I, a novice scientist, have kindly been invited to share my fledgling skills with the scientific dessert community and so today I venture forth on an odyssey of salted caramel chocolate brownies. Plain brownies just aren’t enough.
To begin, the caramel. Now I used this recipe here because it’s very simple. There are only four ingredients! However, it is also a little tricky. But only a little.
First get the sugar melted. This will take a while. For the first few minutes it will feel as though you are simply pushing sugar around a pan. You are of course doing precisely this, but have courage! Nothing will happen for about 5-6 minutes. Keep stirring. Stare at the sugar. Think deep thoughts about science. It will eventually start to clump and after the clumping comes the melting. Stir, stir, stir! I attempted to take a picture of the clumping stage but since I am only a novice I have not quite mastered the art of stirring burning sugar with one hand while taking photos with the other.
Once all the sugar has melted (it will be caramel coloured), add the butter and stand back! It’s actually best to do this at arm’s length; science and empirical studies show that the mixture will start hissing and spitting at you. Once the butter has melted, slowly add the cream. The mixture will keep hissing and spitting but be brave! Keep stirring as it boils and froths. Once it’s boiled for a minute, take it off the stovetop, add the teaspoon of salt and leave to cool. (You may want to taste some, as I did, but be warned: you will absolutely burn your tongue).
Next, brownies. I opted for flourless brownies because they are more squidgy. I used this recipe but with a couple of modifications. I used 200g of cooking chocolate instead of chocolate chips because…if you’re melting it anyway, does it matter what its original shape was? (No. No it does not). I also switched the chocolate chip topping for hazelnuts because a) the brownies are full of caramel!! Do they need extra chocolate? I don’t know! I don’t think so? and b) I am addicted to Food Network’s Chopped and I kept hearing judge Alex Guarnaschelli’s voice in my head demanding that I add a ‘textural element’ to my dish. And so: chopped hazelnuts.
At this stage I realised that I did not have the 8×8 pan this recipe calls for so I used a slightly bigger pan. As soon as I started pouring the brownie mixture in, I realised that this pan was too big but I just kept going because I wasn’t about to go out and buy the correct kind of pan at this point in the scientific process. Although let’s all make a mental note of remembering how volume and mass work for next time (maths!). After baking half the brownie mixture for 10 minutes I added a layer of caramel, followed by the remaining brownie mixture. As I had vaguely anticipated, the brownie mixture did not cover the caramel at all and they melted together in a sugary delicious mess. There was nothing I could do. So I covered the whole thing in hazelnuts, put it back in the oven for 20 minutes and hoped.
They came out rather…flat. This, of course, is due to my novice mistake of using a massive pan when the recipe called for a small one. And they tasted…well, nice! But also very…chewy. So perhaps they were failures as caramel brownies but successful as brownie caramels? Either way, I have learned many things. Like, acquire a small baking pan, for starters.
DESSERT SORT OF ACCOMPLISHED!