Caramel Swirl Brownies

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Rich has been hankering for a caramel brownie for a few months now. Something always seemed to get in the way – a lack of ingredients, a glut of Christmas cookies or a need to make something else for a party or other obligation. Finally the stars aligned this weekend to satisfy his craving.

Our creation on Saturday started with a long-ago Cooking Light recipe for Caramel Fudge Brownies. We have since lost it, but it served as the inspiration for the brownies we made. The original brownies were more of a brownie crust with a caramel filling, and they were heavenly. If you ate just one, they did actually qualify as light, at least for a dessert. I don’t think we ever ate just one. Our weekend version ended up as dark, fudgy brownies with a thick ribbon of caramel, punctuated by a pool of chocolate here and there from the chocolate chips. They do not qualify as light.

We made the swirl with the last bit of the salted caramel Rich got for Christmas from his parents. It was divine, but you can certainly use regular grocery store caramels for this (we will have to next time, since the fancy stash is now gone).

I am not including a recipe, but more of a method. We started with a half recipe of One Bowl Brownies. I did fudge (pun intended) on the eggs a bit and used two. The full recipe calls for three and I didn’t want to mess with dividing an egg. I also took Rich’s suggestion and used the full amount of vanilla instead of cutting it in half. I baked the half recipe in a 9-inch square pan for about 25 minutes total.

While the brownies started baking, I melted about three ounces of caramels and a splash of milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or until they were melted. I estimate that is about the equivalent of eight grocery store caramels. Next time I will use about twice that to get more caramel swirls. After the brownies were half-baked, I drizzled them with the melted caramel and sprinkled them with about ¼ cup of dark chocolate chips. I put the whole concoction back in the oven for 15 minutes, until the middle was set and the edges were pulling away from the pan.

Restrain yourself for at least 30 minutes, so the brownies can set up a bit before you cut them. If you have any leftovers you can zap them in the microwave for a few seconds to get them warm and melty before you eat them.

This experiment was as successful as our cream cheese brownie recipe. We have also made spicy s’mores brownies that were a huge success. I am already thinking of other ways we can jazz up plain Jane brownies the next time we feel the need – brownie sundaes, almond paste-filled brownies, mint brownies, double chocolate brownies, triple chocolate brownies…

Getting started: My first post, and a brownie recipe.

The trend now is to eat locally, avoid processed foods, grow your own vegetables and reduce your carbon footprint. I don’t think these trends need to be trends. They are leading us back to the roots that we have moved away from. I don’t think that everyone needs to move off the grid and start raising their own sheep so they can make sweaters out of the wool. But hey, if that is what you want to try, go for it. I truly believe that we can all take a step back from the hurried lives we lead and spend some time trying something new. Whether it is baking a loaf of bread, making brownies from scratch with the kids or growing herbs in a pot on the back patio, there is a satisfaction in trying something totally out of your comfort zone.

Stick with me, and I will have you making pancakes like a pro, tossing the pizza delivery number in place of making your own and getting out the butter to make cookies just because you feel like it. You too can have friends that look at you like you are nuts when you say you made a birthday cake instead of buying one from the bakery. You might even make a few converts of your own.

Here is a recipe to get you started. Be sure and post how it works for you. And share what gets you into the kitchen, or keeps you out of it. 

One Bowl Brownies
Adapted from Baker’s Chocolate

You will never go back to a mix after you try these. The recipe is originally off the back of the box of Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate, and I haven’t changed the recipe much. These are great as is, or you can really go all out and serve them with ice cream when they are warm from the oven. A little hot fudge sauce never hurt either. But trust me, you will eat them warm, room temperature or even barely thawed from the freezer. If you don’t have all the ingredients, these are worth a trip to the store. And they truly require only one bowl and a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula.

4 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened baking chocolate
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks), cut into 1-inch pats
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch pan.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 1/2 -2 minutes, stirring after one minute. Chocolate can keep its shape, even when melted, and it scorches easily, so keep an eye on it. Stir to melt chocolate completely. Add sugar and stir until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each. Stir in vanilla. Stir in flour, scraping sides and bottom of bowl.

Spread batter in prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out coated with crumbs, not raw batter. Do not over bake.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for at least a few minutes before cutting. Once they are room temperature, store any leftovers tightly covered or in an airtight container, or freeze for longer storage. This will probably not be a problem.

If you get a chance to try these, leave a comment and let me know how they turn out.

Download the recipe here.