Salty Turtle Brownies
The other morning as I was running and singing quietly to myself (so as not to strike terror into the ears of nearby woodland creatures), it finally dawned on me that I do indeed Love running. I used to do an invisible eye roll whenever someone would tout how much they need their daily run. Turns out they were onto something.
Of course my eclectic "Fierce Running Mix," which includes Eminem, Katy Perry (yes, "Firework" is a great song...don't judge), Gorillaz, and Van Morrison, helps me to stay focused and uncharacteristically perky. Also quite motivating, the need to run far, very far, in order to keep these brownies away from destroying my on-it's-last-shaky leg plan to cut back on sugar this year. (It wasn't a resolution. It's more of a; I'm 34 now...this is all going to catch up with me sooner or later, fear.)
Please let me reassure you, these brownies are worth it. Although it would be very tempting to stay, I would run to California and back for a batch of these brownies.
It's amazing what a little bit of salt and caramel making confidence can do! Only 3 short years ago I was still testing the sugary waters of homemade caramel. It used to take forever to make the liquid gold because I'd either chicken out and pull it off the heat too soon, or stare at it, vacantly, as it burned itself into an angry clump. Now I can whip together caramel sauce in just a few short minutes, without a panic attack. Plus, if you toss a small amount of sea salt into desserts, the flavour is automatically taken up several notches.
These babies have all the bells and whistles needed to make even the healthiest of health nuts weak in the knees. They're fudgy, salty, dripping with caramel, and over the moon in the chocolate department. I can almost guarantee that you won't be able to eat just one!
On a completely random side note, The Salty Turtle would be a great name for a boat, or a little seaside restaurant. Food for thought. :-)
Salty Turtle Brownies (adapted from Fine Cooking)
for the brownies
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons (that's 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 room temperature eggs
3/4 cup tightly packed, brown sugar (light or dark)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the caramel
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (for such a small amount, you can use juice from a bottle)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into about 6 pieces
1/2 teaspoon of salt [Note: I like my caramel on the salty side, if you prefer, you can reduce the salt to 1/4 tsp.]
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Coarse sea salt (optional)
for the chocolate drizzle
2 oz. chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
Prepare the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly spray or butter a foil-lined 9x13-inch baking pan. [Note: For easier removal of the baked brownies, leave a 1/2-inch foil overhang around the edges of the pan.]
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; Set aside.
Make a double boiler: Fill a heavy-duty sauce pan with about 1-inch of water and bring to a simmer. Find a large, heat-proof bowl that will fit over the saucepan without touching the water. Place the butter cubes, and chopped chocolate into the heat-proof bowl and place the bowl over the simmering water. Over low heat, while stirring occasionally, melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.
In a separate, large mixing bowl, whisk all 4 eggs together until well blended. Gradually add both sugars to the egg mixture and beat vigorously until combined. Slowly whisk in the melted chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla extract. Switch over to a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon and fold/stir in the flour and cocoa powder. Mix until just combined and all the streaks of flour have disappeared. Scrape the brownie batter into prepared pan.
*Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Remove the pan from the oven and onto a cooling rack.
*While the brownies are baking, prepare the caramel.
Caramel: Before you start to cook the caramel, have the cream, butter, and vanilla measured out and ready to use. In a heavy-duty 2-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice, and water. Pat the sugar into the water as much as possible, and try not to splatter the edges with too much sugar. [Note: You can use a pastry brush to wash down the sides of the saucepan if needed.] Without stirring, bring the sugar, lemon juice, and water mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Occasionally, use the handle of the pan to gently swirl everything together and prevent the caramel from cooking too fast in one spot. Cook until the caramel turns medium amber (about 8-10 minutes, depending on how high the heat is set). Keep a close watch on the caramel as soon as the bubbles begin to change colour. When it turns medium amber, remove the pan from the heat and slowly, and Carefully add the heavy cream (it will sputter and hiss, so don't stand directly over the pan). Keep stirring until the caramel smooths out. Gradually add the pieces of butter, about 2 bits at a time. Once all the butter has been added and has melted into the caramel, whisk in the salt and vanilla.
Immediately pour the caramel sauce over the warm brownies. If necessary, use an off-set spatula to coax the sauce into an even layer. Sprinkle the caramel sauce with the chopped pecans and sea salt (if using). Allow the brownies to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, until the caramel has set. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour.
Prepare the drizzle: In a small saucepan, combine the chopped chocolate and heavy cream. Melt over low heat until smooth. Remove the brownies from the refrigerator and, using a fork or a whisk, drizzle the brownies with the melted chocolate until coated. Return the pan to the refrigerator and chill for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
Use the foil overhang to remove the brownies from the pan. [You may need to run a thin knife along the edges to release the caramel.] For clean(er) brownie slices, dip a knife in hot water before slicing.
Makes about 30-35 brownies