Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Caramel Crunch Bars - Tuesdays with Dorie

pile of caramel crunch bars with extra toffee

For this week's TWD recipe, Whitney of What's Left on the Table chose Caramel Crunch Bars. This was sort of a dark horse recipe for me. Even though it looks pretty tasty in ice-cream sandwich form in the book, I didn't realize how deliciously addictive and candy bar-like they would be. Plus, because I couldn't find the Heath bits in the store, I learned how easy it is to make toffee... which may be bad for my health in the long run;)

[toffee recipe]
[twd recipe]

There are a few different flavors in these bars that meld together deliciously, namely toffee/caramel, chocolate and a kick of espresso in the bar itself. I added a little extra salt to everything, which, for me, made everything that much more delicious.

chocolate and toffee bits

For the toffee recipe, I searched around and found a nice-looking recipe at Cooking for Engineers. It's pretty simple, basically just combining butter, sugar, a touch of salt and a little water, cooking until it gets to 300° F and then stirring in some vanilla extract.


toffee ingredients

Cooking the toffee:

butter and sugar in panmelted in pan
boiling in panat 300 degrees
after stirring in vanilla

After the vanilla is stirred in, pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat, let cool and then break apart into bits. Use any means necessary;)

toffee poured onto panbreaking toffee by hand
smashing toffee

The only bad part about making this the day before is that half of it will probably be eaten by the next day, so make sure to reserve enough for the recipe ;)

The bars themselves were straightforward to make. The slight twist was the instant espresso powder, which gave a subtle zing to the finished product.

dry ingredients

As Dorie said, the batter was very thick, so it took me a while to spread evenly in the 9"x13" pan. It ended up being more crunchy than sandy for me, so I was glad for the chocolate bits that broke it up a bit.


batter spread in pan

baked shortbread base

I used a different type of chocolate on top than in the bar, and the different chocolates ended up working very well together. The one on top was slightly more bitter, which went with the espresso.

spreading chocolate

toffee sprinkled on top

Here is the Toffee Bits recipe, with Caramel Crunch Bar info below. The toffee recipe makes more than you'll need for the bars, so you could halve it or third it.

225 g unsalted butter (2 sticks, 1 c)
200 g sugar (1 c)
2 tsp water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter, sugar, water and salt together in a saucepan over low heat. Continue heating and stirring until the mixture reaches 300° F (150° C). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract (be careful, it will bubble).

Pour hot mixture onto a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silpat. Let the toffee cool to room temperature and break apart into pieces as small and uniform as you can get them.

Caramel Crunch Bar ingredients and nutrition info:

188 g all-purpose flour (1 1/2 c)
1 t instant espresso powder, or finely ground instant coffee
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
225 g unsalted butter (2 sticks, 1 c) at room temperature
110 g light brown sugar (1/2 c packed)
50 g sugar (1/4 c)
1 t vanilla extract
3 oz bittersweet or milk chocolate (85 g), finely chopped

6 oz bittersweet or milk chocolate (170 g), finely chopped
3/4 c Toffee Bits

[recipe instructions on Whitney's blog]

Nutrition Facts from NutritionData.com:
per 1"x2" piece (I got 48 bars, so I'm rounding up): 1/50th of recipe
[click to show or hide]

Nutrition info is not too scary this week, but I DARE you to try to just eat one of these... it's impossible! ;) I guess the serving size should be doubled.

bars on plate

Thanks to Whitney for this week's fabulous recipe! Don't forget to go check out her blog for the full recipe, and look at the TWD blogroll to see everyone else's creations.

Another apology to my fellow TWD'ers this week, I am still very behind on my reading... just have a lot going on! Hopefully I can empty out my google reader backlog this week!

half eaten bar


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Devil's Food White-Out Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

devils food cake with slice on plate

I know everyone in TWD has been looking forward to this week, because Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater chose Devil's Food White-Out Cake, AKA the "cover cake"! This is the gorgeous cake featured on the cover of Dorie's book. It's definitely a striking cake, with the stark contrast of pure white marshmallow topping against the deep brown of the chocolate cake inside.


Besides being pretty, the cake is very tasty as well! I especially liked it a day after baking, because it became a lot denser and fudgier in the fridge.

devils food cake side view

The cake itself had three different kinds of chocolate in it — melted dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and chunks of milk chocolate mixed in throughout the batter.

melted chocolate with spooncocoa powder and dry ingredients
milk chocolate bar

I haven't eaten milk chocolate in so long that it was a bit strange to me and didn't actually taste like chocolate. I thought it was good in the cake, not terribly noticeable from a flavor perspective, but nice to have for the texture.

The batter is assembled via the creaming method, creaming the butter and sugar first, adding the eggs, vanilla, and melted chocolate, and then adding the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. The final step of adding boiled water to the batter was new to me, but worked out fine.

creamed butter and sugareggs added
vanilla and chocolate addedafter adding dry ingredients and milk
finished batter

Batter in the pan...

chocolate cake batter in pan

And the finished cakes:

chocolate cakes baked, in pans

baked cakes, side view

The frosting was a marshmallow style frosting, with syrup at the soft ball stage poured slowly into the running mixer on top of whipped egg whites. Mine came out very fluffy and sticky!

marshmallow frosting

Meanwhile, I split the cakes into four layers, not without difficulty because they were so tender. I crumbled the extra layer for the outer decoration (and used the leftovers for some white-chocolate-covered cake balls!)

bottom layer of cake

crumbled cake layer

Frosting the cake was a little challenging at first, because the frosting is so sticky that it kind of clings to the cake, so the cake kept coming up and ripping. I eventually got the hang of it and just tried to get the coating right the first time.

first layer with frostingfrosting for second layer
third layer on topafter crumb coat
frosting done

After frosting, I just decorated the sides and top with the crumbled cake layer. Harder than it looks! I had to tilt the cake to get the crumbs on the sides, which was a little scary for me, but it worked out ;)

decorated cake

Here are the ingredients and calories, as usual. I'm really warning you about the calories this time. But what do you expect from a fudgy chocolate layer cake? At least there's no butter in the frosting!

166 g all-purpose flour (1 1/3 c)
40 g unsweetened cocoa powder (1/2 c)
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
140 g unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks/10 T), room temperature
110 g light brown sugar (1/2 c packed)
100 g sugar (1/2 c)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
2 oz bittersweet chocolate (57 g), melted and cooled
1/2 c buttermilk or whole milk (118 ml), room temperature
1/2 c boiling water (118 ml)
4 oz semisweet or milk chocolate (113 g), finely chopped

Marshmallow filling/frosting:
1/2 c egg whites (4 large)
200 g sugar (1 c)
3/4 t cream of tartar
1 c water (118 ml)
1 T vanilla extract

[recipe instructions on Stephanie's blog]

Nutrition Facts from NutritionData.com:
per slice, 1/12th of recipe
[click to show or hide]

Thanks again to Stephanie for picking this delicious cake. I counted it as my birthday cake, even though I made it a few days before! :) Go check out her blog for the full recipe, and see all the other cakes on the TWD blogroll.

To my fellow TWD'ers, I still have all of your floating islands saved on my google reader! Sorry I am so behind, but hopefully I can get fully caught up this week! :)

slice of cake with fork


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Floating Islands - Tuesdays with Dorie

floating island in shape of a heart

I didn't really know what to expect from this week's TWD recipe, chosen by Shari of Whisk: a Food Blog, except that it was going to be interesting! Shari is always so creative with her baking, and this recipe, at least according to the photo in the book, looks as beautiful and fragile as any fancy dessert. As it turns out, it was a bit (JUST a bit) more hardy than it looks, but still very beautiful!

As you can see above, I attempted to make hearts for Valentine's Day (which is also my birthday!) That is the only one that came out looking like a heart. In other words, I stopped being patient enough to use the cookie cutter ;) I also forgot to dye the meringue pink with my powdered food coloring... sigh!


floating islands with ladle

Since A. is a Simpsons fanatic, of course he kept quoting the "I'd like a single plum, floating in perfume, served in a man's hat" line. I expected no less;) He was very impressed with both the taste and looks of this dessert (as was I!)

single floating island

The journey towards this dessert began by making some crème anglaise. I'd never made it before, but it seemed fairly easy, since I'd made pastry cream successfully. Basically, some boiled milk is whisked into egg yolks and sugar (after tempering), and that cooks on the stove top with constant stirring until thick.

It began well...

boiling milk

Eggs and sugar whisked together...

egg yolks and sugar

The boiled milk is poured in a little at a time until tempered, and then the rest is slowly poured in while whisking to create this mixture:

yolks, sugar and milk

And then it is heated until... wha???

curdled creme anglaise

People, this is NOT what you want to end up with. Dorie's recipe said to take the mixture to 180°, but I never got there, so I just kept going until disaster struck. I didn't want to waste it, though, so I did some online searching and found this recipe, which says you can blend in a food processor if it curdles. So, I just mixed it with my stick blender and called it a day ;)

blending the creme anglaise

I'm sure the texture wasn't superb, but it still tasted amazing!

finished creme anglaise

The next day, I whipped up the lovely meringue. I used Dorie's trick of microwaving the egg whites (left over from the crème anglaise) in short bursts until they were room temperature. Meanwhile, the poaching milk was on the stovetop getting to a simmer.

just-whipped meringue

I had to do something Valentine-y, so I decided to experiment with a heart cookie cutter. It actually worked better than I expected it to! The meringue keeps its shape pretty well, especially if you don't leave it in the poaching liquid too long so it totally expands.

heart cookie cutter

heart meringue in milk

Here are the puffy meringues as they cooled, and some of my kitchen aftermath!

cooling meringues

kitchen aftermath

When the meringues had chilled in the fridge long enough, I made the caramel to drizzle on top. You have to be quick, because the cooling caramel became hard as a rock in a matter of minutes!

Here is the converted recipe and [hidden] nutrition info. I'm excluding the caramel, because I barely used any of it, and whatever, it's a garnish! ;) I calculated in 1/4 cup of milk to represent the poaching liquid — not sure exactly how much ended up in the finished product.

Crème anglaise:
2 cups whole milk (475 ml)
6 large egg yolks (100 g)
100 g sugar (1/2 c)
1 1/2 t vanilla extract

Meringue Islands:
2 cups milk (475 ml)
4 large egg whites (135 g or 3/4 cup), at room temperature
pinch of salt
50 g sugar (1/4 c)

Caramel (optional):
100g sugar (1/2 c)
1/3 c water (80 ml)

[click for the rest of the recipe]

Nutrition Facts from NutritionData.com:
per serving, 1/6th of recipe
[click to show or hide]

At least there is more protein than usual... ;) Darn egg yolks!

meringue close-up

Thanks to Shari for picking this delicious recipe, which I'm sure I would have been way too scared to try by myself! Go check out the recipe on her blog, and then the rest of the TWD blogroll!

meringue heart with red ribbon