I've been wanting to make this one for awhile: a soft, cake-like brownie generously topped with a sticky, gooey, caramel pebbled with salty peanuts. When I learned that some friends would be coming over last night, I thought it would be a fine opportunity to make this treat. After all, it's not a good idea to make something like this when you are, apparently, on a diet and have nobody to share it with.
This dessert provides enough contrast to be interesting: the dark chocolate brownie-cake, which is light, soft, and moist, and a salty/sweet/crunchy topping. When you serve this, be generous with the topping--it's the best part.
You'll have lots of leftover caramel with this recipe. Save and use it as an ice cream topping or just eat straight out of the fridge with a spoon for that secret late-afternoon pick-me-up. (Not that I have ever done that...)
Recipe notes: This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking, a great all-around baking book.
* I added a couple of extra tablespoons of flour to the batter to compensate for the high altitude (I live at 5500 feet).
*I used semisweet chips rather than bittersweet chocolate, and it turned out fine. However, I wouldn't use milk chocolate. You need a dark chocolate to offset the sweet topping.
*Don't despair when your brownie cake stays risen on the sides and falls in the middle. That's what the one in the picture looked like, and that's what mine looked like, too.
*I also used an 8" square pan instead of a 8" round springform pan and it turned out fine. Rather than topping the entire cake, I served the cake in squares and topped them individually.
*When making the caramel topping, be sure to let the water/sugar/corn syrup mixture get to a deep amber. But be careful, because it seems like it takes forever to get there, and once it gets going, it darkens very fast.
Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake
For the cake:
1 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 lg. eggs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
3 T. light corn syrup
1/2 t. vanilla
For the topping:
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 T. corn syrup
2/3 c. heavy cream
2 T. unsalted butter at room temp
1 c. salted peanuts
To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the butter and chocolate in the bowl and heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are just melted -- you don't want them to get so hot that the butter separates. remove the bowl from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars together until well blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate. Still working with the whisk, gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. you will have a thick, smooth, shiny batter. Pour the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan a bit to even out the batter.
Bake the cake fro 40 to 45 minutes (mine was done earlier than that), or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cook the cake for 15 minutes, then run a blunt knife between the cake and the pan and remove the sides of the pan. During baking, the cake probably will have puffed to the top of the pan; don't be concerned if it sinks a little or if it develops a little crater in the center. Cool the cake to room temperature.
When the cake is completely cook, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the paper. Wash and dry the pan and return the cake to right side up. Refasten the sides around the cake. (Or, ignore all of this silliness and just bake it in a square pan and serve the squares with the topping.)
To make the topping:
Put the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir just to combine the ingredients and then put the pan over medium-high heat. Heat, without stirring, until the caramel turns deep amber, to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your saucepan and the intensity of the heat. As the sugar is caramelizing, wipe down any splatters on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. to test the color of the caramel, drop a bit on a white plate. Don't be timid about the color -- if it's to pale, it won't have much taste.
Lower the heat a bit and, standing back from the pan, add the cream and butter. when the spatters are less vehement, stir to calm down the caramel and dissolve any lumps. Stir in the peanuts, and pour the caramel and peanuts into a 1 quart Pyrex measuring cup or heatproof bowl.
You've probably got more caramel than you need, but you want to get all the peanuts on the cake, so spoon the peanuts out of the caramel and onto the cake. After you've done that, pour or spoon on enough caramel to cover all the nuts. You'll have a layer about 1/4 inch high, give or take a bit. Allow the topping to set at room temp - about 20 minutes - before serving.