Brownie for a sweet and salty year

(Baked’s Sweet & Salty Brownie)

Another year is finally coming to a close, and I say that with a huge amount of relief. It’s been a year of extreme highs and lows. Yes, I have discovered that I’m not as strong as I would like to be. And I hate that.

But it’s not so much a complaint as merely an observation about things I’m slowly learning to accept. Like many good things, life is so much about having a certain measure of both : the salty, to balance the sweet, and vice versa.

(Pretzel and bacon caramels)

For Christmas this year, I made a few less-than-traditional gifts for friends, such as cowboy cookies and these caramels which are based on Dan Lepard’s treacle pecan caramel recipe, using pretzel pieces and crispy bacon bits instead of pecans. The treacle and molasses in Dan’s recipe add great depth of flavour to the caramel and elevate it from being merely sugary sweet to something rather special. I plan to make these again next year, maybe with a selection of different flavours.

In the meantime, there’s always these brownies, which are my idea of the perfectly balanced treat any day of the year.

Sweet and Salty Brownie :
(from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

For the filling :
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

For the brownie :
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
11 ounces (311g) quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the filling : In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermomter reads 350F (175’C), or until the mixture is dark amber in colour, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

For the brownie : Preheat the oven to 350F (175’C).

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light coloured metal 9 x 13 inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of the double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and 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 eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.

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

To assemble the brownie : Pour half of the brownie mixture into the 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, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use your offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with an extra 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel and 1 teaspoon coarse sugar.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

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  1. shirley@kokken69 said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

    I totally agree that sweetness needs to be balanced with a grain or 2 of salt for overpowering sweetness mask all other intricate flavours of life and can make you sick…. Here’s wishing you a great start to a wonderful new year…complete with exotic flavours…

  2. penny aka jeroxie said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

    ohh… am looking for a nice brownie recipe as presents for my guests. This seems to be the one! so i can wrap them up like candy… like what you did. NICe!

  3. Rosa said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

    I love sweet and salty brownies and yours look so good!

    Wishing you a Happy New Year 2011!



  4. mademoiselle dรฉlicieuse said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    A new year makes for a new beginning and a somewhat clean slate. I, too, have had a year of various ups and downs and am looking forward to a year less bumpy.

    Failing that, I’ll bake myself a brownie or two as a pick-me-up.

  5. Mark @ Cafe Campana said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

    Wow that is some brownie! It looks so rich and dark. All the best for 2011 and I look forward to reading more great blog posts.

  6. My Little Expat Kitchen said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

    Sweet and salty, everything the year was and everything the next year will be. I hope. Because balance is after all the key to a good year and to a good brownie!

  7. LimeCake said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

    Incredible looking brownies, especially with that amazing filling! Perfect to usher in the new year. No matter your 2010, may your 2011 be better and brighter!

  8. Caitlin said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 12:22 am

    Lots of hugs – I totally understand the year of dizzying highs and lows. Let’s just plan on making the middle ground a little more on the high side this next year, right? Are you liking the Baked Explorations book? Should I get it?

  9. Laura said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 2:48 am

    I hope that the new year is going to be sweeter for you.

    I will have to try the caramel recipe, it sounds delicious! Like I said before I have never used bacon in sweets, but is it about time I try it.

  10. Helen (grabyourfork) said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 4:26 am

    Pretzel and bacon caramels sound like my kinda snack! I do like your analogy about the salty and the sweet. You can’t have one without the other!

  11. Courtney@ cooking up a family said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 4:41 am

    hoping you have a very sweet new year!! those look and sound great!

  12. GourmetGetaways said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 8:15 am

    It seems we are all happy to put a few things behind us. I love your beautiful brownies and the photos are just gorgeous!

    When it is all said and done chocolate is the best fixer ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Y said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 10:12 am

    Thanks for all the well wishes for the new year ๐Ÿ™‚

    Caitlin : Made quite a few things from the book already. Haven’t regretted purchase yet!

  14. anh said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

    have a great holiday and a better year next year ahead, Y! This yeas has been up and down for me as well. But well, that’s life and part of growing up (how I hate those words!)

  15. zenchef said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    Wishing you a better 2011!
    And those brownies are a good way to start the year on a delicious note.

  16. grace said,

    December 29, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

    i wouldn’t mind a stocking full of coal if there were some brownies mixed in there too…happy holidays, y!

  17. Sandy Naidu said,

    December 30, 2010 @ 7:32 am

    Looks yummy – Love the idea of sweet and salt…

  18. InTolerantChef said,

    December 30, 2010 @ 8:43 am

    A new year is a great reason to start looking forward, instead of back at the crappy times you’ve been through. I shall start my new year looking forward to making these brownies!

  19. Thip said,

    December 30, 2010 @ 11:33 am

    Happy New Year to you, Y!

  20. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said,

    December 30, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

    Ahh the perfect dish to suit your pensive mood I think Y! I hope 2011 is a year of highs for you ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Irina@PastryPal said,

    December 30, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

    At least you keep baking through all your trials and triumphs ๐Ÿ™‚ A new year does give a sense of a clean slate, so I hope your 2011 is bright and filled with highs. In my world, the sweet and salty combo are both highs ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy New Year to you.

  22. shaz said,

    December 30, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

    Snap! I made caramels to give away this year too. But nowhere near as exciting as bacon and pretzel ones! Wishing you a very sweet start to 2011 ๐Ÿ™‚ And may the salties be few and far between, and always balanced out by the sweet.

  23. Aparna said,

    December 31, 2010 @ 4:47 am

    I like the idea of the salt to balance the sweet. And it is a brownie, my favourite!
    Yes, its been a year of highs and lows and funnily enough I’ve also discovered I’m not as strong as I liked to think I was. A bit disquieting but am getting used to that too. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Season’s greetings and best wishes for a very happy new year.

  24. Julia @ Mรฉlanger said,

    February 21, 2011 @ 9:38 am

    2010 was a rollercoaster of a year for me, too. I fear I also discovered I was not as strong as I thought I was (or liked to be). But that’s another story!

    Since being pregnant, I have much more of a savoury tooth, but that’s not to say I still don’t enjoy my sweets. So needless to say this recipe holds great appeal to me! Must try it. Did you check out Baked when in NYC? Haven’t checked your list of places you visited yet…..

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