It seems fitting that the first recipe I share with you is a brownie one, seeing as brownies are my absolute favourite thing to eat and to bake. I’ve been meaning to make salted caramel brownies for a long time, and it seemed that a girls’ night in with my friends was the perfect opportunity to try them.
It took me a while to make a recipe I liked; too many use only cocoa powder with no chocolate, or call for proportions of sugar and flour that I know would make the brownie too dry and cakey for my taste. This one, I think, is just right. The surface is crisp and crackled (as it should be), and the brownie itself is indulgently fudgy, yet just firm enough to hold the salty-bitter caramel that lay within.
Many people seem to be afraid of making their own caramel, but it is not at all as difficult as it is made out to be. All you need to remember is to be wary of the very hot sugar and, the golden rule; never stir, swirl. Of course, if you are desperate for express decadence, you can simply substitute the salted caramel with a tin of Carnation caramel or jar of dulce de leche (but do add a sprinkle of salt if it isn’t already salted).
Here’s how to make them:
Salted Caramel Brownies
Cuts into 12 large brownies or 16 smaller ones.
For the salted caramel:
- 150g granulated sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 125ml double cream
- 10g salted butter, softened
For the brownies:
- 300g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa solids)
- 150g unsalted butter or margarine
- 180g plain flour
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder (make sure that you use real cocoa powder rather than hot chocolate powder: I use Green & Blacks cocoa)
- pinch of salt
- 4 large free-range eggs
- 220g soft light brown sugar
- 150g caster sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5. Line a 32x23cm/13x9in tin with greaseproof paper.
- For the caramel, put the granulated sugar in a saucepan and melt over medium heat until deep golden-brown in colour – you will need to watch the sugar like a hawk to ensure it doesn’t burn, as this can happen in a matter of seconds (Don’t stir the sugar as it encourages sugar crystals to form; instead swirl the pan to encourage the melting process).
- Remove from the heat and carefully add half the cream and whisk furiously (caution: boiling sugar is extremely hot. Handle very carefully). The mixture will bubble up violently – once the mixture has settled, add the remaining cream and butter and whisk until smooth, then add the salt. If the mixture is lumpy, warm it over a low heat and stir until smooth. Pour into a jug to cool a little.
- For the brownies, melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with about 4cm of boiling water. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, put the flour, salt and cocoa powder together in a bowl and stir carefully to thoroughly combine. Set aside.
- Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until thick and pale. Whisk in the chocolate, then fold in the flour mixture until just combined.
- Pour half the batter into the tin and smooth the surface using a spatula. Add a thin layer of the caramel, making sure to leave the edges clean. Add the remaining batter and gently level the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until they have a shiny skin/crust and some cracks, and are relatively firm to the touch. It’s best to take them out too soon rather than too late (remember they will continue cooking once they are out of the oven). Allow to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares.
Try sprinkling a handful of broken pecans over the caramel layer before adding the second half of the brownie mixture. Alternatively, sprinkle the pecans on top of the brownies before baking.