Salted Caramel Brownies
Put down that box of store-bought mix—the perfect pan of fudgy, gooey, intensely chocolate brownies is just a few steps away. Of course, being drenched in buttery salted caramel sauce doesn’t hurt, but it’s what’s going on inside these brownies that makes all the difference.First, I start with melted chocolate in the batter which makes a moist and gooey brownie. (Recipes that rely on cocoa powder yield a more cake-like brownie.) I like to use unsweetened chocolate because it makes it easier to control the amount of sugar in the recipe overall. Sugar is important in brownies not just for sweetness—the just-right amount of sugar also affects the texture, making a softer and more tender chocolate treat.Another key reason these brownies are dense instead of cake-like is that there are no chemical leaveners (i.e. baking powder), just eggs. Here’s a tip: if you want an even fudgier brownie, replace one of the eggs with two egg yolks. Regardless of how many eggs you use, be sure that the melted chocolate isn’t too hot when you add it to the whisked eggs and sugar so that you don’t scramble the eggs. You want the chocolate just warm enough to dissolve the sugar.Use the best chocolate you can since it’s the main ingredient. I like to splurge on good-quality bars such as Ghirardelli and chop them myself; chocolate chips are often coated with ingredients to keep them from sticking together, which can affect the finished texture of the brownies. The hefty amount of vanilla (a whole tablespoon!) intensifies the flavor of the chocolate.For the richest flavor, cook the caramel until it’s deep amber in color. The corn syrup in the caramel actually helps to keep the caramel from burning too quickly as it cooks. The dark caramel adds a more complex layer of sweetness, and the salt balances everything so that the caramel doesn’t overpower the brownies.Take care not to overbake these brownies; it’s OK if a few moist crumbs cling to the toothpick when you test them for doneness. In the recipe, I counsel you to let these guys cool completely before drenching them with caramel sauce, but I’m definitely guilty of cutting them while they’re still warm and covering them in caramel sauce. Trust me—they’re just as delicious, and pulling this trick out of your hat for eager guests is a move they won’t soon forget.