Salted Caramel Brownies
MUSIC PAIRING: Paula Abdul, Forever Your Girl
Salted caramel brownies are not the type of thing I would typically choose. For one, they don’t contain a flaky, buttery crust and they also do not have lemon bursting through them. Nope, salted caramel brownies are for the real pro dessert eaters. I’m like an amateur dessert eater with my fruit tarts and pie crusts. Do NOT test me on pizza eating, though. I’ll win every bet on the table when it comes to taking down pizza.
My best friend from childhood, Grace, came to visit me in Denver a couple of summers ago and I wanted to make a special treat for her. She’s actually coming to see me again in a couple of weeks so I’ll tell you more about her then. I plan on making a new recipe for her that I’m willing to bet will definitely be worthy of writing about.
Obviously, this blog did not exist when I lived in Denver but this brownie recipe was so worth saving for whenever I actually pulled the trigger on The Salty Peach. I remember when I read it, I felt nervous about making my own caramel. You always hear these horror stories of things “seizing” in baking and that’s, well, off putting to a non baker like me. However, I kept thinking about how much Grace would appreciate this treat so I snapped out of it and got to work.
You know what? I got my panties in a bunch for no reason over this caramel. It was easy! I didn’t light myself or the kitchen on fire and I even managed to not make a mess. Victory!
The recipe as a whole, from a baking standpoint, is totally approachable and simple. The hardest part is not eating all the little caramel squares you’ve cut before folding them into the brownie batter. Since my first attempt at this recipe, I’ve made it several times again and I’m never disappointed. Plus, when you answer people saying why yes, the salted caramel IS homemade! you sound like an absolute expert. To be honest, I’m a little disappointed that I now know how easy it is to make it because I’m no longer impressed when something contains salted caramel. I’m all like pffff, I do that in my SLEEP, yo.
Why Paula Abdul? A lot of music comes to mind when I think about Grace. Most all of our childhood was spent on roller skates, making up routines, while skating round and round and round my garage. We had the radio set on Power 99, Atlanta’s then hot radio station, and we would wait and wait for Paula Abdul (rivaled only by Mariah Carey) to come on. When the ‘Forever Your Girl’ album came out in 1988, we were like lunatics getting the tape ready to record. This was back when you would press play and record at the same time so you could make mixed tapes. Mixed taaaaaaaaaapes! You’d stand by while the commercials played and as soon as you heard the DJ’s voice come back on, you slammed down those buttons so you didn’t miss a single note of the song. I was like a maniac with this. If Grace ever said she wanted to do it, I would basically scream DIDYOUHITPLAYANDRECORDATTHESAMETIME?!?! because god forbid we miss a song that would inevitably play again in 20 minutes. Ah, memories. These are the things I think about when it comes to Grace. Putting on this album for the first time in a good 15 years was really fun and made me wish I could roller skate around my kitchen.
Recipe by: Smitten Kitchen
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste)
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- Make your caramel. Set a square of parchment paper over a medium-sized plate. Lightly butter or coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium, dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your sugar; this will take about 5 minutes, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. By the time it is all melted, if should be a nice copper color; if not, cook until it is. Remove from heat and stir in butter. It may not incorporate entirely but do your best. Stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to the stove over medium-high heat, bringing it back to a simmer and melted again any sugar that solidified. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a shade darker.
- Pour out onto parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to your freezer. Freeze until solidified, which can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes depending on how great your freezer is.
- When the caramel is almost firm, make your brownies. Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.
- Assemble the brownies. When caramel is firm, remove it from the freezer and chop it into rough 1-inch squares. Gently fold all but a small amount of caramel bits into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading until mostly even. Scatter remaining caramel bits on top. Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool thoroughly — a process that can be hastened in the freezer, which will also produce cleaner cuts — and cut into squares or other desired shapes.