Thursday, January 23, 2014

mississippi mud bars

Replicating a taste memory from your childhood can be difficult: replicated a taste memory from someone else’s childhood, near impossible. Instinct is of no use to you here, and inevitably, you’re left hoping that your recent carefully calculated attempt will bring you one step closer to the goal, and not two steps back.  

For the past few months, I have been trying to make a cake that my husband only knows as Mississippi Mud Cake. The only person who knows for sure how to make this dessert, the way he remembers it, took the recipe to her grave. This is terribly inconvenient for me, but probably more inconvenient for her. So, I’ve been researching and testing recipes that have ranged from a sickly sweet brownie, to a warm flour thickened pudding. Worst of all, I fear that the cake he has in his memory is one of the doctored cake mix recipes that were so popular in the early 1970’s. Since I insist on baking things from scratch, this means, I may never match the taste and texture of that cake from so many years ago.  

This particular recipe is not the bulls-eye of the target; he still wants something with a lighter cake-like crumb, and a slightly less sophisticated cocoa/coffee flavor profile, and I still want to be able to deliver that for him.  I’m stubborn like that. 

These bars – whether they are a match or not – are definite keepers: dense, sweet, and rich.   

Recipe following cut:
Mississippi Mud Bars
Yeild: 24 bars ~5cm x 5cm [2” x 2”] squares 

33cm x 23cm x 8cm [13” x 9” x 3”] cake pan, large 5.20L [5.5qt] capacity heat proof mixing bowl, 2.4L [2.5qt] capacity saucepan, 500ml measuring cup with a spout, 30ml [1fl.oz] pinch bowl, heatproof silicone spatula, wire whisk, 25cm [10”] offset pallet knife, wooden cutting board, 20cm [8”] chef’s knife, metric/imperial scale 

420g granulated sugar ~ 2 cups
3g fine grade sea salt ~ ½ tsp
275g unbleached all purpose flour ~ 2 cups
110g unsalted butter [at room temperature] + more for pan ~ ½ cup
110g vegetable or canola oil ~ ½ cup
30g unsweetened cocoa ~ cup
20g black cocoa powder ~ 3 tbsp
10g instant espresso powder ~ 1 tbsp
60g tap water ~ ¼ cup
100g eggs [at room temperature] 100ml ~ 2 large
4g baking soda ~ 1 tsp
115g buttermilk 120ml ~ ½ cup
15g pure vanilla extract 10ml ~ 2 tsp
110g unsalted butter [at room temperature] ~ ½ cup
20g black cocoa ~ 3 tbsp
90g whole milk 90ml ~ 6 tbsp
450g confectioner’s sugar ~ 1lb
125g chopped walnuts or pecans ~ 1 cup
10g instant espresso powder ~ 1 tbsp
7g pure vanilla extract ~ 1½ tsp
280g miniature marshmallows ~ one small bag 

Mise en place:
Preheat oven to 180ºC [350ºF] 

Weigh flour, sugar, and salt into large mixing bowl. Whisk to blend and set aside. 

Weigh, butter, vegetable or canola oil, cocoa, and water in the sauce pot and place on the stove until needed.  

Weigh, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla into the measuring cup. Whisk to combine and set aside. 

Weigh baking soda into the small pinch bowl and set aside. 

Butter the bottom and sides of the cake pan liberally, and set aside until needed.  

Bring the butter and cocoa mixture to a boil over medium low heat using the heat proof spatula to combine the ingredients. Return the pan to the stove top until ready to prepare frosting. 

Pour the hot mixture over the flour, using the spatula to scrape the sauce pan clean. Blend the ingredients together until just combined. 

Stir baking soda into the egg and buttermilk mixture, add this to the warm batter and stir to incorporate. 

Transfer batter to the cake pan and spread it evenly with the off set pallet knife.  

Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until set. A toothpick inserted in the center should produce moist crumbs but not a wet batter.

Wash and dry the spatula, whisk, and mixing bowl and pinch bowl and reuse to prepare the frosting. 

While cake is baking prepare the ingredients for the frosting. Weigh butter, cocoa, milk into the sauce pan. Chop the walnuts and set aside. Weigh the confectioner’s sugar into the mixing bowl, and the vanilla into the pinch bowl and set both aside until needed. 

Cool cake for 15 – 20 minutes while you make the frosting.
Bring butter and cocoa mixture to a boil over medium low heat, stir in the chopped walnuts followed by the confectioner’s sugar, and finish with vanilla.  

Top the cake with marshmallows, and carefully spoon the warm frosting over the cake. The frosting is difficult to spread, be sure to evenly distribute it over the marshmallows.  

Smaller servings are better with this recipe, it is rich, and a little goes along way. If you’re feeing particularly gluttonous, have two.

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