I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m going to put it out there anyway. There was once a time in my life that I didn’t like brownies. Actually, I wasn’t that fond of chocolate at all. The Easter Bunny would always bring me a white chocolate rabbit, and I turned down many slices of chocolate frosted birthday cake. Even now, I don’t really enjoy making chocolate frosting at work and always manage to inhale cocoa powder when doing so. If I had to pick a favorite dessert, it would most definitely be ice cream. Brownies have grown on me, though, and I couldn’t resist the urge to bake a batch of these soon after saving the recipe. While I haven’t always liked chocolate desserts, their appeal to me has increased steadily over the years. And now that I’ve tried these brownies, I find it difficult to imagine how it was possible that I once disliked such a delicious dessert.
These brownies are, without a doubt, one of the most decadent desserts I’ve ever made. They’re rich, gooey, fudgey, chocolaty and insanely satisfying. I’m one of the people that loves added texture in my brownies, so the pecans and chocolate chips are perfect for me. I think even those of you in the “brownies shouldn’t have mix-ins” camp will still appreciate these brownies. Because while they’ve got extra stuff in them, they’re still in your face with chocolaty goodness. On top of that, you’ve got an amazing sweet and melty caramel sauce that swirls into the brownies. If that doesn’t sell you, well, you should know I added salt to my caramel sauce. And not just any salt, some really fantastic fleur de sel. Salt+caramel+chocolate = deliciousness.
I made a few changes to the recipe. Taking Shawnda’s advice, I reduce the batter amount by half. I work at a cupcake shop and do not need more sweets than I already have. I used this caramel sauce and substituted ¾ teaspoon of fleur de sel for the ¼ teaspoon of coarse salt. I cooked the caramel to the soft ball stage, which is about 235ºF. You can certainly use caramel candies like the original recipe calls for, but I have to say I think the salted caramel really adds something special. Instead of baking the bottom layer, then adding the caramel and top layer and baking again, I baked everything at once. I found this method to be much easier, but I will warn you that it is a little difficult to tell when the brownies are done.
- COOK TIME:
- YIELD: 12-16 brownies
¾ cup pecans
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup caramel sauce
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Heat the oven to 350º. Place the pecans on a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 7 minutes. Coarsely chop and set aside. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with foil, leaving several inches overhang on the sides. Grease the foil with butter or cooking spray and set aside.
Place the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bowl. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth, then remove from heat. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla and continue whisking until glossy and thick, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour and salt and mix until just blended. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Stir half of the chopped pecans into your prepared caramel sauce (if you use store-bought, you may have to heat it up slightly before doing this). Drop the caramel pecan mixture by spoonfuls onto the brownie batter. Gently swirl with a wooden skewer or thin metal spatula. Scatter the remaining pecans and chocolate chips on top.
Bake for about 35 minutes. Set the pan on a wire rack and allow brownies to cool completely in the pan. Grab the foil overhang to lift the brownies out of the pan. Cut into squares and serve. Extra brownies (if there are any!) can be kept in an airtight container up to a week and will stay even fresher if wrapped individually in plastic wrap.