Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrating with Sea Salt Caramel Brownies

It was my intention, with writing this blog, to stay away from opinions on all matters excluding those that are baking related, including politics. I feel that those who know me are aware of my political leanings, and I'm hardly the type to grab a soapbox to stand upon, shouting out my views on the state of the world.

That being said, I am quite excited to celebrate Inauguration Day. And how does one celebrate? If you are like many Seattlites I've been talking with over the past week, you will be taking a half day from work, going to a party, or finding a coffee shop or bar that will be broadcasting the event. If you are a baker like me, you will find a way to create a dessert based on Obama's favorite chocolate: Fran's sea salt caramel.

First, a word on these caramels: they exist on confectional level so far above the average chocolate, in taste, in originality, in quality, that to attempt to compare it to anything less than gourmet would be an abomination. Snobbish as that may sound, it's true: these caramels are unbelievable.

Eaten upside down, they deliver to the tongue an initial hit of salt (not the Morton's variety: real, course sea salt) mixed with a wonderfully creamy, sugary caramel, all of which mingle in the mouth taking moments to savor.

It was with this consumption method that I began to think of how I would make sea salted caramel brownies, so that they did not taste as though I had mis-measured the salt in the recipe. The brownie base itself is straightforward, but not commonplace: they are more cake-like and chocolatey without being too heavy. The caramel infuses the recipe with sweetness. And the sea salt gives the recipe depth of flavor.

What I did was, after greasing, sprinkle the sea salt over the bottom of the pan, then top it with the batter. I then gave the brownies another light sprinkling of sea salt before baking, and then topping with the caramel.

Another source of inspiration for these brownies is the salted caramel cupcake that is Cupcake Royale's flavor for the month of February (they rolled it out a bit early for the inauguration).

Both the cupcake and the brownies were, in my opinion, great successes: they both touched upon the idea of the glorious caramel confections while producing a terrific product, both of which stand alone as delicious creations that Obama would doubtlessly be proud of.

Sea Salt Caramel Brownies

1 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped nuts
12 caramels, unwrapped
1 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. sea salt


Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a 9x9 -inch baking pan.

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips and butter in large, heavy-duty saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in eggs. Add flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking soda; stir well. Sprinkle about 1 tbsp. of sea salt into the prepared baking pan, then pour in batter; sprinkle with remaining chunks and nuts.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky.

Microwave caramels and milk in small, microwave-safe bowl on high (100%) power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10- to 20-second intervals; stir until smooth. Drizzle over warm brownies. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.


Olivia said...

Oh my goodness, my favorite thing in the world is salted caramel and chocolate together! I absolutely adore the complex combination they create! I just discovered your blog, and can't wait to come back frequently! I just started my own baking blog, so feel free to check it out. You might enjoy a recipe I have on there for Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate (like the one you get from Starbucks!) Anyways, take a look for yourself when you get the chance! Thanks!



Anonymous said...

For brownies in a snap: could I buy a brownie mix at the store but make the sauce separate from your recipe and the brownies come together just as good? Your thoughts??

I have been wanting to experiment with the sea salted caramel brownies. I am glad to have found your blog about them! Thanks a bunch!

Cpolchowski said...

I think that would work just as well! There are actually some really good quality store-bought brownie mixes, and this would just make it a bit unique.

AM said...

These sound so good!I've been wanting to make some sort of salted caramel brownie for a while and I think I'm going to try them out on my boyfriend for Valentine's Day. I would like to to use heart shaped cookie cutters. Does the caramel make enough to cover the entire surface of the brownies? Also, does it harden up a bit after cooling so that they can be cut into shapes (or does the caramel stay gooey?)?

Cpolchowski said...

AM, what a cute idea! Yes, the caramel sauce did cover the entirety of the brownies, but it didn't harden up completely, for me. I think it would still be very do-able to cute out shapes, though. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

amazing! this is the exact recipe I'm looking for, I'm trying these out right now! SO excited! Cathy from Renton