Now Forager's Salted Caramel Brownies
My very first professional pastry job was working for a beloved local chocolate company in Asheville, North Carolina. In this small pastry kitchen, half of my time was spent creating bakery-style baked goods and the other half hand-dipping chocolate truffles for the shop. It was the best of both worlds. Although my aspirations at the time were to learn French pâtisserie (à la Pierre Herme), there was something especially comforting about spending the day baking cakes, brownies, and cookies. They’re uncomplicated, yet perfectly satisfying. During those long baking days, the kitchen would fill with the sweetest aromas and the warmth of the ovens were like a big hug from morning until early evening. Anyone who has walked into a home kitchen, while there are cookies or brownies baking in the oven, has experienced this familiar feeling.
Uncomplicated and completely satisfying is the best way to describe these Salted Caramel Brownies. As with any baked good, an excellent starting point is to use good quality ingredients. When the ingredients are the best they can be on their own, then the finished product is going to taste just as good. These brownies are made with a quality dark chocolate that’s been melted with butter and blended with sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour. Right before baking, the batter is topped with big swirls of silky salted caramel. The final baked brownies are fudgy and have a balanced depth of flavor that is subtly salty and not too sweet. If you’ve never tried the salty-sweet combination before these brownies are a great place to start.
In this recipe, you’ll be making your own salted caramel sauce. This may seem intimidating, but making caramel is actually very simple. One does have to work carefully though, when working with hot sugar syrup, so be sure to read through the recipe before starting and measure out all the caramel ingredients beforehand. That way you’re ready to go, with no interruptions, and the process can go smoothly. The caramel can even be made a day, or up to a few days, beforehand if desired and stored in an airtight container until ready to use. Finally, when swirling together the salted caramel and brownie batter, don’t be afraid to dig in there and create big swirls that create crevices in the batter. This will give the caramel a place to seep into and produce a beautiful texture to the final baked brownies.
Salted Caramel Brownies
Makes 24 brownies
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
In a small pot, combine the heavy cream and fine sea salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
Combine the sugar and water in a medium-sized pot. Over medium-high heat, and without stirring, cook the sugar until it begins to caramelize and reaches a deep amber color (the caramelization process goes quickly, so no walking away from the cooking sugar during this stage). Immediately, remove the caramel from the heat and steadily whisk in the warm cream. The hot caramel will bubble up vigorously, so take care to add the cream slowly and carefully. Set the pot back on medium-low heat, and continue to whisk the mixture until smooth and thoroughly combined. Remove from heat and whisk in butter.
Pour the salted caramel into a wide clean bowl and allow it to cool until thickened, about 2-3 hours or overnight if preferred. The caramel can be prepared up to three days beforehand and kept stored in an airtight container until ready to use.
6 ounces good quality 60% - 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Fine sea salt for garnishing, optional
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper or butter/spray the baking pan well.
Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl, set over a double boiler (a pot of simmering water with the chocolate bowl snuggly fitted on top), and stir occasionally just until completely melted and smooth. Remove bowl from the pot and set aside to cool slightly.
Add the sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined. Using a spatula, fold in the flour and salt into the mixture until no streaks of flour are visible. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan and evenly smooth out the surface.
Using a spoon, drizzle on the salted caramel in wave-like motions across the surface of the brownie batter. If the caramel is too thick, reheat it slightly in order for it to flow more easily. Next, using a butter knife or skewer, drag the point of the knife through the batter in a similar wave-like motion horizontally and then vertically. This will produce a nice marbleized swirl effect. If using, sprinkle the fine sea salt all over the surface of the batter.
Bake for 35 minutes or until caramel is bubbling and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove brownies from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Once completely cooled, cut brownies into 2-inch squares and enjoy. Brownies will keep, tightly covered, for up to five days.