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.
6 ounces chopped unsweetened chocolate (about 1 cup)
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter (6 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Flaky sea salt, for garnish
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in center position. Using baking spray or softened butter, lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Line pan with parchment paper, letting ends extend over rim of pan. (This will enable you to easily lift the brownies from the pan.)
Melt chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler, stirring to combine. Once melted, remove from heat, and set aside to let cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
Whisk sugar and eggs in a large bowl until pale in color, about 1 minute. Add vanilla, kosher salt, and melted chocolate; whisk until combined. Add flour, whisking until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven until brownies are set and a wooden pick inserted in middle comes out mostly clean (it’s OK if a few crumbs are on the wooden pick), about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack.
Stir together sugar, 1/2 cup water, and corn syrup in a small saucepan. Cook, without stirring, until mixture boils and turns amber in color, about 10 minutes. Remove caramel from heat, and immediately drizzle in cream, stirring constantly. (It will bubble and sputter, but the cream will halt the cooking process and prevent the caramel from taking on further color and burning.) Stir in butter and kosher salt, and return saucepan to heat over medium. Simmer 1 minute, allowing caramel to thicken slightly. Transfer to a bowl.
Once brownies are completely cool, lift them from pan, and place on a serving plate. Spoon desired amount of salted caramel on top of brownies. Cut into 16 squares. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.