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Salted Caramel Brownies

The Challenge:

This week, we had two recipes, Mustard & Gruyère Batons and these Salted Caramel Brownies, which you can find here or on page 216 of Foolproof.

Mary's Take:

Ahh, brownies. Are they not one of the most beloved desserts? And easy, right? Break open a box of Hershey's brownie mix, add some eggs, water, oil and bake. Or, if you're feeling fancy, choose the Ghirardelli brand. Cold glass of milk and everyone's happy!

You may be wondering why you would go to the trouble of making brownies from scratch, then, when everyone's just as happy with your boxed ones. [Lea: Yes, actually.] Well, I'll tell you. These aren't just good, they're decadent. They're rich, fudgy and have that favorite flavor combination of ours: sweet/salty.

Honestly. Salted caramel and chocolate are so good together. At Halloween, I distribute chocolate pudding shots made with salted caramel vodka to the adults. It's a great combination (message me for the recipe!).

We have a ladies Bunco group in the neighborhood, and it was my turn to host. But because of damCOVID, we moved to a Zoom get-together this month. We haven't actually played Bunco since the dampandemic started, but we still like to get together to catch up each month and have a glass (or two or four (maybe that's just me)) of wine. I thought it would be nice to make these brownies and deliver them to all the ladies in the group.

But first, the shopping. This recipe calls for Hershey's semi-sweet chips. Our vanilla grocery store didn't carry Hershey's (what??), so I went with the Nestle ones I had on hand. [Lea: Same. I hope Hershey's doesn't sue us.]

The recipe also calls for "good caramel sauce, such as Fran’s." The grocery store doesn't carry Fran's (no surprise). Neither does Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. I looked up Fran's and it's spendy. And while I wouldn't mind getting spendy caramel sauce so we could be true to the recipe (I mean, we owe it to you, our readers, right?), the shipping cost made me mad. (I am clearly super spoiled by Amazon.) So, Hershey's caramel topping (not even a sauce) was going to have to do this time [Lea: Oh, good. We used Hershey's here. That should save us from litigation].

As I started pulling the ingredients, I realized I didn't come home with the bar of unsweetened cocoa I bought. Grrr. Had I googled what I could use as a substitute, I would have learned I could melt butter and stir it into some unsweetened cocoa powder, then add it to the melting chips and (more) butter. Now I know. Back then, though, I trucked it back to the store for the chocolate bar. [Lea: That's what normal people would do anyway. While I appreciate Google, I think it's easier to run up to the store than to do all that mess.]

On to making the brownies! First, melt the chocolate chips, butter, and unsweetened chocolate bar in a bowl set over simmering water. I love watching this melt and get smooth and glossy. (Be careful, the bowl gets hot!) It then has to sit for a bit to cool down so your eggs don't scramble when you add them.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Ina's Outrageous Brownie recipe uses instant espresso powder and I was expecting this was going to use the same, but it calls for instant coffee granules instead. Lucky for me, I had some left over from my summer coffee drink: the frappé. (Sigh. How I miss Greece...)

Um, anyway, back to it! In a third bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt. And in another little bowl, toss the remaining chocolate chips with some flour (who remembers why?) [Lea: Have we learned why and I have forgotten?] [Mary: Yes, it's so they don't fall to the bottom of the pan. Pay attention.] and add these to the cooled chocolate.

How many times have we had to tell ourselves to READ THE RECIPE? [Lea: Many, many, many times.] I poured my melted chocolate mixed with the chocolate chips into the baking pan and popped it into the oven. While it began baking, I started to wash the dishes. Turned around to grab what was on the island and realized I had a bowl full of sifted flour/baking soda/salt that didn't make it into the mixture! Gah!! [Lea: Hold on a second here... she screwed something up?!!]

I think it spent about 3 minutes baking without the flour. Dumped it back into a (now clean) bowl, mixed in the flour (nowwww that looks right!), and back into the oven it went. I had to wash and re-grease and -flour my baking pan, too. [Lea: Wait, we were supposed to flour the pan, too? Well, that explains it.] Fun! I'm pretty sure my chocolate chips had mostly melted, so that bit of texture was going to be missing.

When they're done baking, they're spread with caramel sauce (or topping, in my [Lea: our] [Mary: Sorry, Goose.] case) and sprinkled with flaked sea salt. (Good thing I went back and re-read the recipe, or I would have waited until they were cooled before topping them.)

Lea's Take:

I'd like to start off my part of the post by thanking Mr. Picky Pants for NOT helping me make these brownies when he said he would. Hmmph.

Otherwise, I don't have much more to add on the making of these brownies, except to say that I really love greasing a pan with butter rather than, say cooking spray (don't sue me, Pam people!). I did miss the part where it said "grease AND flour" [Mary: Here we go again, needing to read the recipe...] and just greased. I think that's probably why the bottom of my brownies burned.

Because, as I stated in the last post, our vanilla grocery store does not sell flaked sea salt, my wonderful sister let me have some of hers. (Um, as well as the caramel sauce [Mary: topping] and instant coffee.) In my defense, I couldn't justify spending $6 on 1-1/2 tablespoons of coffee. Summer is over, so it's not like I'd be making frappés (not that I do anyway). I went to her house on Thursday and she had everything measured AND in cute little bags. Because she's Mary.

The Results:

Mary: Despite the substitutions and cooking blunder, I loved these brownies. I put them in glassine bags (carefully, so the caramel didn't stick too much) [Lea: Whatever glassine bags are.] and delivered them to my Bunco gals in time for our Zoom. The ladies enjoyed them and one's son even licked the bag clean!

THIS is why you make them from scratch.

Lea: Even though mine burned on the bottom, I thought they were good. But, I actually had to cut off the bottom of my piece because the burned taste was overpowering (to me anyway).

Josh: These sure are rich (and then ate his AND Mr. Picky Pants').

Mr. Good Eater: What's with all these recipes and salt?

Mr. Picky Pants: I don't like it.

Sigh. One of these days, I'm going to find something he likes.

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Dec 02, 2020

I can't wait to try this one, minus the coffee though!


Nov 19, 2020

I really need to get in on you both!


Nov 19, 2020

It’s chocolate - what’s not to like?

Mr Picky Pants is pulling your leg


Nov 18, 2020

Maria, I saw the salted caramel sauce at TJ's just yesterday...wish I had known!


Nov 18, 2020

You should check out Trader Joe's for flaked salt. They MAY have it. I seem to recall seeing it there, although not 100% sure. They also have an AMAZING salted caramel in a jar. Excellent for dipping green apples into for deconstructed caramel apples.

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