Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Model Bakery's Brownies

Caramel Brownies - made July 26, 2014, adapted from The Model Bakery by Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell
I received this baking book for my birthday. Although I lived in Napa Valley for 8 months while I was in culinary school, ironically, I wasn’t as into visiting bakeries back then as I am now. Frankly, I don’t think it really occurred to me to seek out and go visit different local bakeries; I’m not sure why. Which is a crying shame because Napa and its surrounding area is known not just for its wine but also its variety of foodie offerings, including bakeries. What was I thinking??  And of course I haven’t been back to Napa Valley in awhile so I can’t even rectify that oversight.
So I was happily surprised to get this book from The Model Bakery in Napa Valley from my friend Terri. Okay, if I couldn’t visit it, I could make one of their recipes. Like a moth to a flame, the brownie recipe waved to me from the page while I was flipping through the book. “Pick me,” it beckoned. “You know you want to.” Why, yes, I do.
It went on my “try this someday” list but someday came sooner than I expected. I was actually going to make the Caramelita recipe from the same book first. I put the caramel to melt and thin with a little milk while I got the rest of the ingredients ready. Only to discover there’s a reason why the really professional chefs advise getting your mise en place first before starting any step in a recipe. Because I discovered I was down to a half cup of oatmeal, not enough for the Caramelitas. But the caramel was already on its way to the melty stage so I had to do something with it. No problem, switch to the brownies and make them caramel brownies. I’m flexible.
I did modify the process a bit though. In my experience, it’s hard to keep a distinct caramel layer if you add it directly to raw brownie batter. Oftentimes, if the caramel is a thicker density than the brownie batter, it’ll sink in baking and/or merge too much with the batter and the brownies come out too gooey. and with a messy brownie batter that's difficult to cut and serve. Even if it’s a thinner consistency than the brownie, it can still sink. Plus you don’t want too much (or any) caramel exposed during baking or it’ll overcook and harden when the brownie cools. So I poured half the batter into the pan, baked it for 10-12 minutes, just long enough for the bottom layer to form a crust without being fully baked; then I spread the caramel gently in an even layer over the barely baked brownie and covered it completely with the remaining batter before returning the pan to the oven to bake completely. It’s still a little tricky to tell when it’s done; you’ll need to angle the toothpick near the center to test the top half of the brownie without running into the caramel layer because the caramel is meant to remain still gooey and liquid. The good thing is, it’s almost hard to overbake a caramel brownie. Even if you leave it in longer than you should, the caramel does help to keep the brownie moist. I think I underbaked this a little too much as it was pretty gooey but it does keep it moist enough that this actually held up well the next day. I did taste the espresso in it and, with the caramel, this is pretty rich so you might want to cut these small.
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup (130 grams) cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
10 ounces/280 grams semisweet chocolate (no more than 55% cacao)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brewed espresso (or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso dissolved in 3 tablespoons boiling water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups caramel, storebought or homemade
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Heat the butter, sugar and espresso together in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until melted and combined.
  4. Pour hot mixture over chocolate and let stand until chocolate is softened, about 1 minute. Add the vanilla and whisk until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Gradually beat in the eggs. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth.
  6. Spread half of mixture evenly in the prepared pan; bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, evenly spread the caramel over the bottom layer and top with remaining half of brownie batter, covering caramel completely. Return to oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool completely.

No comments:

Post a Comment