Caramel-stuffed sea salt brownies

A decadent brownie with a layer of caramel sandwiched in the middle, topped with a thin layer of milk chocolate, and sprinkled with fleur de sel.

The Pastry Chef's Baking
The richness of these salted caramel brownies is offset by a milk chocolate glaze.

I almost forgot I had this brownie book, "Extreme Brownies" by Connie Weis. I love making brownies and can’t get away from it. And really, I also love eating them so it’s a win-win.

Given the other recipes I’ve tried from this book, I had high expectations that this would be a rich, fudgy brownie and I was not disappointed. Bonus that it’s got a layer of caramel sandwiched in the middle, topped with a thin layer of milk chocolate and sprinkled with fleur de sel. The only surprise in this recipe was the flour that gets whisked into the caramel. Never had that before but it worked just fine.

Do be careful about covering as much of the caramel as possible with the top layer of brownie batter. Caramel, when exposed directly to high heat will harden when it cools and could be too hard and chewy to eat. Which would be a waste of good caramel – we can’t have that. The other tricky part is the toothpick test is somewhat unreliable if you poke the toothpick straight down into the brownie. The caramel layer is gooey enough to give you a “false negative” that the brownie isn’t done when it could be but all you’re seeing is the goo from the caramel. I recommend angling the toothpick when you insert it so most of it is going through the top layer and not the caramel itself.

The milk chocolate layer on top is a nice touch if your teeth aren’t aching at this point and you’ve still got room in your waist band. It gives the sea salt or fleur de sel something to adhere to when you sprinkle it on top. Overall, loved this brownie. It’s rich, it’s fudgy, it’s decadent and it’s everything a brownie should be. And more.

Caramel layer
1/3 cup and 1 teaspoon (3 ounces) heavy whipping cream
 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
 12 ounces caramel (I used Kraft caramel squares)
 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place the cream and butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Begin to melt the mixture over medium-low heat. Unwrap the caramels and add to the mixture.

2. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramels are melted and completely smooth.

3. While the caramels are slowly melting, make the brownie batter. Finish preparing the caramel once the brownie base is in the oven.

Brownie layer
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into slices
 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
 1 cup (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
 4 large eggs
 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
 1 packed cup (8 ounces) light brown sugar
 3/4 teaspoon salt
 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 1 cup (4.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.

3. In a small, heavy saucepan, melt butter with unsweetened chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips. Whisk until smooth and completely melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. Lightly beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in sugars and salt until just combined. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until just combined. Whisk in vanilla.

5. Add flour and baking powder and stir to combine. Pour half (1 pound and 4 ounces) of the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Spread evenly with a small offset spatula and bake for 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack.

6. Finish the caramel while the brownie base is baking. The caramel should be poured onto the very hot brownie base as soon as it is removed from the oven. To finish the caramel layer, once the caramels are completely melted and smooth, sift the flour directly onto the mixture and stir in well. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the cooked caramel over the hot brownie base and spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Dollop the remaining brownie batter evenly over the caramel layer and carefully spread to the edges with the offset spatula, covering the caramel layer completely.

7. Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Milk chocolate glaze
 3-1/2 teaspoons canola oil
 3/4 cup and 1 tablespoon (5 ounces) milk chocolate chips

1. Place the milk chocolate and canola oil in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water. Stir until melted and smooth. Pour the glaze evenly over the warm brownie.

2. Using a small offset spatula, spread the glaze evenly and sprinkle the sea salt over the glaze. Let the glazed slab sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, then refrigerate pan overnight or for 7-8 hours. Cut into squares.

 1 to 2 teaspoons flaked sea salt

Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Fudgy (walnut) brownie cookies

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