the best - salty caramel brownies

I'm taking a little break from The Friday Files today to give you a recipe you have to make this weekend. Honestly, pick up the ingredients on your way home from work tonight and try these out. This is by far the best brownie you will ever make and I don't say that lightly.

Back in the early days of this blog I posted a story called Battle of the Brownie. If you know me than you know that I make a killer brownie. I don't mean to toot my horn but people seriously covet my brownies. For a long time "my" recipe was a secret but truth be told it was Nigella Lawson's with a few, very minor tweaks. Nigella's recipe is still hands down one of the best brownie recipes out there but if you are looking for the utmost in decadent sinfulness than you have to try this sweet and salty brownie.

This recipe is quite well known and comes from the talented twosome, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafto, behind the Brooklyn based bakery Baked. These guys know their desserts and are a favorite around here. (Check out their Chocolate Root Beer Bundt Cake I made awhile back.) The secret to this devilish brownie is the layer of salty caramel sandwiched between two bands of brownie batter. The recipe does take a little while longer to make than your basic recipe but the results are worth it.

A few hints:

- Keep a close eye on the caramel. Once it begins to change colour swirl the pan a few times and remove from the heat the moment you have a nice amber colour.

- Do not over stir the brownie batter. We don't want the gluten developing in the flour.

- Be careful how much caramel you use. You don't want it to touch the sides of the pan or it will burn. Save any extra caramel for drizzling on top or dipping nuts into. (This is what I found myself doing!)

- Do not overbake. The greatest sin you can make with any brownie is to overbake it. A good sign that a brownie is nearly done is when cracks appear along the top of it. Also unlike cake batter you want a few moist crumbs to be attached to the toothpick or skewer when you remove it. Remember gooey is good!

The Best - Sweet and Salty Brownies - adapted from Baked Explorations

Makes 12-24 brownies depending on the size.

For the Caramel Filling 1 cup sugar 2 tbsp light corn syrup 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 tsp fleur de sel 1/4 cup sour cream

For the Brownie 1 1/4 cup All Purpose flour 1 tsp salt 2 tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder 11 oz quality dark chocolate (60-72%), coarsely chopped (I used Lindt) 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 5 large eggs, room temperature 2 tsp vanilla extract

1. 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 thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color, 6-8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream (be careful, it will bubble up!) and then the fleur de sel.  Whisk in the sour cream.  Set aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 350F.

3. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9x13 inch pan.  Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

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

5. Place the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl.  Set over a pan of simmering water or a double boiler 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.  Let sit until it's room temperature.

6. 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, as this will make the brownies cakey.

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

8. Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel (don't be foolish here and use it all, you will have extra!) 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.

9. 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 in the center of the pan.  The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

10. Remove the brownies from the oven.  Sprinkle with fleur de sel and coarse sugar. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

I'd love to hear if you give this recipe a try and of course I'm also all ears if you think you have an even better recipe!