Friday, October 26, 2012

Trying Out the Slutty Brownie

When I saw a link to the slutty brownie recipe on the Huffington Post, I knew I had to try them. (By the way, HuffPost lost the courage of their convictions, renaming them "Layered Brownies.")

Get this:  a brownie that consists of a layer of rich chocolate chip cookie cough, topped with a layer of Oreos, topped with a layer of fudgy brownies. 

A stoner's dream.

What's interesting is that the Oreos actually soften during the cooking process, creating a tender creamy white stripe in the middle of the finished brownie.

The hardest part of this is, like with any brownie, getting the middle just done enough so that it's not goo, without baking the outer edges to a hard shell. 

It's key to use the right size pan, 9 x 9, or your brownies will never bake through in the oven.

Why they're called "slutty," I don't know. Because they're so bad they're good?  I'm open to ideas here.

Slutty Brownies

Equipment: 9 x 9 pan

For the Brownie layer:
10 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup AP flour

For the Oreo layer:
1 package of Oreo (regular stuffed or double stuffed)

For the Cookie Dough layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temp)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. For the Brownie layer:
In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the sugar and cocoa powder once the butter is melted. Whisk to combine and remove from heat. Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and continuously whisk until the eggs are combined. Add the flour and continue to mix. Set batter aside.

2. For the Cookie Dough layer:
Cream together the butter and sugars in a mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and mix on low until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips. Set dough aside.

3.  Assembly:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan with tin foil and then spray the tin foil with a layer of baking spray.

Layer the cookie dough on the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan, pressing down to form the bottom of the slutty brownies.

Layer as many oreos that will fit on top of the cookie dough. No need to overlap. One single layer will do.

Pour the brownie batter on top of the oreo layer and make sure it's evenly layers on top.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. Test with a knife to see if the center is done. If the knife comes out clean, let the brownies rest before serving. If the knife comes out with batter still on it, allow the brownies to bake about 5 minutes more.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bon App: Couldn't You Have Written "Square"?

I love looking at Bon Appetit, to which I received a free subscription thanks to a promotion at Sur La Table. (Wow, that's more French in one paragraph than I use in this blog in an entire year.) They way they photograph food makes me want to make it.

The trouble is, so far, when I've actually made their dessert recipes, there have been a few glitches.

I tried a chocolate cake with ganache and peppermint frosting, an elaborate multi-stage process involving cake, two fillings (white and dark chocolate), and frosting. I didn't make it past the cake stage. The layers were dry, flavorless, even a bit gummy.

Next, I went for a poached rhubarb topped with Greek yogurt, honey, and toasted pistachios. Looked beautiful in the picture, sounded delicious from the recipe. The trouble was that the rhubarb had a sharp, unpleasant tang, and the contrast of the competing flavors of the dessert was overpowering.

My latest attempt was an 8-inch two-layer banana chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting. The recipe promised that the moist cake was "forgiving" and easy even for beginners.

Somehow this didn't ring true to my experience of working with moist fruit (as well as vegetables) in cake batter. I find that when there's fruit in the batter of a layer cake, it tends to mess with the evenness of the baking. The middle stays mushy while the ends get overdone.

Sure enough, though I tried this cake three times, I ended up with the same result:  a big crater in the middle of the layers. I tried different color pans, I tried cooking the cake for longer baking times. Same exact result each time. So much for forgiving.

(After checking the comments on the recipe, I found I was not alone. Several home bakers reported needing at least 20 minutes more to bake the cakes. One reported success when baking the cakes in 9-inch rounds. Finally the mystery was solved when one commenter noted that the recipe calls for 8x8x2 pans, meaning square rather than round pans, which makes a huge difference since the total area of an 8-inch square and a 9-inch round is the same:  64 square inches, as opposed to 50 for a 8-inch rounds.  I wish the word "square" had been noted in the recipe, or the 9-inch alternative had been suggested, especially since most home bakers do not have more than one 8-inch square pan.)

At any rate, the batter was so delicious that I felt obligated to give it one last try:  as a cupcake. I halved the recipe and made two dozen. There, I found success. The cupcakes domed perfectly and held their shape long after they cooled without drying out. Topped with an absurdly rich peanut butter frosting and chocolate candy as decoration, these make a dandy Halloween-themed treat.

If you dare, try the original recipe at this link.  Or, follow my lead and make cupcakes.


Yield:  24 cupcakes

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sour cream
5 oz. mini chocolate chips

(You'll have extra frosting)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, and chocolate kisses



Preheat oven to 350°. Fill 2 12-cup cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Line bottom of pans with parchment; coat paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat in vanilla.

Add dry ingredients; beat on low speed just to blend. Add bananas and sour cream; beat just to blend. Fold in mini chips. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, about 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool in pans for no more than 2 minutes. Invert cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.


Using an electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until a light and fluffy frosting forms, 2–3 minutes.

Frost cupcakes. Garnish with chocolate chips and kisses.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Seven-Layer Cake

all photos by Anthony Palatta

This week, I published an article in Tablet Magazine on how to make seven-layer cake, a traditional Jewish bakery dessert, at home. You can click the link above to read the piece and get the recipe.

Below, I have some step-by-step behind the scenes pictures of how I assembled this cake.

Step one:  After mixing the batter, pour it in a thin layer in a baking pan.

Step Two:  When the cake is cool, split it into seven layers, roughly of equal size.  (You may have one extra.)

Step Three:  Begin assembling the cake on your serving platter, covered in parchment.  Spread thin layer of filling over each layer

Step Four:  After all layers are assembled, cover in chocolate ganache and let set.

Step Five:  Cut open, slice, and serve!  Cake can be stored in fridge.  Just bring it back to room temp before eating.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lane Cake--A Southern Classic

In To Kill a Mockingbird, there's a character named Miss Maudie Atkinson who's famous for her "lane cake." What makes them so good? Apparently, they're very "shinny," in other words, loaded with liquor.

I had never heard of a lane cake until I was watching an episode of Cook's Country with Anthony one night and they were making it. The reason to eat the cake is its filling, a dense custard filled with dried fruit and spiked with bourbon. It looks like dog food, but tastes much, much better.

The cake itself is made using what Cook's Country calls the "reverse creaming method," but which I learned in cooking school as the "high ratio method." I've also seen it described as the "two-step" method. Basically, you whisk together your dry ingredients, and then cut in cold butter, as you would for a pie dough. The flour coats all the butter, which prevents the batter from getting over-gluteiny and tough like a loaf of bread. Then you add your liquid ingredients all at once, at the end. Finally, you fold in beaten egg whites to give the cake lift and air.

When the cake is finished, it gets covered in a smooth beaten-egg white frosting, like a marshmallow cream. It's all very light and fluffy, in contrast to the rich, sweet, and chewy filling, which I suppose you could load up with as much bourbon as you think your friends can stand.

Lane Cake
(adapted from Cook's Country)

1 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter,
cut into 12 pieces and softened

5 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 cup golden raisins
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. MIX BATTER Adjust oven rack to middle position and
heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch
cake pans. Whisk milk, egg whites, and vanilla in large
liquid measuring cup. With electric mixer on low speed, 
mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until 
combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat 
until only pea-size pieces remain. Pour in half 
of milk mixture and increase speed to medium-high. 
Beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly 
add remaining milk mixture and beat until 
incorporated, about 30 seconds.

2. BAKE CAKES Scrape equal amounts of batter 
into prepared pans and bake until toothpick 
inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 
minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, 
then turn out onto wire rack. Cool completely, at
least 1 hour. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped 
in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature 
for 2 days.)

3. MAKE FILLING Whisk bourbon, cream, 
cornstarch, and salt in bowl until smooth. Process 
coconut in food processor until finely ground. 
Add pecans and raisins and pulse until coarsely 
ground. Melt butter in large skillet over 
medium-low heat. Add processed coconut 
mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until 
golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. 
Stir in bourbon mixture and bring to boil. Off 
heat, add condensed milk and vanilla. Transfer to 
medium bowl and cool to room temperature,
about 30 minutes. (Filling can be refrigerated 
for 2 days. Bring filling to room temperature
before using.)

4. WHIP FROSTING With electric mixer 
fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites 
and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until 
frothy, about 30 seconds. With
mixer running, slowly add sugar and whip until 
soft peaks form, about 2 minutes; set aside. 
Bring corn syrup to boil in small saucepan 
over medium-high heat and cook until
large bubbles appear around perimeter of pan, 
about 1 minute. With mixer running, slowly 
pour hot syrup into whites (avoid pouring 
syrup onto beaters or it will splash).
Add vanilla and beat until mixture has 
cooled and is very thick and glossy, 3 to 
5 minutes.

5. ASSEMBLE CAKE Place 1 cake round on serving
platter. Spread filling over cake, then top with second 
cake round. Spread frosting evenly over top and 
sides of cake. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated, 
covered, for 2 days. Bring to room temperature 
before serving.)