People do many different things when under stress. Some people eat, some people go on a run; some people pull out all their hair, some people bite their fingernails, some people clean their houses like a crazy madwoman.
Unfortunately, I like to cook.
Typically, as all my friends know, I bake bread. If they come to my house and I have bread rising on the stove, or cooling on the counter they know something is up. Today, after all that we’ve been through around here, I decided to up the ante. I pulled out all of the items I stole from my sister’s pantry the last time I visited her. (That’s another story in itself, but you could live for five years on the items in her pantry. Well, as long as you’re not afraid of a tiny thing like expiration dates.)
I scoured my pantry and discovered a bag of caramels, blocks of semi-sweet chocolate, some cake mixes and a lovely bag of what appeared to be chopped hazelnuts. Those I purchased myself last summer for a reason that currently escapes me.
After googling that combination, I discovered what appeared to be a simple recipe. That was my first mistake.
First, mix the cake mix with evaporated milk and melted butter. Be sure not to melt the butter in a microwave without covering it, and for God’s sake DON’T press the wrong button and cook it for twice as long as you should. (Butter is not meant to be brown. Note to self.)
Then, spread the very thick batter in a brownie pan. It will be thick and might require a five- ton rolling pin to spread it around. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize about 3 minutes into baking it, that you are to spread HALF of the mixture in the pan and save the rest for the TOP. Oooops.
The first three minutes of the eight minute baking time will soften the mixture enough to allow you to SCOOP out half of it with a spoon and makes the spreading of the rest of the batter still in the pan MUCH easier. (I’m going to email the Contessa this little recommendation. I’m sure she won’t mind.)
In the middle of this hectic oopsy daisy fix-up of the mix-up, you are to be melting the caramel with some evaporated milk in a double boiler. (Not the birdy-boiler! I can’t help it. I think of that EVERY time I hear the word boiler.)
Do you know how long it takes to unwrap a 14-oz bag of probably expired individually wrapped caramels? A long, damn time. (Start a week before you want to cook.)
When you finally MacGuyver a double boiler out of pans in your cupboard and begin the melting process, you’re a tad behind schedule. This requires a glas of wine, maybe TWO, and a deep breath.
While the caramels are cooking, you are supposed to spread the semi-sweet chocolate chips on top of the first layer of cake/brownie mixture. Now, because you only have blocks of semi-sweet chocolate, you’ll have to put them in a baggie and smash them with your heavy Kitchen Aid can opener. Handy Tip: Use the smooth end and not the one with the sharp opener contraption on it. Just trust me on that one. Oh, and cover the counter before you attempt to smash the hell out of the blocks of chocolate.
Spread the incredibly ugly chunks along the first layer, and then drizzle the melted caramel on top. Be sure to hold the pan with your right hand/arm, and not the one that you injured when you tried to lift the five thousand pounds of salt out of your car this morning. That’s when you might discover that you probably tore something mighty important in your arm.
After dropping the remainder of the cake mix on top of this brownie/caramel extravaganza, you can finally put it in the oven for 20 more minutes. Don’t bother cleaning up. Just take the bottle of wine into the living room and ignore the kitchen.
Sure, the caramel brownies are amazingly sweet and decadent. But I don’t think I’ll be performing on the Food Network anytime soon. Unless they want me for cooking bloopers; then, I’m their girl.
Hands-DOWN I’m their girl.