Monday, February 10, 2014

sweet and salty brownies.

A couple of years ago, I went to a holiday party where a charming, adorable, clearly talented boy brought these brownies.  I ate one.  And then I ate another one.  And then I stationed myself next to the plastic container of brownies giving evil eyes to everyone that dared to take one of my brownies.  At the end of the night I stuffed all the remaining brownies into my purse and coat pockets and brought them home (no shame).  

I waited all of 12 hours before asking for the recipe. After getting it, I waited all of 24 hours before I set out to make them myself. (I can't believe I waited that long.)

These brownies are addicting (I think I demonstrated the truth of this statement based on my aforementioned behavior).  They are dark, rich, dense and fudgey (aka my dream brownie).  Coupled with a caramel that's sweet, salty, and subtly tangy (you can thank the sour cream for that) and you basically have a recipe for the best brownie ever.  I adore baking them around Valentine's Day because everyone loves chocolate, caramel, and salt (if you didn't I would question your sanity), they store incredibly well (so you can make them today and share with your loves on Friday), and they ship brilliantly which means your Valentine's both near and far can taste the love. 

But might I suggest you hand out the recipe as well.  Everyone will thank you.  

Sweet and Salty Brownies

A couple of things to note.  You do not want to touch/remove/eat these brownies until they are 100% cool.  They will fall apart and you will be sad about this.  I recommend letting them cool in their pan and then placing them in the fridge for a couple hours (or overnight which is ideal) before cutting them.  Doing so makes slicing them a breeze.  Everyone will think you are a professional and you will be very happy.  This recipe makes a lot of brownies.  I freeze the extras and have been known to eat them straight from the freezer.  They are magical when cold.  Also, this recipe makes more than enough caramel for the brownie assembly. Use the extra to serve with the brownies or to make awesome brownie ice-cream sundaes (Best. Idea. Ever.). 

For the Caramel 

1 cup sugar 
2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
½ cup heavy cream 
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 
½ cup sour cream 

For the Brownies 

1 ¼ cup flour 
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 teaspoon fleur de sel 
11oz dark chocolate, chopped (I used Valrhona) 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes 
1 ½ cups sugar 
½ cup packed light brown sugar 
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla 

To Finish 

1 ½ teaspoons fleur de sel 
1 teaspoons coarse sugar (i.e. Demerara  or Turbinado sugar) 

Make the caramel: In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, ¼ cup water and stir together carefully. Cook this mixture over high heat until an instant read thermometer reads 350F OR until the mixture is dark amber in color (6-8 minutes). Watch this carefully as it will go from amber to burnt in a matter of seconds.  Remove from heat and slowly add the cream (be careful it will bubble up), then the salt, then the sour cream.  Set aside to cool. 

Note: This recipe makes more than enough caramel for the brownie assembly. Use the extra to serve with the brownies or to make awesome brownie ice-cream sundaes. 

Preheat oven to 350, line a 9x13 glass or light colored metal baking dish with buttered parchment .

For the brownies: In a medium bowl whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder 

Put the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over simmering water and stir occasionally until chocolate and butter are melted. Take the bowl from the heat, add both sugars and whisk until thoroughly combined. 

Add three eggs to the mixture and whisk until just combined, add the remaining eggs and vanilla. 

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and fold to combine, do not overbeat or your brownies will be cakey instead of fudgy. (Trust me, you do not want this.) 

To assemble: Pour half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Drizzle about ¾ - 1 cup of the caramel over top while being careful to make sure the caramel doesn't come into contact with the edge of the pan. Gently spread the caramel into an even layer using your offset spatula. Finish by topping the caramel layer with big dollops of the remaining brownie batter and gently smooth the top. 

Bake the brownies for 30 – 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. (Mine took about 38 minutes.  I started checking at 30 minutes and continued to check every 2 -3 minutes after that). 

After removing the brownies from the oven, sprinkle them with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar. 

Cool completely before cutting and serving.

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