♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Welcome to "America's Test Kitchen" at home.
Today, I'm baking a yellow sheet cake with chocolate frosting.
Jack walks us through the wonderful world of dark chocolate, and Erin's making the best chewy peanut butter cookies.
We've got a lot in store for you today, so stick around.
♪♪ Who doesn't love a good snack cake?
And I might be making the ultimate one today.
It's a yellow sheet cake with creamy chocolate frosting.
I mean, what more can I say?
For the cake, I'm looking for really tender crumb.
It's plush inside, and it's going to melt in our mouths.
We'll get to the frosting a little later, but let's start with the cake.
So, any good baker will tell you that it's always better to weigh your ingredients than to measure by volume.
That's really a good way to get precise ingredients.
And I'm going to start today with bleached cake flour, and I'm going to weigh out 9 ounces.
So, to create a plush crumb inside of our cake, we need to create something called a high-ratio cake.
And that's where we're using more sugar per weight than flour.
We're going to add 12 1/4 ounces of sugar.
Now, sugar doesn't just add sweetness.
It adds moisture and gives the cake the right texture.
I need to add a little bit of leavening.
Now, for this, I will measure out instead of weigh.
This is baking powder.
I'm going to use 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon.
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and I need 1/2 teaspoon of table salt.
So, that's it for my dry ingredients.
I'm just going to give them a quick stir here.
Then I'll go ahead and fit this onto my stand mixer.
So, next up, buttermilk.
It's going to add some beautiful tang.
So, I need 1/2 cup.
We also need some eggs.
We're using four large eggs plus two yolks.
Crack these one at a time.
Now, for these last two, I'm going to separate the yolk from the white, and we're going to add the yolks into our cake.
Now, one of the hallmarks of a yellow cake is vanilla, and this uses 1 tablespoon.
We're going to whisk this just with a fork, mix it to break up those eggs.
That is going to be a rich and custardy cake.
So, this is looking pretty good.
Now let's start mixing.
Going to fit this with my paddle attachment and just give it a quick stir to make sure all of those dry ingredients are well-mixed.
That looks good.
So now let's talk about the fat that we're going to add.
We're using two types.
I have vegetable oil and unsalted butter.
We're using a stick of unsalted butter and 1/2 cup of the vegetable oil.
Now, we're using the butter because butter just makes everything taste better.
But we found if we used all butter, the cake could start to get a little bit dry and a little bit crumbly.
Vegetable oil added in place of some of the butter is a great way to make sure that your cake doesn't start to stale too soon.
So, I'm going to cut up the butter just into some small pieces.
This is softened.
Just break it up a little bit and add these right to my mixer.
And I'll go ahead and add the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil at this point, as well.
So, I'm going to turn this to low, and we're just going to mix this until the butter is incorporated.
That's going to take about 30 seconds.
Alright, that's looking a little bit like sugar cookie dough.
Now, I want to aerate this just a little bit, so I'm going to increase the speed to medium and let it go for about a minute.
That is looking good.
Now, I want to point out that even if it doesn't say it in a recipe, if you see some things clinging to the side of your bowl at any time, it's always a good idea to give it a good scrape-down.
You want to make sure that everything is mixing evenly.
I'm going to turn this back to low speed and gradually add our egg and buttermilk mixture.
That's looking great.
So, at this point, I want to give the bowl another scrape.
I'm also going to scrape the beater.
At this point, everything's scraped down, looking good.
I'm going to increase the speed to medium-high, and now we'll let this mix for about three minutes.
We want to get some air in there.
Smells like a bake shop in here.
Look how puffy and fluffy that batter is.
It's actually changed color.
I'm going to put the batter in a 13x9-inch cake pan, which I've greased and floured.
[ Sighs ] Doesn't that look good?
It's almost a shame to bake it.
The smell of vanilla -- Amazing.
So, I just want to scoot this to the corners of the pan here and smooth the top a little bit.
Just make sure it's in an even layer.
And then what I can't get to with my spatula here, I'm going to even it out even more.
I'm going to whack this pan on the countertop a few times just to make sure that any air bubbles that are underneath have a chance to come up to the surface and break.
Otherwise, you might get a big, gaping hole in your cake.
Nobody wants that.
And that smoothes the top of it.
So, about five raps on the counter.
If you see any big bubbles, you can just go ahead and poke them.
So, this is ready to bake.
I'm going to put this in a 350-degree oven, and I'm going to keep it in there until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.
And that's going to take anywhere between 28 to 32 minutes.
[ Sniffs ] Ooh, that's smelling good.
Let's take a look and see if our cake is baked all the way through.
Now, remember, I said I need a toothpick to go right in the center and come out with a few crumbs attached.
Now, a high-ratio cake does have a lot of sugar in it and, therefore, a lot of moisture.
And if we'd used unbleached cake flour, we could expect this cake to be a lot more dense, actually start to collapse.
But since we used bleached cake flour, we can get some good structure in there and a really fine crumb.
Flour is composed of gluten proteins and starch.
To bleach flour, a bleaching agent such as chlorine dioxide gas is introduced, and it changes the chemical properties of flour and how it behaves.
Although bleaching affects gluten, it primarily alters the starch in the flour, damaging the membrane that surrounds the starch granules.
Our batter starts off by cutting fat into a mixture of flour and sugar.
The first thing to note is that the modified starch binds to the fat in the batter more readily, dispersing it throughout the batter.
That creates a tender texture and a finer crumb.
When the liquid ingredients like buttermilk and eggs are added to the mixture and the sugar begins to dissolve, damaged starch granules in the flour can now absorb more water from those liquid ingredients.
The bleached starch also behaves differently during baking.
In the heat of the oven, the starch granules swell and burst.
This is called gelatinization.
This creates a sturdy gel structure throughout the cake that can hold all the sugar and the water in the recipe.
With bleached flour, more of the starch can gelatinize.
But with unbleached flour, not all of the starch can gelatinize.
The resulting cake will bake up up more dense with a less sturdy structure.
Now the cake needs to cool completely before I can frost it.
That's going to take a good two hours, so I'm going to leave it here.
Of course, if you didn't want to leave it on your stovetop, you can move it to a wire rack.
♪♪ Now that the cake has cooled, we can start on our frosting.
It's the best part of the cake, right?
We're making a chocolate buttercream.
It's an American-style buttercream with a little bit of a twist.
So, I've got some bar chocolate here.
Let's see if I won a golden ticket.
Nope, not a winner today.
So, this is a 4-ounce bar.
I need 2 ounces of that.
Wonder what I'll do with the remaining amount.
And I'm going to chop this fine because I need to melt it, and I'm going to use the microwave for that.
It's just good to go at an angle.
So you start at one of the points here.
And you can also use a bread knife for this.
It works great.
And I'm using 60% bittersweet chocolate.
That means it has 60% cacao in there, so it's going to have some really good flavor.
Alright, so, this is going to go into the microwave.
Alright, so, I'm going to start the microwave for 45 seconds on high.
And then after that, I'll go in there and stir it around.
I'll check it every 15 seconds until everything looks melted.
It's nicely melted.
Ooh, super smooth and creamy.
Okay, so, we're going to weigh our ingredients.
I need 9 ounces of confectioners' sugar.
And in addition to the chocolate, we're also going to add a little bit of cocoa powder.
This is going to make it taste just so deep and rich and chocolaty.
I need 1 1/2 ounces of cocoa powder.
Couple other ingredients.
I have a little bit of salt here, 1/4 teaspoon.
And I also have here 8 tablespoons of softened butter.
Obviously, we want softened butter so that our frosting is nice and creamy.
Just going to break it up into some blobs.
Before I put this on the mixer, I've got one more ingredient to get.
So, we're using a little bit of hot water, and that's going to make this buttercream so smooth and silky.
Now, American buttercreams will sometimes feel a little bit gritty, and that's because of those tiny sugar particles in the confectioners' sugar.
So a little bit of hot water -- You don't have to use boiling water, just hot water -- is going to smooth everything.
So, I need 1/4 cup of it.
Not a lot.
So, I'll just pour this right in and get it on my mixer.
So, I'm going to start this on low speed, and I'm just going to mix this for about 20 seconds until it starts to come together.
Alright, so, everything's coming together, but I'm going to increase the speed now to medium and really start to work some air into that and get everything nice and smooth.
So that's going to take about a minute.
And during that time, I'll probably have to go in there and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl just to make sure that it's all mixing evenly.
This looks absolutely gorgeous.
Just going to take a little blob there so you can see.
Nice and smooth.
But we haven't even added the chocolate yet, so that's going to go in now, now that any lumps have been worked out from the butter.
I'm going to mix this on low speed just until it's incorporated.
Shouldn't take too long.
So, I want to show you this beautiful texture.
Let me give it a nice stir here.
I mean, that is gorgeous frosting.
Now, it's a little too runny at this point.
We want to let this set up.
So I'm going to leave it at room temperature right here on the counter, really well guarded.
And I'll leave it here for about 30, up to 40 minutes.
And the cocoa solids from the chocolate and of course the cocoa powder are going to help this set up a little bit.
Now this frosting has thickened just a bit, you can see.
Ohh, it looks so silky.
So it's ready to be used.
And of course, the cake is completely cooled.
You're going to plop some blobs here across the cake.
Now, I'm going to use an offset spatula here just to start to push the frosting towards the edges.
And I want to make sure that I'm getting everything evenly, so it's a good idea to turn the pan.
This is just a first pass, making sure it's all evenly covered.
Oh, it's like a beautiful wave of chocolate just hitting the cake.
Now it needs to set up before we slice it, so I'm going to go put this into the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
I get to cut into the cake, serve myself a nice, big piece.
I've got my milk ready.
That's always a good sign.
Now I'm going to get in here with my offset spatula.
Look at that crumb in there.
It's so even, so plush and velvety.
That is gorgeous.
Alright, so, I'm going to go in for the big point here.
Lots of frosting on there.
Fudgy and tender.
I mean, the fork just cut right through there.
It just melts in your mouth.
It's so tender.
There's a really nice vanilla forward flavor coming in there.
Of course, I can taste the butter, and the frosting is so creamy and dreamy.
It doesn't feel like that gritty American buttercream.
It's kind of perfect.
It's like the best parts of my childhood all wrapped up in one.
And if you want to make this beautiful cake, use a high ratio of sugar to bleached cake flour and use a combination of butter and vegetable oil.
For a super silky frosting, beat a little bit of hot water into the other ingredients.
So, from "America's Test Kitchen" at home, a childhood dream, the very best ever yellow sheet cake with chocolate frosting.
It's disappearing quickly.
♪♪ -I'm a happy person, and I like to think I'm happy because I eat chocolate every single day.
Yeah, I really do.
And the good news for those of us who love chocolate, it's gotten so much better as manufacturers come up with new products that deliver more chocolate and less sugar.
Yeah, that's right.
They're taking out the sugar and giving us more chocolate.
That's a big hurray.
Now, I should say, I'm not talking about unsweetened chocolate.
I'm not talking about eating baking chocolate.
I have been known in moments of desperation to try that.
It's 100% chocolate, zero percent sugar, and 100% pain.
It's not meant to be eaten.
No, these are dark chocolates.
The legal definition is anything with more than 35% chocolate is a dark chocolate.
Now, people will call this bittersweet or semisweet.
These terms aren't really regulated.
The most important thing is to read the label and see the percentage of chocolate.
So, let me start with the test kitchen's favorite for everyday use.
This is the Ghirardelli Bittersweet.
It's 60% cacao or chocolate.
That means it's 40% sugar.
We use this for brownies, pot de crème.
You could nibble with this.
The important thing about this is it's widely available, inexpensive.
It is great for both nibbling and baking.
Now, if you're somebody who's like, "Hey, I want to step it up.
I want a little more chocolate and a little less sugar," our favorite in the 70-plus category was Chocolove.
This one is super fruity.
It's really creamy.
One of the secrets of all of these low-sugar chocolates is that they're putting more cocoa butter and taking out a little bit of the cocoa solids.
So, chocolate has two components.
The cocoa butter is the fat.
It's what makes it creamy.
It melts in your mouth.
The cocoa solids are important.
It gives you the flavor, but too much cocoa solids, and you get that graininess.
So this one is a top choice in that 70-plus category.
You want to go up one more category, and you're somebody who's like, "I want the 80-plus"?
This is the Lindt Excellence.
85% chocolate, meaning 15% sugar.
Tastes like coconut.
This one melts so beautifully in your mouth.
Oh, it is so much fun to eat this chocolate.
And last but not least, if you're somebody who wants to go to extremes, and you want to try a 90% chocolate, this is our favorite in the 90-plus category.
It's actually 90% chocolate, 10% sugar.
It is Alter Eco, and it's got this amazing berry, peaches, cherry notes.
It melts beautifully.
It is just a delicious chocolate.
Less sugar, more chocolate.
It's a beautiful world.
Eat more chocolate.
♪♪ -When I was a kid, one of my favorite memories was making peanut butter cookies with my mom.
And one of my favorite parts about it was the fact that I could take a fork and make those crisscrosses on each cookie.
And then once they came out of the oven, my mom would give me the sifter filled with confectioners' sugar, and I would dust them all over the cookies, and it was one of my favorite childhood memories.
Now I've graduated to an adult peanut butter cookie.
They're crisp on the outside.
They are packed with peanut flavor, and they have a nice soft and chewy texture.
So, let's get started.
Make sure you tare out your scale.
And I'm going to use 7 1/2 ounces of all-purpose flour.
Now I'm going to add 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
You always want to dip and sweep.
I like to use the handles of my measuring spoons.
Now I'm going to add 1 teaspoon of table salt.
So, now we're just going to whisk this together.
Let's get to our wet ingredients.
I have tared out my scale.
And we're going to start with brown sugar.
Just 10 1/2 ounces of dark brown sugar.
A lot of recipes call for packed brown sugar.
Our recipe calls for packed brown sugar, as well.
But again, the scale really comes in handy here, because your idea of packed and my idea of packed might be a little different, and they might yield slightly different results.
Now we're going to add our peanut butter.
So, I'm using 1 cup of creamy peanut butter.
And peanut butter's really important with this recipe.
You know, there's chunky peanut butter.
There's creamy peanut butter.
There's natural peanut butter.
This recipe is really designed to use creamy peanut butter, so don't get tempted to use whatever you have in your pantry.
Make sure you have the creamy.
So, this is an Adjust-A-Cup, another favorite tool of mine, and it's as easy as that.
So, this is 1 cup of peanut butter.
And I'm going to add 2 tablespoons of honey.
Another baby Adjust-A-Cup.
Now I'm going to add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
And now I'm going to add 4 tablespoons of melted butter.
To get the perfect chew comes down to saturated fat and unsaturated fat.
Our butter is saturated fat, and peanut butter is mostly unsaturated fat.
And the best ratio is 30% saturated fat to 70% unsaturated fat, and that really will give us the chew.
If I had more saturated fat, my cookie would be a lot more short and tender, and I don't want that.
I want chewy.
Okay, so, now we're going to add two eggs.
They're going to add water to the dough, which I'll talk about later.
And two eggs.
And they're both beautiful.
Now I'm just going to whisk this together.
You just want to whisk this until it's thoroughly combined and homogenous.
Gosh, it smells so good.
[ Chuckles ] I'd be okay with just a spoon right now.
But I'm going to make cookies.
Now we're going to add our dry ingredients.
I'm just going to use a typical folding action to work that flour in without overworking the dough.
So, our dough -- Our flour is just combined.
I'm going to set this aside for a minute, and we're going to move on to the final ingredient, very important ingredient, and that is whole roasted peanuts.
So, I'm just going to use 1/2 cup of peanuts, and I'm going to chop them finely.
These peanuts are going to add a lot more peanut flavor to our cookies without having to add extra peanut butter.
If I added extra peanut butter, that would actually result in a drier cookie.
This is going to add peanut flavor and also peanut texture.
My peanuts are finely chopped.
With a bench scraper, I'm just going to dump them right into my bowl.
Now I'm just going to stir these peanuts into my cookie dough until they're just combined.
Okay, so, as I said earlier, adding too much peanut butter can actually make the cookies drier.
It may sound counterintuitive, but when you combine water and peanut butter, it seems like they're both wet ingredients, but they're really not.
When they combine together, they actually stiffen up.
Peanut butter consists of about 50% fat and 25% protein suspended in the fat along with the carbohydrates.
This combination gives peanut butter a stirrable, spreadable texture.
The proteins in peanuts have a strong tendency to bind with water, which is why when you have a spoonful of peanut butter, your mouth becomes very dry.
When you add water to peanut butter, the peanut proteins bind to the water and clump together.
Those microscopic clumps bump into each other when we try to stir the peanut butter, making it stiffer and pasty.
Because the protein is holding onto water, there's less free water available in the dough to make it soft and pliable, which is why when you add extra peanut butter to the dough, it becomes very stiff and unmanageable, and it actually results in a very dry, crumbly cookie.
Now it's time to portion the dough.
I'm using a #30 portion scoop.
As I'm scooping, I am going into the dough and smearing it so I have a flat surface.
This is going to ensure that each of the cookies that I scoop are all the same size, because I want them to bake at the same rate.
This is going to be 24 cookies.
If I do have some dough left over at the end, I can take that dough and evenly distribute it amongst all the other dough balls.
Okay, the perfect number of cookies, and they're all the same size.
So the next step is we're going to take each dough ball and roll it into a ball.
Now all I need to do is press each cookie dough ball into a 2-inch-diameter round.
I've told you before, I love my bench scraper, and I love this one in particular because it actually has measurements on the edge of it.
So if you're looking for a bench scraper, look for one that actually has a ruler as part of it.
So it's easy to spot-check.
Once I do one, then I just kind of cruise through, and I press them all so that it matches it.
I don't hold the ruler up to each one.
And this is the part where when I was a kid, I would take a fork and I would, instead of flattening them with my hand, I would take that fork and make the crisscrosses.
If it was a drier cookie, I would hold onto those marks, but this is a soft and chewy cookie, so those marks just go away.
So, it's okay, though.
These are the best cookies you'll ever have.
So, we're baking the cookies in a 350-degree oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.
I'm going to rotate them halfway through.
Okay, so it's been about 5, 6 minutes, and the cookie tray is ready to rotate.
Rotating cookies is a very important step to make sure that they bake evenly throughout.
♪♪ Okay, so, our second batch of cookies has come out of the oven, and they've cooled.
And they're ready to eat, and I brought in a special person.
-I thought I would bring you in to try out the cookies.
-I would love to.
-I know that we always made the old-fashioned ones with the crisscross when I was a kid.
-And these -- I'm curious what you think of them.
-You want to help yourself?
[ Both laugh ] They're chewy.
[ Chuckles ] -These are delicious.
-You can make these for me anytime.
-Oh, I thought you'd say that.
[ Both laugh ] Okay, so, my mother loves them, and you will, too.
I'm sure of it.
So if you want to make the perfect chewy peanut butter cookie, just remember three things.
Make sure that you use the right peanut butter, make sure that you use the right ratios, and also that you portion your cookies properly so that they're all uniform.
So, from "America's Test Kitchen" at home, my mom's favorite chewy peanut butter cookie that's to die for.
The best ever, mm-hmm.
Thank you, Erin.
-You want to wave to the camera?
-[ Laughs ]