What inspired me to create these brownies was that I was having a hard time deciding what to put on this website next, mostly because it’s so hot out and my favorite comfort foods are normally eaten during the colder months. But then I thought, “No matter what time of year it is, most of us don’t have the willpower to turn down a brownie.”
But I didn’t want to make just any brownie. I didn’t want to make something you could get in a box at the grocery store.
Enter Salted Caramel Brownies. Ohhh. Ahhh.
I can’t begin to tell you the history caramel sauce and I have together. It started over five years ago in a kitchen I shared with two roommates. I decided to make caramel sauce, and though it was slightly overcooked, the consistency was right. I got it (mostly) right on my first try.
As I was making it several years later, It was like I had never been in a kitchen before in my life. I tried every single way possible to make this caramel sauce come out even remotely resembling what it was supposed to, and I couldn’t get it right. I don’t think I’ve ever tried so many times to perfect something like I did with caramel. When I say I’ve lost count of my attempts, I’m not lying. I’ve seized, burnt, crystallized, undercooked and set off my smoke alarm with too many batches of gone-wrong caramel sauce. Guys, I even had to put one batch out of the window because it was smoking so much.
Let me explain. For those of us that are not bakers or pastry makers or people who spin sugar for a living, working with sugar is…difficult. It can be temperamental and once it’s too far gone, you can’t bring it back. Without further ado, my not-so-professional tips on ways to not burn the house down while attempting caramel sauce.
- Water isn’t required, but it sure does help. Water helps the sugar dissolve quicker so you don’t have a gritty caramel sauce.
- Make sure you pot is smaller or the same size as the eye. You want even heat here. Again, so the sugar completely dissolves before it starts to turn into that lovely caramel color.
- Be patient. I probably had a great caramel made multiple times, but I got impatient and thought my sugar wasn’t going to caramelize. I turned the heat off too quickly before I realized it just needed more time.
- Do. Not. Stir. The only time you should even think about stirring is when it’s time to add the cream. Too many sugar crystals on the side of the pan can cause it all the crystallize. If you must touch the pan, you can gently swirl the sugar water around, being careful not to get it on the sides of the pan. This drops the temp of the sugar, and, you guessed it, causes crystallization.
- It will be thin. It’ll thicken as it cools. Don’t worry.
- Don’t pour in cream too quickly. The mixture will start to bubble fiercely when the cream goes in, so try not to get in a hurry and pour too quickly. To avoid this altogether, use a bigger pan than you think you’ll need.
Enough about the caramel sauce. Let’s talk about the main attraction: the brownies. It’s really a pretty simple recipe made with ingredients you (hopefully) already have in your pantry. These are fudge-like and dense brownies, so if cakey is what you like, move on.
When preheating the oven, I like to wait an extra 10-15 minutes after it tells me it’s preheated. Just in case. Another idea to ensure proper temperature is to grab an oven thermometer from any kitchen goods or even hardware store. Oven temps, unfortunately, vary quite a bit and can be the deciding factor in a great vs. dry brownie. We also want a crumby toothpick/knife (whatever you’re using to test for doneness) because that means they’re done, I promise. If you pull out a clean toothpick, chances are you’ve got a pan of dry brownies on your hands.
When I first made these, I was careful not to use too much caramel sauce because I didn’t want a brownie so rich you couldn’t eat it. Lesson learned: Do not be shy with the caramel sauce. Really. The flakes of salt will cut through the richness beautifully. You can even add a layer of caramel between the brownie batter if you want.
I used a stand mixer for this, but you don’t need to at all! You can use a hand mixer or even a wooden spoon or spatula. Sifting your dry ingredients is an extra step but it prevents you from biting down on any lumps of flour or cocoa powder.
Let me know what you think!
Salted Caramel Brownies
- 2 cups sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup water
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- ½ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup oil
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the caramel sauce:
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 cup of sugar with water. You can coat all the sugar with the water, but really try not to stir.
- The mixture will be cloudy but will clear up once it starts to bubble. When this happens, turn the heat to medium high and watch carefully. When the sugar begins to turn to an amber color, turn off heat and immediately combine heavy cream and salt. Set aside to cool.
For the brownies:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Grease and line an 8×8 pan with butter and parchment paper. Don’t worry about covering the sides with parchment. Just the bottom will do.
- In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter. In another bowl, combine butter, oil and sugar and beat 1-2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time until just combined. Stir in vanilla.
- Over a separate bowl, sift cocoa powder, flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Slowly add into wet ingredients and combine, being careful not to overmix. Stir in chocolate chips.
- Spread evenly into lined baking dish. Pour half the caramel sauce on top of the batter, then with a knife, swirl the caramel into the brownie batter.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes. Your toothpick, knife, etc. will be crumby when you check for doneness. We don’t want a clean test, meaning the brownies are overcooked.
- Drizzle with extra caramel, if desired. Sprinkle flake salt on top of the brownies while they’re warm so the salt will stick.