VELVET CHOCOLATE WALNUT FUDGE WITH OLIVE OIL AND FLEUR DE SEL
Yield: 24 pieces
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 1/4 cups homemade marshmallow cream
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
6 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups walnuts, toasted extra dark, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
Lightly spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, line it with aluminum foil, and lightly spray the foil.
In a medium saucepan, stir together the evaporated milk, marshmallow cream, butter, both sugars, and salt. Set the saucepan over low heat and continue to stir gently until the sugars dissolve. Turn the heat up to medium-low and, stirring continuously, bring the mixture to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure the bulb of the thermometer is immersed in the syrup. Continue to stir gently and wait for the mixture to reach about 230 degrees F, 6 to 10 minutes (depending on outside temperature and humidity).
Remove from the heat. Carefully add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted. Stir in the nuts and vanilla. Keep stirring the fudge until the mixture turns from glossy to matte (it might look a tiny bit oily when spreading it into the pan, but it will change appearance as it cools). Spread the fudge into the prepared pan and let cool to room temperature. Before the fudge sets completely (wait about 10 minutes after spreading into the pan), use the tip of a small spoon to score 16 equal X patterns on the fudge. The impression should only be about 1/4 inch deep. Divide the fudge into 16 equal bars.
The fudge can be stored at room temperature, tightly covered, for up to 1 week.
Before serving, drizzle some olive oil into the X impression and sprinkle with fleur de sel.
HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOW CREAM
This rich and dreamy recipe makes enough marshmallow cream (more than 4 cups) for two batches of fudge. We have been known to use leftover marshmallow cream for almost anything—ice cream topping, peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches (a favorite), or even, on occasion, as a quick and dirty cupcake frosting.
Yield: 4 cups
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons, divided
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites vigorously for 1 minute. Sprinkle the cream of tartar and salt over the whites and continue beating until the egg whites are foamy. Continue beating while sprinkling in 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Beat until soft peaks form.
In a medium saucepan, gently stir together the remaining 2/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup of water, and the corn syrup. Set the saucepan over low heat and continue to stir gently until the sugar and syrup dissolve. Turn the heat up to medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure the bulb of the thermometer is immersed in the syrup. Turn the heat up to medium-high and wait for the mixture to reach firm ball stage, 246 to 248 degrees F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the mixer to low speed. Slowly stream the hot sugar mixture into the egg whites. Once all of the sugar mixture has been added, increase the mixer speed to high and beat until marshmallow cream is near room temperature and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat again for 5 more seconds or until incorporated. You can check the temperature of the mixture by touching the bottom of the mixing bowl.
Use immediately, or refrigerate any leftover marshmallow cream, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.
5 ounces (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, divided
1/3 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the assembly
1/4 cup Sweet and Salty Caramel Sauce (optional, page 59)
Baked Note: If you want to ratchet the sweetness level up a bit (to approximate a true Southern delight), we suggest poking holes in the layers a few minutes after they come out of the oven and drizzling them with warm Classic Caramel Sauce (page 59)—it will seep into the cake.
Make the Caramel Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again and add the flour in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and stir it into the batter until just combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 32 to 37 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. (When done, cake tops will be slightly browned.) Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the racks and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Make the Caramel Frosting
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of the butter until melted and combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove from the heat, whisk in the cream, and transfer the mixture to a bowl to cool completely. (Note: You can stir or whisk the mixture vigorously to release excess heat or, to cool the mixture quickly for immediate use, you can nestle the bowl with the mixture in a larger bowl filled halfway with ice.)
Once the brown sugar mixture is nearly cool, place the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until it is lump free. Add the cream cheese and salt and continue beating until mixture is smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again for 15 seconds. Turn the mixer to low and stream in the brown sugar mixture. Scrape down the bowl again, add the confectioners’ sugar all at once, and beat until smooth. If the mixture feels too loose, refrigerate it for 5 to 10 minutes until it firms up.
Assemble the cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 3/4 cup of frosting on top. Place the next layer on top, then trim and frost it the same way. Frost the sides of the cake with the remaining frosting, drizzle with the caramel sauce (either in a zigzag or circular pattern), and refrigerate the cake for 15 minutes to set before serving.
The cake can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome or in a cake saver, for up to 3 days. Allow the cake to come to almost room temperature before serving.
6 cups crunchy, plain cereal (Rice Chex or something similar works best)
1 1⁄4 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup smooth peanut butter (see page 26)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
6 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, chopped
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13- inch baking pan. Line the pan with parch- ment paper so that the paper overhangs the pan on two sides. Butter the parchment.
Place the cereal and peanuts in a large bowl and use your hands to toss together until mixed well.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the sugar and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil for one full minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir until the mixture is combined.
Pour the sugar mixture over the cereal mixture and use a spoon or well-greased hands (be careful as the liquid may still be very hot) to toss until the cereal is completely coated with the sugar mixture.
￼￼Turn the mixture out into the prepared pan. Grease your hands and press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, being careful not to crush the cereal. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (if you wish to speed this process, you may place the entire pan in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes).
Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler. Use a spoon or piping bag to decorate the tops of the bars in a stripe or zigzag pattern. Allow the chocolate to set.
Lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang, cut them into approximately 3-by-11⁄2-inch rectangles (i.e., candy bars).
The bars can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. If the weather is hot and humid, you might want to keep them in the refrigerator instead.