Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bake Sale: "Gold Bar" (i.e., Caramel, Roasted Almond) Brownies

I made these brownies as part two of my bake sale goodies, and they sold equally as fast. Tip: label your brownies as homemade and use the buzz words caramel and roasted almonds, and they'll be gone in a flash!

I have just been so pleased with all of Fran's recipes so far, and this was possibly the most delicious brownie I've ever had. Something about watching the caramel bubble as it cooked in the oven stirred me deeply! If you're not an almond fan, by all means, omit them, but they really add a nice crunch and depth, especially roasted. But the brownie base itself is just awesome plain too.

Apparently, the Gold Bar is one of Fran's best-selling chocolate bars. She started making these brownies in her shop with the leftover Gold Bar scraps, but this recipe is for the home baker without an endless supply of Gold Bars. :)

Gold Bar Brownies
1 c. store-bought caramel sauce
8 oz. (1 2/3 c.) whole almonds
1 lb. semisweet chocolate
1.5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 stick + 2 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. + 2 T. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. sugar
1.5 t. vanilla extract
3/4 t. instant espresso powder (I omitted)
3 large eggs
1 3/4 c. cake flour, sifted then measured

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 9x13" sheet pan. Place whole almonds on a separate baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool then roughly chop into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.

Finely chop 12 ounces (not all!) of the semisweet chocolate and all of the unsweetened chocolate (1.5 ounces) for melting. In a separate pile, chop the remaining 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks, to serve as chocolate chips.

Melt the finely chopped semisweet and unsweetened chocolates in a double boiler or a good pot over low heat. Remove when nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the two sugars until light and very fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the vanilla and the espresso powder (if using espresso powder; if not, just go to the next step).

Add vanilla/espresso mixture to butter mixture and beat to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions and scraping the bowl several times. Pour in the melted chocolate and beat to combine.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and FOLD in the sifted cake flour by hand until no traces of white remain (it might take a little while). Fold in the 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate chunks and toasted almonds (I actually skipped the almonds at this point and placed them on top of the brownie batter once it was in the pan instead). The batter will be very thick. Evenly spread the batter in the prepared 13x9" pan.

Spoon the caramel sauce in tablespoon-sized dollops over the top. Using a table knife drawn through the batter, swirl the caramel into the batter to marbelize. (Toss on the almonds now if you haven't already!)

Bake for 45 minutes. When tested with a toothpick in the brownie portion (not the caramel!), it will have moist crumbs when done. Let cool in the pan one hour (important!) and cut into squares.

Welcome to molten caramel heaven!

Bake Sale: Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

I can't imagine a more divine combination than peanut butter and chocolate. In fact, I still have the taste of a Nutrageous bar on my lips right now. Mmmmmmmm.

So when my office had a bake sale to raise money for a reading program for inner-city kids, I knew that homemade peanut butter cups would be a big hit and would raise a lot of money. However, I had no idea just how popular they'd be: the bake sale sellers, not the customers, bought my treats up before the sale even started. I packaged them in bags of two, and the last bag had to be split among two people so they wouldn't fight each other for it!

Anyway, I owe this recipe to goodthingscatered, but geez, I can't believe I never thought of this myself! You don't have to temper the chocolate, but I was paranoid that my beautiful pb cups would melt on Metro. I'm melllllllltiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
semisweet chocolate chips
creamy peanut butter
(just buy a bag of one and a jar of the other and that'll be enough!)

Set out paper candy cups. Slowly melt a handful or two of chocolate chips in a double boiler or a good nonstick pot.

[The following step is NOT required, but it worked really well for me. As Fran says, "If you're one of those folks who thinks life is too short to stuff cherry tomatoes, you may not have the patience for tempering chocolate."

Tempering is the process of melting, cooling, then melting chocolate again in order to realign the crystals in the cocoa butter. Ever made truffles and wonder why they don't look professional and glossy? You haven't tempered the chocolate. Tempered chocolate gives a nice *snap* when broken and is really glossy. For this and other recipes, use a clip-on candy thermometer to ensure you do this properly.

As you slowly melt the chocolate on your stovetop, stir until the thermometer reaches 115 degrees, but no higher than 120. Remove from heat and stir until the mixture cools to between 82 and 84 degrees. Yes, it takes time. Lots of time. Once the chocolate is at the appropriate temperature, return to heat and stir until it reaches 88 to 90 degrees—no more. This may only take 10 seconds! (If it goes above 90, start the process over...)

88 to 90 degrees is the perfect temperature for dipping, which is why I suggest you work one handful of chocolate chips at a time—you need to work quickly!]

So, tempering madness aside, scoop a small blob of melted chocolate into a paper candy cup. Then a small blob of peanut butter. Then top with another blob of melted chocolate. Make a cute swirl on the top :) and refrigerate to set.

(notice varying stages of the setting process)


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