“Foodies” will tell you that salted caramel is too ubiquitous nowadays to be considered trendy. Luckily, we’re not too fussed about trendy — because it still tastes so darn good. I spent a while playing around with my basic brownie recipe to work out the maximum chocolate content and minimum cooking time it could take and still remain a brownie rather than a chocolate-y gooey mess (and thoroughly enjoyed ‘tidying up’ the ones that ended up as the latter). I’ve also added brown sugar for a greater depth of flavour and white chocolate chunks because, well, more chocolate is always a good idea.
The caramel is surprisingly simple, so don’t let it put you off having a go, and looks really beautiful as it sinks in and creates little rivers through the brownie as it bakes. De-licious.
90g caster sugar
60ml double cream
a tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
A good pinch of fleur de sel (plus extra for decorating)
200g dark chocolate
175g butter or margarine
200g caster sugar
125g soft light brown sugar
130g plain flour
3 medium eggs
100g white chocolate chunks
Preheat your oven to 170°C fan and grease and line a square, preferably loose-bottomed 28cm cake tin.
Start by making the caramel. Place the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan over a low heat and cook until it melts. Don’t stir it. Do swirl the pan gently to help melt all the sugar. Once it’s all melted, continue to cook until it reaches a deep copper colour — sort of like a 2p (or 1p!) coin. Watch it like a hawk as it will turn very quickly. Remove from the heat, then stir in the cream, butter, vanilla extract and salt. It will froth as the cold cream hits the hot sugar, but keep stirring and it will calm down. Add more salt to taste, pour into a bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
Now for the brownie. Put the chocolate and margarine in a mixing bowl and melt in the microwave or over a bain-marie. Add the caster and brown sugars to the bowl and stir until it’s well-mixed. Next add the flour and repeat, followed by the eggs. Mix until you’ve got a thick, smooth batter, then add the chocolate chunks, holding back a handful for scattering on the top. Stir until well-distributed then pour into your lined tin.
Drizzle your salted caramel across the surface of the brownie. Don’t worry if it falls in blobs rather than elegant lines, we’ll fix that in a minute. Once it’s all on and roughly evenly distributed, take a sharp knife and drag it across the surface from one side of the tin to the other and back again in a zig zag sort of like the coils on the back of the fridge. Repeat in the other direction. Scatter the remaining chocolate chunks over the top and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how gooey you like your brownies.
When they’re done, sprinkle the top with a little more salt and leave to cool in the tin. When it comes to cutting them, a hot knife will make your life a little easier. You may find you need to pop the brownies in the fridge for a while to firm up before attempting it. I suggest you cut them into small squares as they’re quite rich — you can always have two.
This is one of those brilliant bakes which improves over time, too, so leave for 24 hours before tucking in to let the flavours develop and they also freeze really well.