salty caramel pretzel brownies

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Sometimes managing a blog can be difficult.

I mean, aside from all the time spent shopping, prepping, cooking, photographing, and planning… all of that aside, the hardest thing by far is writing. Sometimes I just want to put up a picture and then put the recipe below and be done with it.

Writers block. It’s real, yo.

And it’s serious.

Sometimes I could talk about brownies for days (and sometimes I do)…  and then other times, like today, I’m all like, “How much can you really say about brownies?” 

Hi, I made brownies. Here is a picture to prove I made them. Here is another picture in case you’re still not convinced. And here is a recipe for said brownies. Yup. Looks like brownies.

>Brownies, brownies, brownies.

Then, a magical thing happened.

I realized I didn’t need to spend hours thinking about the brownies or how awesome their pretzelly crust was and how chewy and chocolatey they were and how delightful the little bits of caramel were or even how well the crunchy/salty pretzels accented them.

I didn’t have to ponder synonyms for “moist” (ew, right?) or different ways to describe the flavor of chocolate… in fact, I didn’t have to do any of that at all.

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I could, instead, talk about something completely different.  Like fortune cookies.  And how FH solidified for sure in his mind that we were meant to be (which is good, considering I’m wearing his ring on my finger and all. You think maybe he should have figured that out beforehand?)

Now you might be wondering what fortune cookies have to do with love, but let me get there.

FH and I tried a new Chinese joint last weekend. It was Saturday and I didn’t want to get out of my pajamas but FH wanted Chinese food, it was just our luck that someone left a menu on our doorstep for a new Chinese restaurant. I glanced through to see if they delivered (a lot of places don’t deliver when you live in the burbs – it’s the worst).

Luckily for us we were within their delivery area so we ordered it up and put a movie on – lucky for me O Brother Where Art Thou (which I recommend watching if you haven’t seen it yet) was playing on the movie channel so I got to watch my boy George while I waited for dinner to arrive.

The food came, and it was actually pretty good, which is neither here nor there… because the main star of this story, my friends, is this:

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Yeah, you’re eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. That’s two fortune cookies. One wrapper.

Two.

 “WE WERE MEANT TO BE! OUR FORTUNES CAME TOGETHER!

To this day we haven’t even OPENED the fortune cookies because FH said it was so rare, “like a unicorn,” and said we should save them in our memory book, which I reminded him would mostly likely result in crushed fortune cookies. So I think that tonight I will force him to crack open the cookies, read our fortunes, and hope it doesn’t say something ominous like, “Everyone dies alone” or “You’re about to make a grave mistake.”

Anyway, here’s the brownie recipe.

They’re good, I promise.

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salty caramel pretzel brownies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 20 to 30 brownies (or 1 giant brownie, depending on how you slice)

Ingredients

    Pretzel crust
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose
  • 1 cup crushed pretzels
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • Brownie layer
  • 7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (11-oz) package caramel bits; divided into 8 oz and 3 oz
  • For topping
  • 3 oz chocolate, melted
  • 3 oz caramel bits, melted
  • 1 c coarsely-chopped pretzels

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9x13 pan with foil and parchment
  2. For the crust
  3. Stir together flour, crushed pretzels, and brown sugar. Add melted butter and stir til combined. Press into bottom of lined pan.
  4. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until crust is golden brown. Set aside to cool while you make the brownies.
  5. For the brownies
  6. Combine chocolate, espresso powder, water, and butter in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until butter and chocolate are melted, stirring occasionally.
  7. Once melted, transfer the chocolate mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly (if it is too warm, it will cook your eggs when you add them).
  8. Once cooled to luke-warm, add the sugar and brown sugar, beating with mixer at medium speed until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and continue beating about two minutes more.
  9. Stir in flour and salt until just combined, then stir in caramel bits, being careful not to over-mix.
  10. Bake for about 25 minutes until cooked through - a toothpick should come out mostly clean with a few crumbs sticking to it. With brownies, I always err on the side of under-baked vs over-baked.
  11. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes.
  12. For the topping:
  13. Crush pretzels and sprinkle over top of the brownies.
  14. Melt chocolate in microwave or double-boiler until smooth, drizzle over brownies.
  15. Melt caramel in microwave or double-boiler until smooth, drizzle over brownies.
  16. Allow brownies to cool completely and for chocolate to harden (you can speed this step up by placing brownies in the fridge).
  17. Once cooled, slice into bars and serve.
http://wee-eats.com/2014/02/17/salty-caramel-pretzel-brownies/

[ adapted from Bakers Royale ]

salty caramel pretzel brownie pin

 

30 minute soft pretzels

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I first saw this recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction and was immediately enthralled by the idea of having soft pretzels in 30 minutes.  You see, I already have my favorite soft pretzel recipe down to a T, but I don’t make them very often just due to the amount of time and work involved.  It’s not that they are difficult to make, it’s just that they take time.  Time to make the dough, time to less the dough rise, time to roll and shape and boil the dough… all of this time adds up quickly, you see.

30 minutes, on the other hand.  30 minutes I could handle.

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I was very skeptical when I read the recipe and it called for active dry yeast.  It seemed so… wrong.  My first thought was to replace the standard active dry yeast with the RapidRise variety, but I didn’t.  I decided to try the recipeas written (more or less), adding a few of the things that I think make my favorite recipe taste so great.

The result was respectable.  The pretzel, while tasty, didn’t have the traditional pretzel mouth-feel and texture (I suspect from the lack of boiling) but It was still a totally respectable snack, especially considering the time saved.  Also, since boiling was removed from the equation, it makes these pretzels the perfect recipe for baking alongside your little ones, they could even make fun pretzel shapes!

30 minute soft pretzels

Yield: Makes 16 Soft Pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups warm water (warm, NOT HOT, if you can't keep your finger in the water for a few seconds it's too hot)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 4 – 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
  • coarse salt for sprinkling (a cinnamon-sugar sprinkle also works well for a sweet version)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat (DO NOT USE FOIL OR YOUR PRETZELS WILL STICK). Set aside.
  2. Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and melted butter in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit until mixture is nice and foamy (appx 5 minutes).
  3. Mix 1 cup of flour with salt and stir into yeast mixture. Slowly add remaining 3 cups of flour 1 cup at a time. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough is thick*. Continue to add more flour until dough is no longer sticky. It is ready to knead when it's springy and bounces back after poking with your finger.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic,about 5 minutes, and shape into 2 balls. With a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut each ball of dough into 8 triangle sections. (I weighed this for you, but then promptly forgot to write it down so I have no idea what the actual “measurement” is. I’m so sorry.)
  5. Once cut into triangles, roll each triangle into a ball and shape into pretzels. Leave the remaining dough covered with a kitchen towel to keep it from drying out while you shape the pretzels.
  6. To shape the pretzels:
  7. Take one small dough ball and roll it into a rope, I recommend 18 to 22 inches long, depending on how big you want your pretzels to be. The process of rolling is hard to explain, so I made you a video to help! That makes up for me forgetting the weights, right?
  8. When Ready to Bake
  9. In a wide, shallow bowl, beat the egg and water together. Dunk both sides of the pretzel into the egg mixture and allow excess to drip off before placing onto your baking sheet. Place on baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt.
  10. Bake the pretzels for 10 minutes at 425F degrees. Turn the oven to broil and bake for 5 more minutes to brown the tops. Watch closely to avoid burning.
  11. I recommend wrapping extra pretzels in foil for storage, make sure they are completely cooled. They will keep for a few days at room temp, but freezing is definitely the way to go. They are best reheated in a 400 degree oven, but can be microwaved for about 30 to 45 seconds as well.

Notes

* If using a stand mixer, mix first cup of flour & salt on low until just incorporated. Add remaining 3 cups of flour and mix on low until incorporated. Increase speed to medium until dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 minutes.

http://wee-eats.com/2013/09/07/30-minute-soft-pretzels/

 

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[ Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction ]

 

chubby hubby bars

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Finally, one of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors has been transformed into a cookie. This is great for a number of reasons, most importantly that I can eat them with reckless abandon without the risk of brain freeze. For those of you who aren’t aware, chubby hubby ice cream contains chocolate, peanut butter, and pretzels in vanilla malt ice cream. Since I have had no luck finding this ever elusive “malt powder”, I made do without the malt and went for it anyway.

The bar form, my friends, is cookie dough, pretzels, chocolate, caramel, and mini reeses. You could translate it any number of ways, these are just the ingredients I happened to use. In an effort to keep them slightly less messy, I mixed the caramel with the chocolate ganache coating. Unfortunately, that caused the chocolate to not harden completely, but you live and you learn, I suppose. They are delicious all the same. Over at Cookies & Cups they did a layer of caramel instead, which was a bit messier than I was looking for, but I posted that version below as an option. Also, you may notice the actual ice cream does not have caramel, so just go ahead and skip it if you want, I won’t tell.  :)

My main issue, aside from the chocolate that didn’t want to harden, was the fillings. When I was spreading the cookie dough the fillings all tended to stay towards the middle. So when you’re pouring from your  mixer bowl into the baking pan, i recommend doing four or five large “dollops” of dough, and then spreading them in their own areas to ensure equal distribution of the candy add-ins.

Chubby Hubby Bars

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pretzels
  • 1 (8oz) bag of Reese’s Mini cups (or 2 cups coarsely chopped full sized Reese’s)
  • 1 (14 oz) bag of caramels, unwrapped + 2 Tbsp water * (This is the 2nd option; see note)

Ganache Layer:

  • 1/4 Cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Cups of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 Cup of butter
  • 2 Tbsp of heavy whipping cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment and grease lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Beat together your butter and sugars until light and fluffy, approx 1 min. 
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, mix until incorporated. 
  5. On low speed add in your salt, baking soda and flour, mixing until just combined. 
  6. Slowly add in your Reeses and Pretzels, mixing until evenly distributed. 
  7. Spread in your prepared pan* (see note, no pictures because that part was extra messy and BF may have killed me if I got cookie dough on his fancy schmancy camera) and bake for 25 minutes.
  8. Let cool completely. Approx 30 minutes to an hour.
  9. When cooled, melt your caramels and 2 Tbsp water in a microwave safe bowl stirring every minute until melted.
  10. Pour over your bars.
  11. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes to set caramel.
  12. Make ganache: Take a small saucepan and a glass or heatproof bowl. Simmer water and place the bowl over the saucepan. Melt the ganache ingredients together and stir to combine. Pour over cookies. Place whole or crushed pretzels on top of chocolate, if desired.
  13. Put back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.
  14. Cut into squares when ready to serve.

Notes:

*I mixed the caramel with the chocolate ganache coating. Unfortunately, that caused the chocolate to not harden completely, but you live and you learn, I suppose. 

* I recommend doing four or five large “dollops” of dough, and then spreading them in their own areas to ensure equal distribution of the candy add-ins.