Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Salted caramel chocolate brownies






Who doesn’t love a good brownie? Purists out there might not like a brownie to be anything else but flavoured with pure chocolate, and I know that ‘salted caramel’ seems to be featuring everywhere on menus these days in tarts, ice creams and other guises, but it is a seriously awesome combination, trust me. I’ve been making these deeply dangerous salted caramel chocolate brownies for about three years now, and wherever people eat them they tend to go a bit weird. I’ve had people chasing me across a field at a rock festival where I’ve been selling them, and deranged drunken folk accosting me at a wedding where I made a big batch for dessert, all wanting MORE! (I’m very flattered, I thank you) I featured this recipe on the blog a long while ago, but I think that it deserves a repeat mention – you could make a batch of these for a Christmas present and the recipient would love you forever because these brownies are insanely good.

They are gooey, dark and rich (no flour here, just ground almonds) and also with the added dimension of having the tang of the buttery caramel chunks inside. I always make a large batch of these, cut them into squares, and freeze them – that way I always have a steady supply of these bad boys to hand, and there’s nothing quite like biting into a half frozen sweet/salty brownie. Double-yum.

The process is fairly time consuming, because you have to make the salted caramel first and have the chunks ready before you make the brownie mixture. But it’s a delicious way to spend half a day or evening, trying not to face-plant your head into the chocolatey mixture…

Makes 24 medium sized, or 18 large brownies:

First, you’ll need to make the salted caramel, which you can make a day or two in advance and store in an airtight container until you make the brownies.

You will need:

100g flaked almonds
100g golden caster sugar
50g salted organic butter
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

First lightly toast the almonds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat, taking care to stir them regularly so that they don't burn. This will take about 3 minutes, and when you can smell that lovely nutty almond smell and see the nuts turning a light brown they are ready. Spread them out on a layer of non-stick baking parchment, and lay on a heatproof surface. Then put the sugar, butter and salt in a non-stick frying pan and add 4 tablespoons of water. Bring everything to the boil, then turn the heat to medium and stir frequently. Watch like a hawk as it bubbles away, and keep stirring to ensure that some bits don't caramelise before others. When the mixture begins to look creamy, you're nearly there:


You want the mixture to turn a light brown colour - this will take anything between 5 and 9 minutes. Then QUICKLY pour the mixture over the almonds - don't dally because the caramel solidifies instantly. Sprinkle over an extra pinch of sea salt. Leave it to cool down, then shatter into pieces holding a knife with the blade pointing downwards. You might want to do this over a chopping board so you don't dent your surfaces!
The result:


And now for the brownie mixture…you will need:

375g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids, preferably Fairtrade and/or organic)
375g butter
400g unrefined caster sugar
6 medium free range eggs
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder - again, Fairtrade and/or organic
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g ground almonds
1 double espresso-worth of strong coffee

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, set over a pan of cold water and bring the water to the boil (bain marie). Turn the heat down to a low simmer and stir the mixture occasionally with a spoon until the chocolate and butter melt. Put the bowl to one side to let cool for a couple of minutes.

Whizz the sugar, eggs, cocoa and bicarb in a food mixer or with an electric whisk, until frothy. Add this to the chocolate mixture, then stir in the ground almonds, the melted chocolate and the coffee.

Try not to faceplant THIS:



Pour in your chunks of salted caramel to the mixture, reserving larger pieces for decorating the brownies:



Pour the mixture into a large baking tray lined with greaseproof baking parchment and bake for roughly 30 minutes, depending on how deep your baking tray is, how fierce your oven is and how squidgy you want the brownies to be.


When you take the tray out of the oven, place it on a wire rack to cool down completely. Do not attempt to cut the brownies up until they have cooled completely - otherwise they might fall apart! They keep well in a Tupperware container for 4 - 6 days, and also freeze really well.

Anyone out there got any other pimp brownie flavours and combos they’re keen to share?