Sometimes great things result from less than stellar beginnings. Take, for example, these brownies. I didn't intend to make them yesterday. Sure, I've had my eye on them for a while but I wasn't planning to try them for a few weeks. Rather, my intention had been to make baked sweet potato doughnuts yesterday afternoon. I dedicated a fair amount of time to the recipe and everything seemed to be going well up until I tried to bake them. Without boring you with the details, they didn't turn out and I had no idea why. I'm alright with baking mistakes when I can pinpoint what went wrong but when a recipe fails and I'm confident I've followed the instructions to a T, I get pretty frustrated. I moped about my failed doughnuts for a bit but I didn't want the day to end on that sour note so I got back into the kitchen. If anything could make me feel better, it was chocolate and caramel!
These turtle brownies only require a bit more effort than regular brownies and they're so worth it! The recipe starts with a caramel sauce, and while I typically fear caramel, the instructions here were so clear that it was almost impossible not to succeed. Some of this caramel is combined with the brownie batter and swirled before going into the oven to bake. The remainder of the caramel is poured over the fully baked and cooled brownies creating a rich, gooey and chewy topping. Straight from the fridge the brownies were deliciously fudgy and chocolately, but I actually preferred them as they warmed to room temperature. The brownie base softened just a bit as did the caramel and I was powerless against the combination. In fact, I may or may not have had one for breakfast today...
I didn't realize it until Clara tweeted about it this morning, but today is National Chocolate Caramel Day - one of many food holidays no one really knows about :) I can think of no better offering than these brownies! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
Ultimate Turtle Brownies
from Cook's Illustrated
1/4 cup heavy cream plus 2 additional tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups sugar (8 3/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 8 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar (7 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped pecans (about 2 3/4 ounces) (I omitted)
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
pecan halves, toasted
To make the caramel: Combine the cream and salt in a measuring cup; stir well to dissolve salt. Combine the water and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the pan, being careful not to let the sugar granules touch the sides of the pan. Use a rubber spatula to very gently stir the mixture to moisten the sugar thoroughly. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook, covered and without stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear, about 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue to cook the mixture, without stirring, until the bubbles have a faint golden color, 3 to 5 minutes more. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook (swirling occasionally) until the caramel is light amber and registers about 360 F on a candy thermometer, about 1 to 3 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully add the cream to the center of the pan (the mixture will bubble vigorously); stir with a rubber spatula until the cream is fully incorporated and the bubbling subsides. Stir in the butter and vanilla until combined. Transfer the caramel to a large microwave-safe measuring cup and set aside.
To make the brownies: With a rack in the lower middle position, preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 9-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of heavy-duty foil to a length of about 14 inches. Fold the edges back to form an 8 1/2-inch width. With the folded sides facing down, fit the foil securely into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared baking pan, allowing the excess to overhang the sides of the pan. Spray the foil with cooking spray.
Place the butter, bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Microwave for 1 minute at 50% power. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir. Continue to microwave for 30 second bursts until the butter and chocolates are melted and smooth. Stir the mixture after each 30-second burst. Set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder and set aside. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl to combine, then add the sugar, salt and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. When the chocolate has cooled slightly, add it to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and fold it in with a rubber spatula until almost combined. Add the chopped pecans and chocolate chips (if using); fold until incorporated and no flour streaks remain.
Pour half of the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan and use an offset spatula to spread it in an even layer covering the bottom of the pan. Using a measured cup that has been sprayed with cooking spray, drizzle 1/4 cup of caramel over the batter. Drop the remaining brownie batter over the caramel and spread evenly into the corners of the pan with your offset spatula. Drizzle an additional scant 1/4 cup caramel over the top of the brownie batter. Using the tip of a butter knife, swirl the caramel and brownie batter. Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool brownies in the pan on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours.
Heat the remaining caramel (you should have about 3/4 cup) in the microwave until warm and pourable but still thick (do not boil), about 45 to 60 seconds, stopping to stir once or twice. Pour all of the caramel over the brownies. Use a spatula to spread the caramel to cover the surface. Refrigerate brownies, uncovered, for at least 2 hours.
Using the foil sling, lift the brownies from the baking pan, loosening the sides with paring knife, if needed. Peel away and discard foil. Using a chef's knife, cut the brownies into 20 evenly sized squares. Press a pecan half onto surface of each brownie. Serve chilled or at room temperature.