Sweet and Salty Brownies

I feel like Super Bowl menus tend to focus mainly on appetizers and dips, and I am completely on board with that. At no other time of year can you find such a great collection of finger food recipes, and I think I have enough of them bookmarked to keep me busy for years to come. I’m one of those people who can never make a decision about what entree to order at a restaurant (because so many look so good!) so I love that when you make appetizers, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one choice. Sample a little of this, and a bit of that – the variety makes me a happy camper :)

All that said, I really like to have at least one dessert option on my menu. It doesn’t have to be fancy or time consuming – in fact, I happen to think brownies made from a box mix can be pretty awesome. (Shane’s mom makes them around the holidays sometimes and I’m always excited to see them!) Anyway, the point is, I just need a little something sweet to balance the abundance of savory on the menu for the big game.

Sweet and Salty Brownies

These sweet and salty brownies definitely fit the bill. I tried them for the first time over a year ago at a friend‘s house and enjoyed them so much I resolved to make a batch when I got home. And then of course, I forgot. But, I am glad to have finally gotten back around to this recipe, and luckily, it was just as good as I remembered. This is a super rich, dense and fudgy brownie with a layer of salty caramel sauce baked into the middle. Unlike these caramel brownies I made last year, the caramel here isn’t a distinct layer – it sort of bakes right into the brownies and becomes indistinguishable in the final product. The flavor, however, does not. The sweet and salty notes of the caramel sauce work so well with the dark chocolate brownies. When they emerge from the oven, the brownies are sprinkled with fleur de sel and coarse sugar to drive home and the sweet and salty combo.

True, these are more work than boxed brownies, but they’re 100% worth it. They’re awesome eaten as is, but if you really want to wow people, top them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some of the leftover caramel sauce (the recipe makes more caramel than you need for the brownies). Dessert doesn’t get much better than that.

Sweet and Salty Brownies
from Baked Explorations

Caramel
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

Brownies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar

To make the caramel: Add the sugar, corn syrup and water to a medium saucepan and stir gently to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture registers 350 F on a candy thermometer (if you don’t have a thermometer cook until the mixture is amber in color). Turn off the heat under the pan and slowly add the cream (the caramel will bubble up quite a bit so be mindful) then the fleur de sel. Stir in the sour cream until the mixture is smooth. Let cool while you work on the brownies.

To make the brownies: Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on opposite sides so you can lift the brownies out afterward.

Whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl. Add the chocolate and butter to a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until both are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan and bowl from the heat, but leave the bowl sitting on top of the pan. Add both sugars to the bowl and whisk until well combined. Remove the bowl from the pan. Crack three eggs into the batter, whisking to incorporate just until combined. Add the remaining 2 eggs, again whisking only until just combined. Stir in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and use a rubber spatula to fold them in until just a few streaks of flour remain.

Pour half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Add 3/4 cup of the caramel (don’t use it all) on top of the brownie batter and spread evenly – try to keep it away from the sides of the pan or it might burn as it cooks. Drop heaping spoonfuls of the brownie batter over the caramel and spread as best you can to cover the caramel. It won’t be perfect, don’t worry too much about it.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and sprinkle the tops with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar. Let the brownies cool completely before lifting them out and cutting them into squares.

Store the brownies tightly wrapped at room temperature. They also freeze well.