It always feels good to unwind after a stressful day/week/month with some good, old-fashioned kitchen therapy. Spending time in the kitchen becomes such a zen experience for me. Something about baking in particular is very therapeutic. It even gives you extra time to wind down in the middle of the process. While things are baking you can clean the dishes you used, read a magazine, watch a show, dust the book shelves, have a cocktail… ya know, relax.
Well, following a crazy week/month at work, helping my mom move this weekend, the stress of remodeling, oh and our garage door broke on Friday, I needed some kitchen therapy. So today, after I finished all the laundry, gymed, and straightened up a bit- BF headed out to fix our garage door (poor guy can’t get a break) and I headed into the kitchen to find my sanity.
This recipe can be found in Baked Explorations (the second book released by Baked Bakery in NYC- still unclear how BFF and I missed it when we went… we really have to get back there). Since I have been too poor/cheap to purchase this particular book, I’ve been stuck just leafing through the recipes in stores and staring longingly at it through store windows. That is, until I saw Brown Eyed Baker‘s post for “Sweet & Salty Brownies”. Finally, my first glimpse into the wonderful world of Baked Explorations.
The Baked Brownie alone is intense, rich, and decadent. This version basically takes the Baked Brownie – which is already a 10 on intensity, and turns it up to 11. I was expecting this to be: layer of brownie > layer of caramel > layer of brownie. Nope. Somehow this magical thing happens where the caramel becomes one with the batter, forming this crazy sweet-salty-caramel-brownie hybrid dessert that has just enough brownie “crust” to make it a solid piece. You can actually tell which brownies have more of the caramel in them, because they look “wetter” than the ones that have less. (So you know which ones to go for ;-))
My attempts at describing the brownie really do it no justice, you will just have to try one for yourself. Just trust me when I say that the salty caramel accents the chocolate brownie perfectly… and to make sure you have a tall glass of milk nearby when you eat one.
Sweet & Salty Brownies – Recipe from Baked Explorations
1 C sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
½ C heavy cream
1 tsp fleur de sel
¼ C sour cream
1¼ C AP flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valhrona)
11 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (my least favorite part of brownie-making)
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1½ C sugar
½ C brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsps vanilla extract
1½ tsps fleur de sel
1 tsp coarse sugar
For the Caramel:
1. In a small 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 (I started on medium, then turned it up to medium-high when I was ready to give it my full attention) until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat, and carefully add the cream (it will spit) and the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.
Make the Brownie Batter:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1. 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.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
3. Melt chocolate and butter together in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water. Once melted to a smooth consistency, turn off the heat, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture will look something like:
4. Add 3 of the 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 overmix!
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate & gently fold into the wet ingredients.
Assembling the Brownies:
1. 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 of the pan. 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.* (see tips)
2. 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.
3. Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.
4. Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.
*Every time I make Baked brownies I’m afraid I under-baked them. Despite my toothpicks coming out clean, even over-baking a batch, they are always ooey-gooey inside to the point that I’m not convinced they’re fully cooked. Rest assured that they are. (or that I’m certifiably crazy)
*When you’re doing the top brownie layer, I suggest spooning the batter from the outside in. I am bad at following directions and just started dumping the batter in which caused the caramel to push through its “1/2-inch border”… oops!
*Again, be careful with the 2nd brownie layer, as the leaked caramel glued some of my brownies to the pan, and made a terrible, terrible mess… (see below)
*A lot of people are afraid of cleaning up after caramel, it’s really not that bad. Remember- caramel is made out of sugar, which dissolves in water. All you need is hot water, let it sit, and voila- you’re done!
*It was easier to cut the brownies after chilling them in the fridge for an hour
*The brownies can be stored, tight wrapped at room temperature, for up to 4 days.
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