Sweet & Salty Brownies

Papers are done, only one week of school left, and exams are far away enough that I can ignore them for now. Since I've finished my papers, I've kind of gone into vacation mode... My birthday, which was wonderful, didn't help matters, either, because I spent half a week eating at nice restaurants and getting gifts, one of which was an ice cream maker. Just so everyone knows, ice cream is going to start appearing on this blog soon. 

But, before I bust out the frozen treats, we've got these brownies. These brownies are the definition of decadence. Dark chocolate and salted caramel all wrapped up in one delicious, rich, amazing square. I've made these brownies about ten times now and I almost don't need to look at the recipe book any more. 

You see, I work at a restaurant and I sell these brownies every few weeks. Both the staff and the customers go nuts for these brownies and I'm always asked for the recipe. 

Making caramel can sometimes scare people away from certain recipes. To be honest, I was a bit skittish about caramel before I made these. But, really, it's very easy and simple to do. This caramel sauce isn't the typical hard-as-a-rock caramel, it won't actually harden at all. It has heavy cream and sour cream, which prevents it from solidifying. The result is a creamy caramel sauce that you can put on anything - fruit, chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, the list goes on. The sauce itself could make a great little Christmas gift, too! Buy a few cute mason jars and a bit of decorative ribbon and you're done! Delicious home-made caramel sauce, ready to be enjoyed at any time. 

Speaking of Christmas, is it bad that my Christmas tree is already up? As are my decorations? And I've got my Christmas playlist updated and ready to go? Don't worry, Christmas recipes won't be posted just yet.

Sweet & Salty Brownies
Recipe from Baked Explorations

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

Dark Chocolate Brownies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
11 oz. (325 g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fleur de sel and coarse sugar to garnish

Start off by making the caramel sauce. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup of water. Stir together very gently as to not splash anything up the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until the mixture turns dark amber. This will take about 6 to 8 minutes. Be super careful because the sugar mixture will stay clear for most of that time and very quickly turn dark amber, or 350 degrees if you have a candy thermometer. Have everything ready before this step so you can be sure your caramel won't burn. Take off the heat and, whisking vigorously, add the whipping cream slowly. The caramel will bubble up quickly and release a lot of steam, so be careful not to burn your arm. Once it's settled down, add the fleur de sel and the sour cream, whisking until the sauce is smooth. Set aside. You can make the sauce a few days beforehand.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with butter. Line it with a greased sheet of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.

In a large bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, add the dark chocolate and butter. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate and completely melted. Take the bowl off the double boiler and add both sugars, stirring until combined. If the chocolate mixture is quite hot by this point, let it cool down to room temperature. 

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking until they are just combined, then add the remaining two eggs and whisking until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until incorporated. Be gentle when combining these ingredients and the following ones or your batter will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate and, using a rubber spatula, fold until there are small traces of flour left. 

Pour half of the brownie mix into the pan, smoothing the surface as evenly as possible. Drizzle 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownies and smooth it gently with a spatula. Using the spatula, scoop the rest of the brownie mix over the caramel, being careful not to disturb it too much. Smooth the brownie mix over the caramel, covering up the caramel as best you can. It won't always happen perfectly and you'll probably have caramel popping up here and there, but try your best to avoid that.

Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the brownies. If it comes out clean and the brownies still have a bit of a jiggle to them, they need a few more minutes. If the toothpick comes out with a few crumbs, you're good. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fleur de sel and coarse sugar.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting them up. To serve, pop them in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds and drizzle with the remaining caramel sauce. 

Brownies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for a few days, or they can be frozen, where they can last for a month! To thaw, transfer the brownies to the fridge and let them thaw for a few hours, then transfer to room temperature and let thaw for a few hours. 

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