Okay, so, make these. I know at this point salted caramel is a cliche foodie thing which has become more of a gourmet marketing label and not necessarily an indicator of delicious caramel, but this bakes up into a tray of something friendly, inviting, and genuinely very good.
Recently I made these for a party. I was a bit nervous, trialling a new recipe before a party before I had the chance to test them with British ingredients, since our butter is fattier and our flour weaker. When these came out of the oven, I was very sad: the caramel split into oily pools and butterfat wept through cracks in the surface. It was not something I wanted to eat or give to other people. [Sad trombone]
But it righted itself after a spell in the fridge and stayed that way all night and the day after. You couldn’t tell they had come out of the oven a bit weird, it just looked like a trayful of brownies swirled with caramel.
Neither brownie nor caramel are too sweet; they would be wonderful, full-flavoured treats on their own, and together they are exactly as good as you’d hope. It is also very easy: you make a sturdy caramel to compensate for the baking and the moisture drawn from the brownies, but otherwise this is a standard brownie recipe. It’s the one I’ve been making since I was a teenager, but you could replace it with your preferred recipe, scaled to fit the pan if necessary.
Oh, and after a bit of fiddling, these come out looking perfect from the oven. No need to worry about anything, except maybe how to eat the entire tray before anybody else sees. You can do it. I believe in you.
SALTED CARAMEL BROWNIES
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
Makes a 20 cm – 21 cm (approx 8 inch square) tray, about 16 x 2 inch squares. These aren’t too thick–about 2 cm (3/4 inch). Best refrigerated for storage. I don’t know exactly how long they keep because I eat them too quickly, but at least 2 days.
Brownies are very personal, so let me tell you what kind these are: shiny, crackly top, damp yet distinctly cakey at the edges, dense and squashily fudge-like in the middle. Slightly palate-cleaving, but melts in the mouth after a moment.
1 tbsp golden syrup (optional but highly recommended; you could probably use honey, corn syrup or liquid glucose, but golden syrup has the best flavour)
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
3 tbsp double cream
50g slightly salted butter
1/8 tsp fine sea salt (or use unsalted butter + 1/4 tsp salt, or salted butter only)
100g/7 tbsp/3.5oz slightly salted butter, cut into dice (or unsalted, but use 1/2 tsp sea salt)
125g/4.5oz dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped into small bits.
150g/3/4 cup white granulated or golden caster sugar
2 UK medium (US large) eggs
75g/1/2 cup plain flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or alkalised)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
50g – 100g any type of chocolate you like. I like not too dark chocolate, roughly chopped. You might prefer nuts for crunchy contrast.
Fine or flaky sea salt for sprinkling, if desired.
First, make the caramel. This can be made several days in advance but careful you don’t eat it all. Also, I don’t want to be a patronising arsehole, but I’ve seen at least 2 smart food bloggers not realise this until too late, so: please don’t stick your finger in the caramel–it’s at least 171 C/340 F (hotter than boiling water) and its stickiness compounds the pain and injury. I haven’t stuck my finger in but I have been splattered, and it’s nasty.
Lay a square of baking paper over a medium lipped plate or dish.
Have cream, butter, and salt ready by the stove. Put golden syrup and sugar in a small heavy-bottomed pot and melt over a medium heat until completely liquid and beautifully brown, swirling now and again. Watch carefully; this doesn’t take long.
Once you’ve reached that exciting stage, remove from heat and immediately add cream, butter, and salt. Stir well until mixture has mostly stopped bubbling and is almost smooth. Return to a low-medium heat and bubble gently until it’s slightly thicker and darker, just a few minutes. It should sort of bubble away from the sides of the pot; if you give it a good scrape you should be able to see the bottom of the pot for a split second.
Immediately pour liquid caramel onto the paper-lined plate and transfer to freezer. Freeze for 20 – 40 minutes or until solid. I suggest to you, as a friend, to immediately soak the caramel pan in warm water.
(At this stage I like to get on with chopping the chocolate.)
Once caramel is firm, peel off the paper and roughly chop into 1 inch pieces with a large sharp knife. They’ll seem very firm but will soften once they’re baked into the brownies. If kitchen is warm, refrigerate til needed.
For the brownies
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/350 F. Grease and line 20 cm or 21 cm square tin (approx 8 inches).
If using microwave, put butter and 125g chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl and heat on full power for 30 seconds, stirring well between bursts until almost completely melted (I only needed 1 minute).
To melt on the hob, fearlessly place chocolate and butter in a small heavy-bottomed pot and melt directly over the lowest possible heat until almost completely smooth.
Either way, remove promptly from the heat and allow to cool & deliquesce while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat 150g sugar with the eggs with an electric mixer until pale, thick, and shiny, 2 – 3 minutes. If you’re not bothered about a shiny top, just beat by hand til smooth. Working by hand, scrape in chocolate-butter mixture, stirring until smooth. Mix as roughly as you like.
Roughly fork together the flour, cocoa powder, and sea salt in a small bowl just to combine (don’t worry about small lumps of cocoa) and add to your bowl of mixture, stirring until almost completely combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate (if using) and all but a small handful of the caramel pieces.
Scrape into prepared tin, spread to cover the base, and sprinkle with the reserved caramels. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Check at the earlier time. Top should look dry and set (and hopefully shiny), slightly cracked, and a cake tester poked into the middle should come out lightly smeared with chocolate and some damp crumbs. Do not overbake, unless you like cakey brownies.
These cool quite slowly, so it might help to know that you can get them halfway cool at room temp and let them sit uncovered in the fridge until firm. You also get the neatest slices from fridge-cold brownies, but since you’re eating the whole tray, why worry about that?