Even as a young girl, the sweet and salty combination was one of my most favorite things. I have very fond memories of my sister and I dunking hot, salty fries in cold, frothy chocolate shakes, gleeful at our latest invention. Sure, they were from some fast food empire, but we didn’t know any better, and thought we had come up with the most amazing discovery. [We also came up with popcorn and sour patch kids. Try it next time you’re at the movies. Really, just dump the sour patch kids on in. You won’t regret it.]
Years later, I am now enjoying salty and sweet in a more sophisticated way. Every restaurant, coffee house, bakery and food blog has some pastry or recipe that combines this union. The Baked Explorations cookbook is no exception, and these brownies are incredible. They are so chocolaty and deep, with a thin layer of salty caramel and a dusting of coarse sugar and salt. They are a little more work than heading through the drive-through for a shake and fries, but it is time well spent. I think my sister would agree.
Sweet and Salty Brownies Baked, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
The original recipe doesn’t call for a parchment paper overhang [only the bottom of the pan is lined with parchment], but I found it very helpful to keep the caramel from burning, and also helped get the brownies out of pan easily. I had a hard time finding coarse sugar [or sanding sugar], but I did track some down at Michaels in the cake decorating section. The fleur de sel I picked up at my local coop. You will have left over caramel, but don’t be tempted to add it to the brownies! Less is more in this case. You can always use the leftovers in more brownies. Or over ice cream.
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream
for the brownie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate [60-72%], coarsely chopped
1 cup [2 sticks butter], cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
for the assembly
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar
make the caramel
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.
make the brownie
Preheat oven to 350. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9×13-inch pan. Line the bottom and sides with a parchment paper overhang, and butter the parchment that is in the pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.
Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture still visible.
assemble the brownies
Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about ¾ cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, making sure the caramel doesn’t come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer, leaving about a ½-inch border around the edges. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.
Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.