“I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms”
—Measure for Measure, Act III, scene 1, line 83.
I chose this quote because though it is about death, this is how I feel about dark chocolate. I love dark chocolate, which will most likely become apparent the more I post. Dark chocolate can be bitter, it can be fruity, it can be earthy. I love the complexity of dark chocolate and its ability blend other flavors. My favorite kind of dark chocolate is anything that tastes vaguely fruity. This recipe is not fruity, though it is luscious, dark, and delicious.
These brownies were the result of yet another round of stress baking. I was (again) in the midst of the semester this past spring, buried under piles of grading and reading and what do I decide to do instead? Bake. I usually don’t have an idea in mind when I begin these adventures, just a sort of vague idea or craving. This time I wanted chocolate. I had had this bar of bittersweet Scharfen Berger chocolate for a while, just begging to be used. I knew I wanted to use it in a recipe that would allow the chocolate to shine, so began browsing Pinterest (where I get most of my ideas) for chocolate recipes.
Once these caramel brownies popped up I was sold. There’s something so wonderful about gooey, melty, chocolately brownies that just so happen to have a beautiful layer of caramel in them.
I did cheat with these and used store-bought caramels—though I imagine that these would be even more amazing with homemade caramels. However, if you are like me and tend to have spur of the moment baking desires, that may not be feasible (you may not have the patience either!). Store-bought caramels (I used the Kraft caramels that come in little wrapped squares in a bag) tasted just fine in these brownies and melted beautifully like they were supposed to.
Salted Caramel Brownies
Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats
For the brownies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used the Scharfen Berger, which I can easily find in my King Soopers and Safeway grocery stores, if you cannot find it, just use whatever bittersweet chocolate you like the best)
1 ½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (if you are at a higher altitude like I am, use a high-altitude flour. I usually just have rounded cups of flour instead of level. The extra flour helps at higher altitudes)
½ tsp. salt
For the caramel filling:
14 oz. caramel candies (Like I said, I use Kraft—you have to unwrap them, which is kind of annoying, but at least they are all ready made!)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. salt (I used regular salt because it was what I had on hand, but Kosher salt or coarse sea salt would have a better flavor)
1) Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil well with butter or cooking spray.
2) Combine the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. Or, you can do what I did and microwave the butter and chocolate in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted.
3) Remove the bowl from the heat. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla until incorporated.
4) Stir in the flour and salt just until combined.
5) Spread about half of the brownie batter in the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, maintaining the oven temperature, and let cool for 20 minutes.
6) To make the caramel filling, combine the caramel candies and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. You can also melt the caramel candies in the microwave in 30-second intervals. The caramel is easy to burn this way so be watchful! Once the caramel is melted, heat the cream until it is warm and then add to the melted caramel.
7) Immediately spread the caramel mixture over the bottom brownie layer. Pour the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer, taking care to pour and spread it evenly otherwise it will be difficult to spread evenly over the caramel layer.
8) Bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing and serving. (To speed cooling, chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.)
9) Lift the brownies from the pan using the edges of the foil. Remove the foil and cut the brownies into individual squares. Store in an airtight container.