I feel like 2020 has been more than enough to deal with so I don’t want to offer any tricks to you. That must mean that you’re getting a treat!
That’s right, I have a brownie recipe waiting for you at the bottom of this post. Woohoo!
But before we get to the recipe, I want to share with you my treat this week: The Sorting Hat!
In the HP book series, Harry Potter's boarding school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, had 4 “houses” that the students were divided into based on the content of their character. In order to determine where they belong, the Sorting Hat was placed on each student’s head upon arrival to the school, and would decide which house to put each of them into (in a grouchy sort of way IMHO).
Poor Ron. He looks so freaked out.
According to the books, the hat was sewn together roughly 1,000 years ago (hence the patches and tears) and has become battered and frayed over the years - also it got pretty dirty. Recreating the dirty and old aspect was a challenge for me since typically I strive to make cakes as neat and pretty as possible. At one point I actually took a knife to my perfect, straight edges and completely destroyed them.
But I think that it was totally worth it in the end.
Believe it or not, by this week I was getting pretty sick of eating cake (I don't know what's gotten into me!) and I was longing for a simpler sweet treat. I also knew that to create the shape of this hat I would need a medium that was moldable, which is why rice cereal treats were an obvious choice.
I made the treats recipe, fashioned it into a hat shape before it cooled, then covered the cone of treats in leftover buttercream from last week’s spiderweb cake to give my fondant something to stick to.
Next I got started on laying the foundation for the facial structure of the hat with strips of fondant rolled out and placed around the cone. This part was challenging to me because you can't really tell what it will look like once it's covered in fondant, plus you can't really undo this part after the fondant has been placed.
However, I noticed that something seemed off. The Sorting Hat just wasn’t as tall and majestic as I wanted it to be. I knew I could easily add a layer of cake to the base of the cone to add some height, but I’ve just eaten so much cake recently and I didn't want to do that. So I decided to make a layer of brownies to boost up the hat.
Now you should know that this isn’t my go-to brownie recipe. I’m definitely a fudgey brownie fan, but because I needed this brownie purely for structural reasons (ok maybe not purely. I really just didn’t want any more cake. Plus I’ve been craving brownies.), I felt that a thicker, cake-like brownie would do the trick (and also quell my cravings). Before I give you the recipe though, I want to share my tip of the week. When it comes to baking, the amount of ingredients in each recipe really needs to be consistent in order to provide a good product every time.
One of the most important things that I learned from the French chefs who taught me is that everything needs to be measured by weight instead of by volume. The example they showed to prove this point was having someone scoop three separate cups of flour (each cup was to represent three separate times of making a recipe). Then they weighed each cup of flour. All three had different weights. One measurement had way more flour in “just a cup”, and the others had less. Imagine having that much variance amongst all of your ingredients in one recipe. If you’re off by just enough in some or all of your ingredients, it could really ruin the chemistry of the recipe you're baking.
This is why my tip to you is to invest in a baking scale so you will have consistency in your baking. (An added bonus that I enjoy is that there are less dishes when you weigh your ingredients. Instead of using teaspoons and measuring cups that get dirty and have to be washed before measuring the next ingredient, if you have to combine your flour, salt, and baking soda together [like the recipe below calls for], you just pour each ingredient into the same bowl while it sits on top of the scale! It’s also super helpful for when you have to measure sticky ingredients like treacle, corn syrup, or glucose. Yay for less dishwashing!)
After my brownie cooled, I stacked my rice cereal cone on top of it (gluing it together with more buttercream) and then draped my brown fondant over the cone, shaping it into the grooves created by the fondant structure I placed earlier. This part was so exciting because the face was becoming more apparent and I was really able to see how my artwork was coming together.
I was able to create some really cool patches and a band to go around the top of the brim before deciding to paint some #Americolor black mixed with alcohol for shading around the eyes and to create the centuries-worth-of-dirt look.
And there you have it. The Sorting Hat made entirely of not cake. I can’t wait to dive in!
Before I forget, here’s the brownie bottom to today’s Sorting Hat structure. I put the volume measurements in there for those of you who don't have a scale... yet. Bon appetit!
110 g brown sugar, packed (1/2 cup)
200g sucrose (1 cup)
152g butter (2/3 cup)
60g water (1/4 cup)
290g Bittersweet baking chocolate (1 3/4 cups) (I used Guittard baking chips this time, but usually I use their wafers.)
5g vanilla extract (2 tsp)
180g AP flour (1 1/2 cups)
3g b. soda (1/2 tsp)
3g salt (1/2 tsp)
Optional: 1 cup choc chips (I did not use these in my recipe.)
Preheat oven to 325°F
Place first 4 ingredients in a pot and melt over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, stir in bittersweet chocolate.
Combine flour, b. soda, salt. Set aside.
Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and chocolate mixture.
Fold in flour, then extra bittersweet chocolate chips (optional).
Pour into a parchment lined pan. (I used 6" baking rounds for the hat.)
Bake for 40 - 50 minutes.
Happy eating, y’all.