So if you remember my last post, you’ll recall that my daughter and I made peanut brittle just for kicks, and it was delicious. That being said, while the batch seemed reasonably-sized at the time, and we even gave away half of it to friends, there was still a rather generous amount of brittle left over after a day or two of snacking. My daughter– being mine and therefore prone to ideas like this– decided that we needed to use it up by making a cake. Of course.
While I’m usually happy to make a standard layer cake, I’m currently planning the menu for our upcoming holiday party, which will hopefully be fabulous since we had to skip last year’s due to COVID. As a dessert centerpiece, I’m going to make a Buche de Noel– I made one about six years ago but didn’t get photos of the process, and sadly have completely misplaced the recipe I used, so it’s time to try out another one! I wanted to make it a chocolate cake, and have been vacillating between a few different recipes, so this was the perfect opportunity to try one out.
This one is from Martha Stewart, and while I haven’t used her recipes very often I thought it looked reasonably good. Also it included flour, which I preferred over a flourless roulade just because it’s sturdier, and did not call for separating eggs, which i find to be a pain.
The cake itself went together easily, though I found a scary number of flour pockets in my batter despite folding it pretty thoroughly in the bowl (or so I thought). Next time I’ll sift the flour over the egg mixture instead of just spooning it in, just to keep things more evenly distributed. I will note that while the recipes called for letting the cake cool for a while before rolling it up in the sugared tea towel (a crucial step to help the rolling process), I did mine hot from the pan. It did make the towel slightly damp, but it worked out just fine.
Peanut brittle is one of those old-fashioned candies that no one really thinks about these days– but it’s actually very tasty, and easy to make. It sticks to your molars like crazy and probably causes cavities if you’re not careful, but it’s still good!
My daughter asked me what it was the other day, and rather than just tell her I decided to make some! The basic recipe is the same everywhere– sugar, corn syrup, and peanuts, then add baking soda and butter at the end. It’s a good idea to have your mise en place all set up, since you don’t want your sugar to burn while you’re measuring everything out. The finished candy is crunchy, sticky, and nicely salted, and the batch is just big enough to share without feeling like you’re missing out.
I think boxes of peanut brittle might make nice holiday hostess gifts– or maybe I’ll try it with almonds and a drizzle of dark chocolate, or macadamia nuts, or pecans… so many options!
So, once I’d made my cake layers, my fudge frosting, and a peanut butter cream cheese frosting (no real recipe here, I just beat together 4 oz. each of butter and cream cheese, added about 3/4 cup of peanut butter and a splash of vanilla, and then added powdered sugar until the texture was right), it was finally time to assemble the cake.
First, I removed my frozen cake layers and set them on the counter to thaw. After about 45 minutes they were cold enough to be firm but thawed enough to be workable, so I used a long, serrated knife to level off the tops. I stacked them with peanut butter frosting and ran a thin crumb-coat over the whole thing before setting it in the refrigerator to chill for another 20 minutes or so. At this point I will note that I made a mistake in using crunchy peanut butter (what I had on hand) for the frosting, because peanut chunks do not make for a smooth crumb coat. Oh well…
So the first time I made these, it was a snowy day. A very snowy day, as evidenced by the closing of schools and offices everywhere and the piles of snow accumulating on all windows, roofs, and visible scenery (not to mention blowing horizontally through the air). And what does one do on a snow day? Bake, of course!
I know that I often re-post Smitten Kitchen’s recipes, mostly only slightly revised, but this time I’m just going to refer you to her page directly for the recipe for these fabulous cookies. Why, you ask? Because I didn’t really change the recipe much, plus my photos turned out terribly and didn’t add anything to the explanatory process that wasn’t already clearly set out in her photos. It hardly seems worth it when the only thing I did to alter the recipe was use extra-crunchy peanut butter instead of creamy. To be fair, I had to use a bit *more* peanut butter and a splash of milk to make up for the lack of moisture caused by the inclusion of peanut chunks, but that was about it.
I got 24 cookies out of this recipe, using a level mini-cookie-scoop (just over a teaspoon) to scoop the peanut butter filling, and then dividing up the chocolate dough into 24 pieces of about 30g each. I baked them for exactly 10 minutes and they came out perfectly– don’t worry about underbaking!
Anyway, these are good. Very good. My peanut butter/chocolate loving husband proclaimed them to be excellent. They’re best slightly warm, but straight out of the freezer is a close second. Either way, you’ll want a tall glass of milk to go along with them.
My husband is a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate, and every year for his birthday I have to come up with a new variation on the combo for his birthday cake. This year is probably one of my favorites. There’s a thin layer of chocolate cake on the bottom, topped with a no-churn peanut butter ice cream studded with peanut butter cups and swirled with fudge. Then it’s topped with another thin layer of cake, which is covered in a layer of fudge-y peanut butter and chocolate ganache. Drooling yet? Keep looking at the pictures…
My favorite part about this recipe is that each component is so easy to make. The cake is a one-bowl recipe, no softening butter or separating eggs required. The ice cream is no-churn and has so few ingredients that you can whip it up (literally) in minutes. The ganache is made in the microwave, without any worries about chocolate seizing or burning or doing whatever else chocolate does when you try to melt it over the stovetop. Yet despite the simplicity of each component, the finished cake is a showstopper! The cake freezes just hard enough to stand up to the ice cream, the ice cream itself maintains much of its softness in the freezer (no rock-hard slices here!), and the ganache is just firm enough to give you a nice bite of fudginess when you put a forkful in your mouth.