I first fell in love with salted caramel back on a chilly January day this past winter. It was a Friday. The night before, my Chief Culinary Consultant and I went to a Pens/Caps game (we won’t discuss the result), and he was in town and off the next day. So we did what we do best – we went shopping. We were making our way around town when we passed a cupcake shop and I’m pretty sure I was adamant about stopping in. And so we did. We got a variety of cupcakes and busted into a couple once we got back in the car and saved some for later. As it turns out, we weren’t very impressed for all of the hype that the shop gets. The cupcakes themselves were quite dry, but wow the buttercream was the stuff baker dream are made of. Smooth, creamy, not too buttery or too sugary; melt-in-your-mouth frosting perfection. And lucky for me one of the varieties I chose was salted caramel. I don’t even think I finished the actual cupcake part, but rather ate all of the frosting off the top. Salted caramel and I had made a love connection. When we hit up Georgetown Cupcake a few weeks ago, I immediately went for the salted caramel there as well, and fell in love all over again.
Somehow it took me until now to actually make salted caramel instead of traipsing around eating it in the form of frosting. Not that there is anything at all wrong with that though. Right? I couldn’t wait to make it but wanted to do something different with it than frosting since that was the only way I had eaten it so far. I saw a link on Two Peas and Their Pod to The Pioneer’s Woman’s Salted Caramel Brownies. They looked delicious, but I wasn’t sold on using gelatin to make a caramel layer set, so I brainstormed some alternatives. I finally decided that the brownies would be simply marvelous with a swirl of salted caramel, similar to how cream cheese brownies are made. And my sun could rise and set around cream cheese brownies. This turned out to be a fabulous experiment, and a recipe that gets a gold star. The brownies are rich, chocolatey, creamy and salty all in one beautiful bite.
And if that weren’t enough, there’s more good news. You won’t use the entire batch of salted caramel for these brownies, so you will have some leftover to dip apples and pretzels in, drizzle on ice cream, take a bath in… hey, whatever you want! Just enjoy it!
If you received the Brown Eyed Baker weekly newsletter last week then you know the weekly baking challenge was… brownies! Did you make any this past week? If you did, I’d love to hear about them! Leave a comment below, and include a link if you blogged about brownies! And don’t forget to add your pictures to the Flickr group for the weekly baking themes! Hope you enjoyed this one!
For the Brownies:
5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1¼ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
Fine sea salt, for topping brownies
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with overlapping pieces of foil and spray the foil.
2. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking as the sugar begins to melt. Some of the sugar will harden into clumps, but that's okay - it will melt eventually - just keep whisking. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches a dark amber color. At that point, whisk in the salt, and then add the butter all at once and whisk until it is completely incorporated into the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the heavy cream (it will foam up when first added). Continue to whisk until it forms a smooth sauce. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before using in the brownies. The leftover sauce can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (You'll probably need to warm it up a bit straight from the refrigerator.)
3. In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. (Or, melt in the microwave on 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.) Whisk in the cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool.
4. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture; then stir in the flour until just combined. Pour about half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and spread into the corners. Spoon 9 dollops of Salted Caramel Sauce on top of the brownie batter. Top with the remaining brownie mixture, spread into the corners and level the surface with a spatula. Again, spoon 9 dollops of the Salted Caramel Sauce on top of the brownie batter. With a dull butter knife, gently run it through the batter to swirl the batter just a bit (don't do it too much or it will all mix together). Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top.
5. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil handles and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.