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.