brownies

I go through phases with desserts and lately I’ve been all about caramel.  Not too long ago that’s something you probably wouldn’t have heard me say; I feared making caramel and rarely had good results.  It still doesn’t always turn out on the first try for me, but I’m more confident in the process and actually think it’s pretty fun.  After I made these salted caramel cheesecake bars recently, I had a ton of leftover caramel in my fridge and started digging through my bookmarked recipes for ways to use it up.  Without realizing it, I’d saved these brownies from 3 different blogs so it only made sense to give them a try.

brownies

There are a few additional steps involved in making this recipe compared to traditional brownies.  The brownie batter itself is pretty standard, but instead of baking it all at once, half is added to the pan and baked, then once it cools briefly, the caramel is poured on top and then covered with the remaining half of the brownie batter.  Here’s the thing – the recipe actually call for melting down store-bought caramel candies with heavy cream for the caramel layer.  I decided to try subbing my leftover salted caramel sauce instead and while the brownies were tasty, they were sort of a mess.  It was nearly impossible to spread the brownie batter over the sauce so instead those two layers were essentially swirled together.  It took much longer for the brownies to bake and the caramel bubbled out the sides quite a bit and left me trying to chisel the brownies out of the pan.

brownies

I’m rarely motivated to make a dessert recipe twice, nevermind twice in the same week, but these were good and since I happened to find some caramel candies (I used these) hiding in my pantry, I tried them again in hopes of achieving a distinct, visible caramel layer.  The results were better in every way – they were easier to assemble, they baked perfectly and visually, they were a million times more appetizing.  These are insanely rich – the brownie is fudgy and chocolatey with an ooey gooey layer of caramel in the middle (though I swear they aren’t as messy as they appear in the photo).  If I made them again I’d add salt to the caramel layer for that sweet/salty combo but otherwise wouldn’t change a thing.

Caramel-Filled Brownies
adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather

{There were pecans in this recipe (they were added to the caramel layer as well as sprinkled on top) which I omitted since we don’t love nuts but you could add them for a turtle brownie effect.  I also halved the recipe and baked it in an 8×8 baking dish – I used the same baking times as are listed below for the full recipe.}

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
14 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a 13×9 baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides to lift the brownies out.  Spray thoroughly with cooking spray.

Place the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30-second bursts at 50% power, stirring in between, until completely melted and smooth.  Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and whisk vigorously until the mixture is thick and glossy.  Stir in the flour and salt with a rubber spatula, mixing just until combined.

Transfer half of the batter to the prepared baking pan and spread in an even layer.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes.  Maintain oven temperature.

Meanwhile, add the caramels and heavy cream to a medium saucepan and set over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until completely melted and smooth.  Immediately pour the caramel over the brownies and spread evenly.  (If you finish melting the caramels before the brownies have cooled for 20 minutes, just set the pan over very low heat to keep warm.  Otherwise, the caramel will harden and be difficult to spread.)  Dollop the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer and spread to cover.  (My brownie batter was thick so I microwaved it for 1 minute to make it more fluid.)   Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the brownies.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the brownies cool completely in the pan.  Run a thin knife along the sides of the pan to loosen any caramel that might be stuck, then use the foil to lift the brownies from the pan and cut into squares for serving.