Thursday, May 10, 2012

Happy News for the Andersons

Today, we have a lot to celebrate.  We found out that my uncle's lymphoma is in total remission!  With amazing news like that, there was an immediate need for a celebratory dessert. It took me a while to find one I wanted; I knew I wanted to stick with my favorite blog, Annie's Eats, because she's never steered me wrong .  I also knew I wanted cupcakes or cakes, because I felt they are more festive than cookies or brownies.  Lastly, I felt like a challenge; today the kids had MCAS and so basically I sat around all day watching them (struggle), and I felt an urge to prove that I am not a waste of life!  Hence, we have the caramel peanut-topped brownie cake: a chocolate, bowl-shaped cake, topped with homemade caramel sauce and honey-roasted peanuts.  7 paragraphs of directions could not frighten me tonight!  Although, maybe they should have...

Looks perfect... tasted awful!
Looks too light... but tasted perfect!
The cake itself was simple enough; with a little bit of double boiling action to melt the chocolate and the butter.  That went into the oven in no time.  Then the caramel... I followed Annie's directions perfectly, boiling the sugar, water and corn syrup without stirring, and waiting for the color to turn to "dark amber."  When the color matched the picture on the blog, I turned the heat down and added butter and cream like the recipe said.  I mixed in the peanuts, and voila!.... burned caramel sauce.  It looked 100% like the picture, and yet it tasted chemically and bad... and burned.  I was depressed, but refused to let the celebratory spirit leave me just yet.  In fact, if I may be honest, I had earlier loudly bragged that I enjoyed baking difficult cakes, so even though Mom urged me to just top it with whipped cream, I went to the store for more ingredients to try again.

If you every decide to make this cake, here is what you need to know.  Do NOT let your caramel turn the same color as Annie's picture.  If you do, there is a teeny tiny fine line between perfection and burned horribly.  The second time around, a nervous Mark forced me to stop boiling the caramel earlier than I expected; it was still lighter than Annie's pictures, but we did not want to ruin another batch.  Once I poured it on top of the cake, it still looked a little lighter, but I can promise it tasted better!  So even though my beloved Annie says not to be afraid to wait till your caramel gets dark, I'd have to disagree!
Success!  A lighter caramel color meant a MUCH better taste

As someone who does not love sweets, I actually didn't even try a piece of this, but I ate a bite of Susie's, and it's pretty great!  The cake is soft and fudgy and turns slightly caramel-soggy.  The crunchy peanuts on top are a great texture contrast to the gooey caramel.  It was a big hit, and I am really glad I made it for the Andersons tonight.  Congratulations, you guys!  Love you :)

P.S. In between baking cakes and making caramel sauces,  I also made my favorite pizza dough recipe.  Mark made the pizzas for me so I could focus on my rather involved cake! He ended up making one pizza with both doughs; it was so soft and fluffy and delicious!  Nice work, honey!

caramel peanut-topped brownie cake

pizza dough

adapted from Bobby Flay at

This recipe makes 2 14-inch pizza crusts

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour, plus more for rolling (Using bread flour will give you a much crisper crust.  You can substitute it with all-purpose flour if you want a chewier crust.  That is the type I prefer!)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope instant dry yeast (or 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water, 110 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

1) Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine.
2) While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

3) Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.
Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour.

4) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.

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