For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 stick(8 TBSP) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
3 TBSP light corn syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
For the topping:
2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1 ½ TBSP light corn syrup
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup salted peanuts
Butter and flour a 8 inch springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
To make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Melt chocolate and butter together using a double boiler.
In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugars together until well blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate. Still working with a whisk, gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You will have a thick, smooth, shiny batter. Pour the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan a bit to even out the batter.
Bake the cake at 350F for 40-45 minutes (I baked it for 30 minutes and still came out a bit drier than a brownie should be, but maybe it´s just my oven), or until a knife inserted into the center comes out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool he cake for 15 minutes,then run a knife between the cake and the pan and remove the sides of the pan. During baking the cake probably will have puffed to the top of the pan don’t be concerned if tit sinks a little or it if develops a crater in the center. Cool the cake to room temperature.
When the cake is completely cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the paper. Wash and dry the springform pan, and return the cake to it right side up. Refasten the sides around the cake.
To make the topping:
Put the sugar, water and corn syrup in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, stir just to combine the ingredients and then put the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring , until the caramel turns deep amber., 5-10 minutes. Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the saucepan add the cream and butter. When the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts, and pour the caramel and peanuts into a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup or heat proof bowl.
Spoon the peanuts on top of the cake. Then spoon the caramel on top of those. You will have extra caramel leftover to use on something else…like ice cream! You’ll have a layer about ¼ inch high. Allow the topping to set to room temperature-about 20 minutes before serving.
To serve, run a blunt knife between the caramel and the pan and simply remove the sides of the springform. If this isn’t the case, hit the sides with some hot air from a hairdryer or wrap th sides in a towel moistened with hot water.Black-Bottom Cupcakes
The Great Book of Chocolate, David Lebovitz
Yield: 12 full-size or approximately 30 mini cupcakes
For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, regular or reduced fat, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.
Make the cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine (I filled them up about 3/4 full and they did rise to the top, so I don´t think I´d dare fill them up to the top).
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.