Tuesday, October 7, 2008

TWD: Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake

. . . and may I never unleash destruction in a kitchen again like I did while making this Caramel Peanut Topped Brownie Cake. Amen.

It started innocently enough. David and I have our 10th anniversary coming up soon, and to celebrate, I decided to make a cake using corn syrup that I bought right around the time we were married:

But first, I emailed Amanda and asked her if corn syrup goes bad. Soon after, she responded "Julie doesn't think so. Is it still liquid?" I looked at it. It was mostly still liquid, but had a crystal city of sorts forming along the bottom of the jar:

I decided not to take any chances. I mean, since joining TWD, I've invested in pans and dishes of various odd sizes, exotic liqueurs, fine international chocolates, precious spices, and a blowtorch. And I finally decide that a $2.00 bottle of corn syrup is where I draw the line? I quickly saw the absurdity in this, and asked David to fetch me some Karo on the way home from work.

The cake part of this was relatively uneventful.

I did trip over a chair that the kids had dragged up to to counter to help, spilling a brand new bottle of vanilla in the process. And right after that, I walked over to the fridge and hit a puddle of water on the floor that my son didn't mop up after helping himself to a drink of water, and wiped out cold (and you see why I had reservations about using a blowtorch?). But that was all small potatoes compared to what was to come.

It was time to make the caramel. Dorie says "cook until it reaches a deep amber color." About 10 minutes into the process, I looked at my caramel and thought "hmmmm, that looks like a light amber to me.
Let me go start a load of laundry, and it should be close to deep amber when I get back." LESSON #1: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MULTITASK WHEN MAKING CARAMEL.





When I got back to the kitchen a couple of minutes later, it was not a deep amber, but a burnt amber.

As I was assessing the awful boiling tar in my pan, and doing a quick calculus about whether it could be salvaged (no, I really WASN'T thinking straight) the fire alarm started wailing. And wailing. And wailing. Now, you should know that I completely lose my wits when alarms are blaring. I know that this is probably not a good trait in a grownup. But when an alarm goes off I suddenly feel like a four year old again, and I just want to cover my ears and cower in a corner.

Unfortunately, the alarm going off was the ADT alarm, not the battery-powered smoke alarm (from which we could simply remove the batteries). David ran into the room and yelled over the din of the alarm "I DON'T KNOW HOW TO GET THIS ALARM OFF!" I yelled back "NEITHER DO I!!" We threw open the doors and turned on the fan. David made his way to the keypad and yelled "WHAT'S THE CODE??" I yelled back "I DON'T KNOW!!!" (Aren't I useful to have around in a crisis situation??). We tried out several possible code combos and finally hit the right one. The alarm mercifully stopped. I could breathe again. Then David said "you know that the ADT people are going to call now." Sure enough, ADT Central Command called seconds later. David answered the phone. He said, "hello, yes, thank you for calling. We're all fine, thanks. Just a little sugar carmelizing incident in the kitchen. The password? Hmm, hang on one second." He asked me the password. I knew that if I couldn't come up with the password, ADT would send the real police or fire department out to make sure that an intruder had not broken into our house, tied us all up, and proceeded to burn caramel in my kitchen. I felt like I had already caused enough damage for one night, and I really would not have been able to live with myself if a busy, hardworking firefighter or police officer was dispatched to our house as a result of the fact that I am an idiot. I closed my eyes and thought really hard. I remembered the password.

Even though I can make any short story long, this all really happened within a matter of minutes. I still had a pan full of boiling black post-caramel sludge to deal with. Of course I did what any person completely lacking common sense would do and poured it down the sink. LESSON #2: IF YOU FOOLISHLY DISREGARD LESSON #1 AND BURNT CARAMEL RESULTS, DO NOT POUR IT DOWN THE SINK UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

I watched in horror as the remains of the caramel hardened into granite-like formations all over my kitchen sink, and inside the garbage disposal.

My mind raced back to a little over a year ago, when we were scrambling to finish renovating the kitchen in our new house so that we could move in before our baby was born. I remember hauling my huge eight month pregnant self to the plumbing supply showroom, and being overwhelmed by the dizzying array of kitchen sink choices, and Brandi, the sales rep, saying "you won't regret going with an 18 gauge stainless steel sink. It's indestructible." Oh Brandi. You had no idea who you were talking to.

I turned on the disposal just for kicks. The silence was deafening. I looked at my pan. It, too, was completely coated with rock hard caramel.

I reached into the disposal to try to dig out some caramel, and cut my fingers up (not on the blades, but on the caramel, which was much sharper and harder than the blades). I got a putty knife out and started chipping away at my candy coated sink, and quickly realized that I had a better chance of being crowned the next American Idol than I did of removing the caramel that way. That's when I googled "removing burnt caramel."

I feel like I have made so many great blogging friends in the short time that I've been in TWD. I am amazed by the talent, energy, and creativity of the people who do this. I can't tell you how many times that I have had no idea what to make for dinner until I jumped onto Prudy's, or Nancy's, or Laura's, or Pamela's, or Andrea's, or Anne's, or Lori's, or Maria's, or Mary Ann's blogs. And there are so many others of you -- I couldn't possibly list all of the talented people who do this and inspire me day in and day out. I just don't bring much to the table, so let me take this opportunity to "give back" a tiny little bit in return for all that you have given to me:

REMOVING BURNT CARAMEL FROM HARD SURFACES
Add at least 1T baking soda per 1C water
Bring to boil.
While mixture is boiling, take scrubber and give pan a good scrub. Be careful not to burn yourself!
Liberally pour mixture on any surface on which burnt caramel has solidified and scrub hard and quick. Repeat as needed.
Supplement with Diet Sprite as required. Carbonation is the key.
This recipe works on sinks, countertops, pans, and the insides of garbage disposals (although you may have to press the "reset" button as well.)

After successfully removing the hardened caramel with my new favorite recipe, I dusted myself off and tried again on the caramel. If you can believe it, I ACTUALLY THOUGHT ABOUT DARTING INTO THE LAUNDRY ROOM REALLY QUICKLY, just to hang up my daughter's leotard for the next day's dance class, but David blocked my path and said "how 'bout you just stand in front of that pan this time." It's not always easy being an ADD baker, you know. Under my reluctantly watchful eye, the caramel worked out much better the second time around:

My cake:


I had one piece (it was quite good) and then I threw the rest of it away, because that cake is cursed -- cursed I tell you!! -- and I couldn't possibly share it with the people I love, or even with the people I just like. If there were people out there that I didn't care much for, I might bring them this cake -- it's tastier than a voodoo doll! -- but I am easy to please and pretty much like everybody. There was some baaaaaaad juju going on with that cake, and I felt beaten up and bruised after making it (probably because I WAS beaten up and bruised), and I also felt inexplicably sticky for about four days after making this. At the end of the day, I think I need my recipes to be a little more "forgiving" than this one was. Thank you for picking this, Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy -- as usual, I am sure it was just me, not the cake. On to the pumpkin muffins!

44 comments:

Engineer Baker said...

Wow, that is one trial of a caramel project. I almost walked away from mine too, and thought better of it. But that recipe for getting rid of burnt caramel will come in hand - I have scorch marks on the pot I used :)

Natashya said...

Oh, I am so sorry that you had such an ordeal! You don't go half way do you?
I knew to watch the pot - only from tv. Nigella and others had given stern warning. (Which is why I had such fear to begin with)
Your last shot looks great. Sorry the cake was cursed. There is always next Tuesday!
ps - I did have a Tuesday from hell a few months back where everything went wrong. We have all been there.

Andrea said...

Oh, Cathy! I'm so sorry about all of the trouble that silly little cake caused for you. I am laughing at your husband blocking the door and making you stay and watch you caramel to avoid a second disaster. What would have happened if he hadn't been there? :) We had an off day while making this cake too, I had my mom come over to help watch the kids before dinner so I could get this done and all three kids started fussing and crying at the same time. My mom said she'd never heard all three kids crying together, and for apparently no reason other than to keep the others company. My mom said it must have been one of those days, but maybe, just maybe, it was this cake...Hmmmm

Prudy said...

I can't help it. I'm laughing hysterically at your misadventures! Talk about going from bad to worse! I thought things were going to turn around when you got the alarm off. I can't believe you got that in your sink-and then lived to tell and got it off. It made me think of my little sister in her first year of teaching first grade made taffy with her class. She left a 9 by 13 glass baking dish of taffy on the radiator to cool so the kids could stretch it-but one of the kids knocked it over and the dish flipped onto the floor, shattered and the taffy hardened with bits of broken glass sticking up. She said it was HELL to get off the ground-particulary with 25 first graders roaming around. Oh, that she could have had your magic formula all those years ago....

Jamie said...

Oh my word...what a fiasco! Well it still looked pretty...and sometimes that's all that counts!

Audrey said...

I'm a terrible person. I should be nodding sympathetically and sending you a brand new box of Arm & Hammer, and here I am, just giggling, and laughing...Your beviled cake looks wonderful, though. (BTW, the last time the fire dept was called to my building, it was 3 am and someone had burned popcorn.)

Amanda said...

Hilarious as always. The cake looked great, though! Maybe you bake better after three fifteen hour workdays....

Lady Baker said...

oh Cath...this is priceless--only because it is something that could so easily happen to me. ADT needs a new system...I mean...how can a person under high stress be expected to remember a code and THEN a password?! Just keep thinking it could have been worse--you could be replacing windows right now had you not remembered the password (because the next step would have been the SWAT team rappelling into the windows attack style from the roof to save you both!!

Melissa said...

I would have totally given up around the time you slipped and fell in the kitchen. Kudos to you for continuing with the effort to produce such a cute cake. It really does look yummy! Sorry you had such a rough time. Let's hope next week is better!

Laura said...

Oh my....what an ordeal! I could have warned you about watching the sugar (it really does seem like were living parallel lives, or at least posts!). You are much braver than I am - I would have thrown in the towel (and that stinkin' pot) after cleaning up all that mess. And yet, you staid the course and triumphed in the end - bravo!

Thanks again for providing my Tuesday morning entertainment (sorry it seems to be so frequently at your expense!)

Peggy said...

ok you win - yours is a bit more burned than mine was! But your second batch turned out better than my second batch. Sorry you didn't like your cake. :(

Flourchild said...

So sorry you had to go through all that to get to that pretty little cake. I love your last picture!
Im so glad I made my own topping!

Jules Someone said...

Oh my goodness! I'm glad it all worked out in the end. Good for you to try it again!

Mary Ann said...

Holy Cow! I feel for you on this one! There is just too much going on for me to even know what to say. Good for you, for making it again and thanks for remedy for cleaning burnt caramel off hard surfaces. You never know when that might come in handy! Your cake looks pretty!

spike. said...

Wow, sounds like quite the ordeal! Glad you made it out alive

Alwayzbakin said...

Holy $*#@! I can't believe that happened to you! I definately would have been cursing. But your end result is beautiful!

Kimberly said...

I only sat down for a couple minutes to eat a rooty-tootin' SANDWICH for gosh sakes! And that caramel just sat there doing nothing for so long and then, THEN it decides to get down to business. My husband says it tastes good and with the cake it does taste pretty good, but there is a definite kick of char in there...sigh.

Hate to hear that you cut yourself on that evil caramel.

Di said...

I can't help it, I was laughing hysterically through most of your post. I'm glad everything turned out okay in the end, but what a lot of stress to go through to get there! I'm often guilty of multitasking in the kitchen, but I try to wait until the girls are in bed to work with hot sugar or any sort of flames. Not that there can't be other distractions... =)

Steph said...

Wow, after going through all that, I'm glad your cake turned out delicious! I actually have corn syrup from 20 or so years ago and was tempted to use it too, but then backed away. Isn't it weird that we invest so much on our backware and other ingredients yet are tempted to use up ingredietns that can potentially ruin the entire product? Thanks for the recipe for getting rid of burnt caramel. I once poured something down the sink I shouldn't have either (can't remember what it is now), and we don't have a garbage disposal! Let's just say I had a very angry mother. Good luck on next week's biscotti! We can't have 2 cursed baked goods in a row...

CB said...

Oh wow. I am not sure whether to laugh, cry or give you a valium! You poor thing. I am a not good with alarms either. The smoke alarm scares me and I turn into a lunatic trying to figure out how to turn it off. Thanks for the tip on removing burnt caramel. I am sure I'll need it someday though I hope not... ::knock on wood::
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

Teanna said...

That story was so well written that I am stressed out FOR you! I am sorry, I don't mean to enjoy your difficult times, but that was seriously a great post! I actually didn't want it to end (sorry, again! haha!)

Flourchild said...

Oh...I just had to add that I really appreciate all your nice comments. You write such great things and leave wonderful feedback for many. You just seem like a very great person!

Karen said...

Ok, You are hilarious! I loved this post. Sorry your cake was cursed....

Bridgett said...

The Tale Of The Cursed Cake....what a story! I took note on your lessons and also had a good laugh! It turned out beautifully but definitely deserved its fate. What a load of trouble this caused you but I am glad you tried a slice!

HoneyB said...

LOL, I was chuckling at your post so much so I had to IM your link to my co-worker so she could see what I was reading about! HOW FUNNY..but not! LOL.

pinkstripes said...

OMG, wow. I'm speechless over your adventure. For what its worth, your second caramel looks delicious! And kudos for getting back on the horse to make the caramel. Me--I would have left the cake plain. :P

Pamela said...

Oh, Cathy!! Bad Juju! Hilarious. This was the best post I've read so far. And I thought I had it tough with the caramel. I guess it's okay now that you've scrubbed every surface connected with your sink clean. It looked wonderful, by the way!

Rebecca said...

Oh my god. That story ... hilariously bad. Are we related? ;)

SUGAR BETTY said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! It was a project, wasn't it? :) The end result paid off. Care to share a slice?

Marthe said...

Your cake looks delicious!! I didn't have much luck with the caramel either.... Although I didn't burn it I couldn't get it a nice dark amber colour... But it still tasted great!!

Mike Spoodles said...

I love the fact that your caramel was burning and you still took the time to get photographic evidence. If I had done that to my sink, I don't know what I would have done but it probably would have involved leaving it there for somebody else to find! Glad it worked out in round 2!

Maria said...

Sorry about the cake. I am glad you didn't eat it all since it was cursed!
I am so glad you liked the black bean soup. I hope it is a hit at the lake. Have fun!

kim said...

i gasped about 5 times reading your story!! craziness. lol about the corn syrup too. i'm glad it all worked out for you!! thanks for the cleaning info :)

Proud Italian Cook said...

Oh Cathy, How funny! I mean, not really, but the way you wrote it I was visualizing everything! I'm glad it all worked out in the end.
I can't beleve you threw it out though! It looks gorgeous! Years ago, we were all dressed up getting ready to go to a party, I was draining a huge pot of pasta, the water shot back at me, and my hubby was there, he grabbed me by my arm before I could even speak, and threw me in the shower clothes and all, and I was drenched from head to toe!! I was so mad at him that he wrecked my outfit and hair!
Everything turned out fine. :)

Candy said...

Too funny! I've had the same thing happen to me with the alarm company!

Jacque said...

LOL, you poor thing! That episode sounds like a heart-attack in the making.

I've actually had both of those experiences (sludge caramel and alarm going off and can't remember the code) but not at the same time. I think that would have done me in... but you survived to blog about it, lol.

Here's to next week!

Jess said...

As usual, you have me laughing out loud. This is one of the reasons we don't have ADT! Your final result looks well worth the agony.

bakingwiththeboys said...

I have not laughed that hard in awhile. Shhh..laughing WITH you, of course. I hope next week goes much much better. Smuckers caramel from now on?

Lori said...

awww....you didn't have to do that just to make me feel better about having my own kitchen disasters! of course, mine are never as hilariously told as yours. At least it came out in the end. A friend once told me it'll be ok in the end; if it's not ok, it's not the end. Smarter than it sounds, if you think about it.

anyway, thanks also for the kind link. you know I rely on you in the exact same way. :)

AmyRuth said...

Thank you once again for entertaining us.
Cathy, you have perseverance., not ADD. he he
Way to go for the prize and complete the task.
You Won! I'm sure it was delish.
;))
AmyRuth

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Yikes, what an ordeal!

n.o.e said...

I just returned from a week's sabbatical and am catching up on posts that I missed. Your kitchen saga takes the proverbial cake. What a classic! Man, that hot sugar is not to be messed with.
Nancy

LyB said...

I don't think I would have even thought of making caramel again after an ordeal like that! Looks like you made it though, it's a beautiful cake! :)

Matt said...

OK, I'm glad I didn't make this one. I would have burnt the caramel because I am notorious for getting easily distracted in the kitchen. Thanks for giving me a laugh, unfortunately at your expense...

 
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