I have a sweet tooth. A big one. It can only be deemed normal in comparison to my husband and sons love of all things chocolate. The one problem with me baking sweets in our house is that they disappear fast, like really fast. It doesn't matter if we have four cookies or fourteen cookies they will all be gone within a day or two. So baking for a friend and keeping just a few pieces for me and the boys is a way to keep things somewhat reasonable around here. My friend Erin had a birthday this week and she loves dessert as much or maybe even more than my boys. I knew that I just had to make her something sweet for her special day. She loves caramel, and when I saw this recipe for sweet and salty brownies I knew that they would be perfect. These things are rich and decadent and sinfully delicious. An entire batch of these is too much of a good thing, there's just isn't enough cardio in the world to outrun 12 of them. So I made a batch, gave half to Erin and we ate the other half. Perfect. Calorie crisis averted.
I would call myself a cook before a baker but I have been experimenting with all the things in the kitchen that has intimidated me the last year or so. I am really more of a let's throw a bunch of things that I like together and see how it comes out, definitely not a good trait in a baker. The precision and necessity to follow or develop a recipe exactly down to the most finite measurement leaves me feeling a little queasy. I will say that thanks to the purchase of a kitchen scale and some simple practice, the idea of baking a loaf of bread or making a caramel no longer makes me break out in cold sweats. The one bit of advice I would give to anyone afraid of baking is this, you'll never become a baker if you don't get in the kitchen and get experimenting. Read cookbooks, follow food blogs but most importantly get in the kitchen and cook something. I know that I am a decent cook but only after years of failed recipes and kitchen disasters. These days the disasters are coming fewer and far between but they still happen and I still get back in there, get my hands dirty and try again.
This recipe does take a little more work than your normal brownie, first you make a salted caramel and then layer it in between the brownie batter and top the whole thing off with more salt and sugar. If you've never made a caramel before, my one word of advice is watch it closely. It can go from just right to burnt beyond repair in a matter of seconds. I also must admit that I had to make the caramel for these brownies twice. You don't want to waste all of your wonderful (and costly) ingredients by using a less than perfect caramel, so if you think it's burnt, start over. The addition of the sour cream is nothing short of genius, it really cuts that sugary taste that most caramels have, I had a hard time not eating it all before I layered it into the brownie batter. The end result is so worth the extra effort the recipe calls for, these are definitely my new favorite brownie..for now.
Salted caramel brownies
from Baked Explorations
yield | 12 large brownies
For the caramel filling
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
1/4 cup sour cream
For the brownie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the caramel filling, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup of water in a medium saucepan, stirring carefully so as not to splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350F or until the mixture is dark amber in color, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream, and then the Fleur de Sel. Whisk in the sour cream and set aside to cool.
For the brownie, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal 9 x 13 inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of the double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature at this point.
Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining two eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is a just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible.
To assemble the brownie, pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use your offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.
Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with an extra 1 1/2 teaspoons Fleur de Sel and 1 teaspoon coarse sugar.
Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving. Store wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for up to 4 days.