Gooey brownies laced with puddles of salted caramel are, when done really well, one of my all time favourite baked goods. In the early days of motherhood, I would stumble out my front door ridiculously early in the morning baby in tow and careen zombie-like to our local park solely on the promise of a strong coffee and, most importantly, a salted caramel brownie for my third breakfast. Those were the days!
Once I had somewhat grasped the juggling act of early parenthood and my son slept more I returned to baking them myself. I claimed it was therapeutic but the real reason was I could indulge in a serious sugar hit whenever I wanted. It also meant I wasn't disappointed as the ones I'd buy on my travels were often lacklustre. I'd even ply my new mum mates with them in the hope it endeared me to them and they'd always want to hang out and talk about lumpy boobs, exploding poo and sleep deprivation.
There are two possible routes you can take when making this recipe which results in two very subtly different brownies (see below). Taste testers have been very loud and clear about which they prefer and since it's proven a consistently 50/50 result I've shown you how to do both!
Brownie 1 (Left): This is for you If you want an incredibly gooey brownie with the salted caramel absorbed into the batter resulting in a very grown up rich, salty brownie and a subtle hint of salted caramel
Brownie 2 (Right): If you want to hit pockets of salted caramel as you bite into your brownie alongside plenty on top then this is the one for you
Now for the sciencey bit. These brownies are gooey, incredibly so, and there's a few factors key to this...
1. Using a mix of 50% cocoa chocolate alongside a 70% cocoa chocolate. Don't be tempted to go all out 70% as the result will be a dryer, crumblier mix and you'll be short on Goo!
2. A handful of milk chocolate chips thrown in for good measure will ramp up the final 'goo' levels so skip these at your peril
3. Finally, a really key thing is a moderate oven temperature and a short bake. The result is a slightly undercooked batter which as it cools firms up into an amazing rich , dense and gooey texture unlike any other. If you feel you want a slightly less gooey experience, no one will judge you, just cook it for an extra five to ten minutes.
Now, the salted caramel points of note! If you've made salted caramel brownies before and simply tried to adorn the top of the batter with caramel you then painstakingly marbled beautifully with a toothpick only to find by the end of the baking process, there were craters where once your caramel proudly sat, you are not alone! Caramel has a habit of doing this as it cooks and the brownie mix just can't handle it. After many frustrating experiences like this, I came to the conclusion that sandwiching the caramel in the middle was the way to go. It results in proud pockets of caramel and a little on top for good measure with a gooey brownie carrying it all off proudly.
Big Tip: Make your salted caramel ahead of time and let it cool to room temperature! Why? If you use cold/cool caramel it takes longer to heat up and absorb into the mix as it cooks so when cooked slow and low the end result will mean you will have plenty of sauce visible in your final brownie. Also, if you use it when it is still warm it will run away from you as you try and sandwich it between layers of brownie mix and stress you out! You can cool it down quickly by resting a jug of it in a bowl of ice water and giving it a mix every so often until the whole lot is thick and cool. The other option is to make it the day before, let it cool to room temperature then pop it in Tupperware in the fridge then let it sit at room temperature for 20 mins before using.
200g Unsalted butter
100g 70% Cocoa chocolate (I use the Lindt one)
100g 50% Cocoa chocolate (Tesco's 'Bake Stable' dark chocolate is good and so is Green & Blacks Milk Chocolate)
A handful of milk chocolate chips
150g Caster Sugar
50g Cocoa powder (I use Cadbury Bournville or Green & Blacks if I'm feeling flush!)
4 Medium sized Eggs
130g Plain flour
I have a fan oven which I set to 160C which is roughly 180C on an electric or Gas mark 4, you want a moderate heat so adjust accordingly. Make sure you have the middle shelf poised and ready
Grease and line a 9" baking tin (I use this one) with Baking Parchment rather than Greaseproof paper as it stands up better against the caramel and will make it a LOT easier to lift out once cooled
Have cooled Salted caramel in a measuring jug so you can easily pour it and keep an eye on how much you're using
1. Melt the butter in a big bowl over a pan of simmering water then switch the heat off once melted keeping the bowl over the pan. If you want to save time you can microwave the butter but watch out for popping and splattering as it gets hot
2. Break the chocolate into small chunks, add to the melted butter and stir then leave to melt. Give it a stir every couple minutes to check it's melting. If you used the microwave technique you may need to zap the mix again as it will cool down quicker then if over warm water
3. In a large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and half the salted caramel sauce (which should be 150ml) until combined. NOTE: If you want to make Brownie 2 (see photo at top for visual guide) with more pronounced puddles of salted caramel in your brownie do not put any of the caramel sauce in with the eggs and sugar. You can use an electric whisk but doing it by hand is just as quick and easy
4. Sift together the flour and coco powder into a bowl and set aside
5. Pour the melted chocolate and butter mix into the egg mix and whisk to combine, It will go very thick and dark!
6. With a spoon stir in the flour and cocoa then add a handful of chocolate chips and mix until no pockets of flour are left
7. Pour roughly half the brownie batter (it's alright no one will know if it's not EXACT!) into the baking tray and tease it to the edges with a spatula
8. Save roughly half a tablespoon of salted caramel back for the top then pour the remaining salted caramel in the middle of the brownie batter. If you want Brownie 2 with puddles of caramel add ALL of your caramel at this point, holding back a tablespoon for drizzling on top. Now, I usually pour it in long vertical lines stopping short of the edges as this will be the first place it runs to when you top it with more batter and this can make the next step a little more challenging!
9. Pour the rest of the batter on top of the salted caramel. My best advice here is: Aim for the middle and GENTLY spread the batter out to the edges trying to coax it without disturbing the caramel beneath too much. Let's be real here, you will end up dragging caramel with you and it will go to the edges and it will bubble over as it cooks so don't get flustered doing this just be gentle and it will happen less. I keep some batter back so I can dollop in into the corners which can be most challenging then tease it into the rest of the mix.
10. Dollop small blobs of caramel on top then use a toothpick or kebab skewer to tease outward. Be warned: if you try and marble this all over the top of your brownie you will end up with craters, so best to just tease it a little bit then spread it all about. Remember the caramel will ooze over from the side as the brownie cooks so keep your artistic blobs to the middle - this will be more exaggerated if you are using all the caramel in the middle!
11. Put in the middle of your oven and bake for 22 minutes. Remove from oven and place the baking tray on something heat-proof that allows air to circulate underneath then leave to cool for an hour in the tray. After an hour, run a knife around the edges to free up the caramel crust and remove from the tray and put on a rack to cool completely. Trying to cut or eat your brownie when still hot or very warm will result in a hacked up, hot gooey mess, cooling it allows you to slice it almost neatly. I recommend the latter but won't judge you for trying the former.
Caramel Note: If you're making Brownie 2 and put all your caramel in the middle and none in the mix, it's worth cutting when still a little warmish as you will free up more caramel sauce that, if left, will eventually get absorbed into the brownie the longer it sits uncut
If you fancy it sprinkle the top with some sea salt but if you don't no one will think any less of you!