Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Salted Caramel Brownies

A few weeks ago, Eric ran across a recipe for salted caramel brownies. Ironically, it was posted on one of my favorite food blogs (Smitten Kitchen). Of course, seeing the recipe made me want to give it a go, but time was a bit short, so I didn't quite get around to it. Part of the reason for the delay was finding time to not only make the brownies, but also the homemade salted caramel that goes into them.

Last night, however, was the night. Annika had a play date at her friend Valeria's house, which gave me a bit of extra time to work on the brownies. I made the caramel and then picked up Annika while it cooled ... multi-tasking, baby!!

Because I made a double batch (knowing I'd take the brownies to work) I used a 9x13 pan instead of the recommended 8x8 pan. I quickly realized that putting the caramel on a plate to cool wasn't going to be an ideal situation; the risk of a "caramel overboard" situation was pretty great; I had visions of caramel slipping off of the plate and all over the freezer ... I also had visions of me chiseling the caramel out of the freezer ... and snacking on it. (How sad is that???) To avoid that embarrassing (yet probably fairly tasty) scenario, I opted to verrrrrrry carefully slide the parchment from the plate to a pie dish; the extra-high sides were exactly what I needed.  Glad I went with plan B!

After picking up Annika and putting Conor to bed, Annika and I made the brownie batter together. She had a great time stirring the ingredients as I dumped them into the bowl. That said, her favorite part was licking the spatula when all was said and done! :)

A few things I noticed, greasing the parchment that the caramel cools on is a must. I lined my baking pan with a two-way of (greased) parchment paper and am very glad that I did. The brownies took about 15-20 minutes longer to bake than the original recipe called for, but that probably has something to do with the fact I doubled the recipe and had a much bigger pan in the oven. Finally, when sprinkling the remaining caramel pieces on top of the brownie batter, don't put the pieces overly close to the edge ... they created caramel crunch and enveloped the edges of the parchment a bit.

Oh my, but are these babies divine! I mean DEEEE-VINE!!! They are gooey and not too sweet. I'm not normally a huge salted caramel fan, but because the salt wasn't overpowering, I'm giving this recipe a huge thumbs up.

If you decide to try the recipe, heed the advice from Smitten Kitchen.... freeze the brownies for a bit before trying to cut them. I tried cutting them this morning without freezing them and it was fairly tricky. After 10-15 minutes in the freezer, they cut much more easily.

Salted Caramel Brownies (courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste)
3 tablespoons heavy cream

3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

Make caramel: Set a square of parchment paper over a medium-sized plate. Lightly butter or coat the parchment with a spray oil, just as an added security measure.

In a medium, dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your sugar; this will take about 5 minutes, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. By the time it is all melted, if should be a nice copper color; if not, cook until it is. Remove from heat and stir in butter. It may not incorporate entirely but do your best. Stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to the stove over medium-high heat, bringing it back to a simmer and melted again any sugar that solidified. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a shade darker.

Pour out onto parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to your freezer. Freeze until solidified, which can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes in a decent freezer to 40 minutes in my terrible one.

Meanwhile, or when your caramel is almost firm, make your brownies: Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.

Assemble brownies: When caramel is firm, remove it from the freezer and chop it into rough 1-inch squares. Gently fold all but a small amount of caramel bits into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading until mostly even. Scatter remaining caramel bits on top. Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool thoroughly — a process that can be hastened in the freezer, which will also produce cleaner cuts — and cut into squares or other desired shapes.

No comments: