As previously mentioned we’ve chosen the Holiday Edition of Cook’s Illustrated for the December 2008 Magazine of the Month. In addition to the amazing recipes, there’s a ton of helpful tips that I actually read.
That’s right. I usually don’t.
Food magazines are often treated with the same respect a kid might treat a newspaper: Kids go right for the comics and maybe the movies, and ignore everything else. In the same way, I go right for the recipes and all else be damned!
But the format of the Cook’s Illustrated magazines read more like a really spiffy manual with pictures and everything. For those cooks who like Alton Brown’s scientific approach to food, you will probably also like the Cook’s Illustrated format. Only a small portion of each two-page spread is dedicated to the actual recipe; the rest are notes by the Test Cooks comparing different ingredients and techniques and determining what’s best. To say the magazine is merely “great” wouldn’t be doing it enough justice.
I started my foray into the magazine with the Ultimate Turtle Brownies.
They start out having you make this interesting little foil “sling” for the brownies. It’s also used in a couple of other recipes in the mag. I’m not sure what was going on with my camera while all this was going on, because the picture I took of my foil sling turned out blurry.
I’m going to show it to you anyway. Oooh! Aaah! Look at that tin foil!
Okay, so the gist of the sling is that you pour the batter in, bake it and when you’re ready to pull the brownies out, you just lift the foil out of the tray and then peel back the sides. It worked really well, giving me clean sides to my brownies.
Next was the caramel – yes, homemade caramel. The ingredients go together into a pot and then you just follow some simple instructions that basically come down to this: stick it in the pot and then stop touching it like some OCD freak. POOF! It’s caramel.
The steps to making caramel were virtually painless, given they had photo step by step pictures of what to do and, most importantly, what to expect while it’s cooking. What I really hate is when you’re staring down a pot of something and you don’t know if what’s going on inside is right or wrong.
The illustration also has a short bit of text beneath each illustration, explaining precisely what to do. I cut them off because there’s probably some sort of copyright protection – and really, you should just pick up the magazine.
The actual brownie portion was so simple I didn’t even need the new mixer that I bought. I just mixed it up with a spoon. Half of the brownie goes down into the foil sling, then topped with 1/4 cup of the warm caramel. A butter knife is then used to swirl the caramel into the brownie. The other half of the brownie mixture is spread on top, then more caramel mixed in.
When the brownies are removed from the oven, the rest of the caramel mixture is poured on top, and then refrigerated for a couple of hours. When they’re set and chilled, the brownies come out, the sling is peeled off and the brownies are all cut up. And that’s it. Perfect brownies every time – no guesswork involved.
I’ve been serving mine warm with a side of vanilla ice cream. If you don’t like baking or think you aren’t good at it, this is a great one to start with. Not only is it great after dinner, but it’s also fun to just pick up with one hand and munch on. Chocolate and pecans mixed with a ton of homemade caramel. Good stuff, Maynard.