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Sweet and Salty Brownies

Last weekend my Chief Culinary Consultant and I braved the crowds (and the heat) at the outlets and did some Memorial Day weekend shopping. It just so happened that the first store we stumbled upon was the Williams-Sonoma outlet. Swoon. They had some some things outside for a “sidewalk sale” and I noticed a stack of Baked Explorations cookbooks on one of the shelves – $9.99! Definite outlet no-brainer there. I’ve been dying to pick it up since positively loving every single recipe I tried from the first Baked cookbook (you know, the book that brought us the Baked Brownie and Root Beer Float Cake, mmm!). I snatched it up, among other things, and couldn’t wait to get in the car to start browsing through it. These sweet and salty brownies jumped off the page at me, and I knew immediately they would be the first thing I’d bake up from the book. It turned out to be a very good decision!

These brownies are a take on the fabulous Baked brownie, which are dense, fudgy and the most delicious brownie I have ever had. This recipe takes that recipe and slaps a layer of salted caramel in the middle and then sprinkles a combination of fleur de sel and coarse salt on top. Unlike the salted caramel brownies that I made last summer where I swirled the caramel into the brownie batter, the salted caramel in these brownies are baked right into a middle layer, so it essentially becomes part of the brownie batter. You can definitely taste it in there and the saltiness it imparts, along with the salt sprinkled on top, is a wonderful balance to the sweet richness of the brownie batter. These are definitely killer brownies. Love them!

I think for dessert tomorrow I’m going to warm one up in the microwave, top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and enjoy it with a bottle of root beer. That sounds like bliss. Now, you must make these so you can join me!

One year ago: Pea in a Pod Baby Shower Cookies

Sweet and Salty Brownies

Yield: 24 brownies

Prep Time: 45 minutes | Bake Time: 30 minutes

For the Salted Caramel Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
¼ cup sour cream

For the Brownie Batter:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Topping:
1½ teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar

1. Make the Caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

2. Make the Brownie Batter: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9×13-inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

5. Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a 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.

6. Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining 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.

7. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture still visible.

8. Assemble the brownies: Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about ¾ cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, making sure the caramel doesn’t come in contact with the edges oft he pan or it will burn. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer, leaving about a ½-inch border around the edges. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.

9. 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.

10. Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.

11. Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

12. The brownies can be stored, tight wrapped at room temperature, for up to 4 days.

(Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations)

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