Take brownies, for example. Of course, brownies are a classic American treat. In Baked Explorations, they take the brownies over the top with a subtle inner caramel layer and a sprinkling of salt on top. The end result is very familiar, but with more depth.
I didn't have fleur de sel and instead used Maldon sea salt, which is similarly very flaky. I'm not sure I could recommend any other types of salt as substitutes. Table salt is definitely out, and coarse sea salt or kosher salt is probably too chunky.
Carefully follow the instructions when making the caramel. I burned my first batch.
I love the singular title of brownie instead of brownies. Does that mean we're only supposed to eat one?
Sweet & Salty Brownie
from Baked Explorations by Lewis and Poliafito
For the caramel filling
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream
For the brownie
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60 to 72 %), coarsely chopped
1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the assembly
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar
Make the Caramel
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.
Make the Brownie
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal 9 by 13 inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of the double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.
Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible.
Assemble the Sweet & Salty Brownie
Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use your offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.
Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with fleur de sel and coarse sugar.
Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.
The brownies can be stored, tightly wrapped at room temperature, for up to 4 days.
Don't be tempted to add more than the amount of caramel called for in the recipe. If you build too much of a caramel layer, it more than likely will seep out and burn during baking. You can drizzle your leftover caramel on the brownie post baking if you are a caramel addict.
Brownies freeze well-allow the brownies to cool to room temperature. Wrap them in two layers of plastic wrap-wrap the brownies directly as opposed to wrapping a pan of brownies. Place them in the freezer.
When you are ready to defrost, remove them from the freezer and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Then remove them from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. They should keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.