These brownies should be called, “The Brownies That Must Not be Named.” I apologize to J.K. Rowling. The minute you even talk about the brownies, your blood sugar will rise and your arteries will clog just a bit. But they are worth it.
I started out with the idea of making caramel swirl brownies for Rich for his birthday. I wanted to make them even more of a special treat, and make the caramel for the topping. I have never made caramel candies, only caramel sauce, so I went in search of a recipe online. I should have done a tiny bit more research into the chemistry of candy making before deciding on a recipe. And of course, no recipe I found did exactly what I wanted, so I tweaked one recipe and combined it with another, which is a big no-no in making a new recipe. The kitchen gods were smiling though, so the results were fabulous, though unexpected.
The caramel cooked up into a thick sauce-like concoction. Halfway through the brownie baking time, I drizzled them with our caramel attempt and a sprinkling of chocolate chips. Once they came out of the oven I added a sprinkle of very coarse salt.
The brownies baked up soft and fudgy, with a buttery lusciousness supporting the expected chocolate. The topping reminded us of a soft toffee, with a thin, crackling crust on top and a sugary toothsomeness under the crust.
The topping made more than I needed for the recipe. I kept the proportions the same in the posted recipe, so you will have leftovers too. Once cool, the mixture thickened into a sweet mass of soft praline-like candy that is wonderful on pretzels, graham crackers and fingers. I’m sure you’ll figure out how to use it.
Fudgy Toffee Brownies
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12-15 brownies
I topped the brownies with chocolate chips and coarse salt. They were icing on the cake, so to speak. Feel free to leave them off.
1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup water
5 tablespoons heavy cream
5 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 5 pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup chocolate chips, optional
coarse salt, optional
Make the toffee topping before making the brownies. Stir the sugar and the water together in a 2-3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Swirl occasionally or stir very gently. Do not scrape down the sugar that collects on the sides of the pan, or you might re-crystalize the mixture and have to start over. Measure out the cream and the butter and set them next to the stove.
Once sugar comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium or slightly higher. Swirl the pan or stir only if one part of the mixture starts to darken before the rest.
The sugar will turn golden and then amber colored. Try to let it darken until is a dark amber or caramel color, but not dark brown. Watch it. It can go from dark amber to black in no time. The whole process should take about 10 minutes from the time you turn on the heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble up and the cream may seize into a hard mass for a second. Don’t panic. Just stir fairly quickly, without splashing, and it will combine.
Add the butter, once piece at a time, and stir it in as it melts. Keep stirring until all the butter mixes in. Add the vanilla and stir again. Set the toffee topping aside to cool while you make the brownies.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9-inch square pan.
Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a large bowl in the microwave. This should take about 60 seconds on high power. Stir until the chocolate totally melts and the mixture is smooth.
Stir in the sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in flour until no white streaks remain.
Spread the brownie batter in the greased pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and drizzle the toffee topping all over the top of the brownies. You probably will not use all of the topping. See end of recipe for suggestions on using the remaining portion.
Sprinkle the top of the toffee topping with the chocolate chips, if using.
Return the brownies to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until middle is barely jiggly and the edges are puffed and pulling away from the sides of the pan.
Remove brownies from the oven and sprinkle with a few pinches of coarse salt, if desired. Cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack. The top of the brownies will crackle and parts will sink as it cools. This is fine.
Cut into small squares and serve. Store in an airtight container for several days.
You will have about ½-¾ cup of the toffee topping left over. Dip pretzels in it, warm it up and pour it on ice cream, spread it on graham crackers or just eat it with a spoon.