Sweet & Salty Brownies

January 14, 2013

sweet & salty brownies | une gamine dans la cuisine

"An opaque, gentle, vulnerable day,
as if it had been making love all night,
a day when the past has no bitter taste,
when the future retreats without a fight…" ~Vera Pavlova If There Is Something To Desire

I used to loathe mid-January - with its stark, almost-industrial ambiance and icy fingers that reach through every exposed crack in my drafty house. Now, little by little, we are starting to develop a mutual respect for each other. It's a tentative relationship- we're still both tiptoeing on egg shells during my chilly morning showers and windy three blanket nights- but I think we are ready to sit down and have a cup of bittersweet snow tea.

January ignites my love for cosy comfort food- all things laden with butter, and cream, and salt, and yes, even chocolate. To return January's aloof favour, I promised to not complain about its frigidity- too much. And to bake decadent, dramatic brownies that are so sinfully rich, you have to squeeze your eyes shut *tightly now* whilst biting into one. 

sweet & salty brownies | une gamine dans la cuisine

I have made a lot brownies in my lifetime, including salty turtle brownies and salty fudge brownies- both were spectacular, and worth revisiting. But there is something special about this recipe that I can't quite put my finger on...a quiet understated depth that surpasses every other brownie.

Aside from the fact that they're fudgy, indulgent, and perfectly salted, they have a lovely ribbon of caramel running through the dark chocolate batter like sweet molten lava. It's not overpowering- in fact most people didn't even realize that caramel was part of the brownie- they just knew that these brownies were irresistible and "different, but in a good way."

This recipe will leave you with a lot of pots and bowls to clean but I've discovered that sometimes it's the tedious recipes that yield the tastiest results. And these brownies are just the thing to keep your bellies warm and happy as you snuggle up under layers of blankets with a flashlight and favourite book; Currently I'm reading Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin- perfect mid winter reading as the cold winds are rising... ;-)

sweet & salty brownies | une gamine dans la cuisine

Sweet and Salty Brownies
makes about 15-20 brownies

for the caramel
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons maple syrup 
1/4 cup water

for the brownie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-70% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (that's 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
5 room temperature eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

for the topping
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar

Prepare the caramel: Have the heavy cream, salt, and sour cream measured out (separately) and ready to go.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, maple syrup, and water. Gently pat everything down so that the sugar is completely moistened- try to to splash the sides of the pan. Without stirring, cook over med-high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 F, or until the mixture turns deep amber in colour (about 6-10 minutes depending on the heat). As the caramel is cooking, swirl the pan around from time to time-using the handle- this will prevent it from burning in "hot" spots. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the heavy cream (be very careful, it will bubble and hiss). Add the fleur de sel and sour cream and whisk until smooth. {Note: If the sour cream clumps up, return the pan to a low heat and whisk vigorously until it smooths out.} Set the caramel aside to *cool as you prepare the brownies.

*Whilst preparing the brownies, give the caramel a good stir from time to time- this will prevent it from hardening.

Prepare the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass (or light coloured metal) 9 x 13-inch pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder; Set aside.

Place the chopped chocolate and butter into a large, heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. {Note: When creating a double boiler, make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water.} Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, until completely smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the simmering water. Add both sugars and whisk until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the pan. (The mixture should be at room temperature.)

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk again until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. {Note: At this stage, try not to overbeat the batter...a light hand will keep the brownies nice and fudgy.}

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate and, using a large rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible. 

Pour about half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern- be sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan (to prevent burning). Use a small off-set spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer. Drop the remaining brownie batter onto the caramel layer using heaping spoonfuls. Carefully smooth the brownie batter into an even layer over the caramel. Drizzle any remaining caramel over the brownie layer and use the off-set spatula to gently swirl it through the batter. {Note: Don't swirl too much, just a few light up and down strokes should do the trick.}

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. {Note: My brownies took about 36 minutes to bake, but my oven is very temperamental.} 

Remove the pan from the oven and onto a cooling rack. Sprinkle the hot brownies with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar. Cool completely before *slicing and serving. 

*The brownies are very sticky and difficult to cut. I found that a sharp knife dipped in hot water did the trick!

adapted from Baked Explorations

sweet & salty brownies | une gamine dans la cuisine


  1. I love sweet salty treats! Those brownies look ever so good.

    Have a great week.



  2. These brownies look so incredible that words fail me; I think I'll just finish off a pan and let the crumbs speak for themselves ;).

  3. I also adore cozy comfort food during January. With the cold outside, its nice to feel comforted inside!

  4. January really is made for indulging in delicious decadent treats look brownies. These look amazing!

  5. Decadent, gooey perfection. I'm so glad you and January are getting along, I just love everything about the month :)

  6. these are so wonderfully decadent, i am in total love. i have yet to tackle caramel, so i'm definitely nervous about that - but i think i wanna try these out for valentines day (if i can work up the courage)! i am a total sucker for that sweet and salty combination!

  7. You are making me long to try those brownies. They sound spectacular! And what a lovely poem to lead off with.

  8. thanks for sharing the Baked recipe, steps, bowls, and all. I have always wondered if that recipe is that good, and based on what you say, it IS!

    And winter...ugh. Even in San Diego, and I know this sounds wimpy, but it's very cold here and the days are short. By 2:30pm if I don't have my photos done for the day, I better wait til the next one! That nighttime light starts coming in. By 245pm!

  9. HOLY decadent brownies, Val! These are sensational! Love your beautiful writing...I can picture the month of January reading your words. Have a great week!

  10. Sweet and salty is BYFAR my favorite flavor combination, and I absolutely cannot wait to give these brownies a try. We ate brownies most weekends when I was a child, so I had an aversion to this treat for a long time, and I recently rediscovered my love for them, so I'm happy to have found this in time for the winter doldrums.

    Also, I'm reading Game of Thrones, too! Are you liking it so far?

  11. The recipe does look more complicated than most brownies, but I say they look worth it. Valentine's day is coming. These are on my list.

  12. @Erin, Yes! I am loving Game of Thrones so far! (I admit it was the HBO series that made me go out and by the books.) It's unusual for both to be so brilliant. :D

  13. Love the straw too:)

    And Game of Thrones..

    and Downton Abbey and Parenthood and The Forsyte Saga..after last night I think Homeland is in my future.

  14. @Monique, Agree with you on everything! Love Downton Abbey!! :)

  15. I have to say there is something calling me about the sweet and salty combo and caramel running through the middle. I still want to read those books. I need to curl up inside for a bit and do so, I'd need a brownie though. Hope you have a lovely week.

  16. Cannot wait to make these! W-O-W! And now that I'v watched season 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones, maybe I should read the books :-)

  17. These look too good to be true!
    and definitely too good not to try!
    Thanks for posting the recipe - cannot wait to attempt them :-)

    Plus your photography as always is beautifully elegant too.

  18. There's this voice in my head screaming "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaant!" .. could you satisfy it with a pan of these? For reals... nobody can rock a brownie like you gurrrrrl.

  19. This kind of comforting food is so essential in the heart of winter. Enjoy!

  20. I love all brownies and these look great! I'm sure I'll have to try them.

  21. Brownies are like chocolate chip cookies, I'm always intrigued by a new recipe.

  22. I love the poetic way you always describe things and these brownies look fabulous!

  23. Oh, Valerie...I need these brownies in my life. Your caramel recipe alone...swoon. No wonder your taste testers thought they were special! Sometimes caramel can be too much in a brownie and competes with it. I love that yours is subtle in the batter. These will be the next brownies I bake! xo


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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