23 February 2009

Caramel Sea Salt Brownies for Dinner & a Movie

I recently had a craving for something chewy and chocolaty so what better way to thwart off any hunger pains than with a chocolaty treat. It also gave me the excuse to join in on the fun with Marc from No Recipes and Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy for their Dinner & a Movie Event. Each month they will take us on a delicious journey though some of the most gastronomically inspirational films. Each month there will be a new movie to watch which will hopefully inspire you to cook something amazing.

To revel in February, the month of hearts and chocolate, they are watching "Chocolat."
The movie follows a single mother and her six-year-old daughter when they move to rural France and open a chocolate shop, during Lent, across the street from the local church. They are met with some skepticism. They coax the townspeople into enjoying their delicious products,aqnd win them over. Who wouldn't be won over by a movie starring Johnny Depp!!!!

What fits the bill better than the BEST brownies I have EVER come across in all my years of baking!!!!!!!!BROWNIES!!!!!

Brownies come in all guises, shapes and sizes...with nuts, without nuts, swirled with cream cheese, sprinkled with chips, spiked with espresso or even better booze, or just plain chocolate in a million variations. And if this doesn't cure your addiction how's about topped with ice cream and a chocolate sauce!!!

But the most important aspect of a brownie, for anyone who loves brownies, is texture. There are three camps: cakey, fudgy and chewy. I thought my feet were firmly planted in the chewy category but I can be easily swayed by a little chocolate. Just don't overcook them and remember to share. Email me for my address...wink...wink...

Which camp do you fall into? Or do you swing?

1) FUDGY- dense, with a moist, intensely chocolaty interior. I think of it as somewhere between a rich truffle torte and a piece of fudge.

2) CHEWY:moist, but not quite as gooey as a fudgy one. The chewiness seems to come from a couple of different factors: more all-purpose flour, and whole eggs.

3) CAKEY: a moist crumb and a slightly fluffy interior. When I mix cakey brownies, I use a bit of cake-baking technique by creaming the butter and sugar first and then whisking the batter to aerate the mixture and get a light crumb like my Mascarpone Brownies.

After testing, tasting, and canvassing friends and colleagues I have officially, and maybe not temporarily, swung over to fudgy camp for these "caramely, salty, chocolaty" treats... Mari Tuttle's Caramel Sea Salt Brownies. I have been happily converted!!!

I'll say right off the bat that I could never claim to be an expert on brownies—there are so many recipes, and everyone has a favorite. But there are definitely guidelines to follow so that you can make the style of brownie that suits your taste, whether it's cakey, fudgy, or chewy.

a) Start your brownies with melted chocolate. Whether you melt it with butter or not, use the gentle heat of a double boiler—there's no remedy for scorched chocolate.

b) All brownie recipes have enough chocolate flavor to satisfy a chocolate yearning, and they all have similar ingredients. Killer brownies don't need expensive chocolate!!! But because of the different proportions of these ingredients and varying amounts of chocolate, butter, sugar, and flour, the texture of each brownie is quite different.

c) In addition to ingredient proportions, baking time greatly affects the consistency of a brownie, so it's important to be attentive. Fudgy brownies baked three minutes too short can be unpleasantly gooey; chewy brownies baked three minutes too long become tough and dry.

d) Brownies will cook more quickly in metal pans than in glass, which is what accounts for the wide time windows in the recipes. If you're using metal, cooking times will be on the short side; with Pyrex, they'll be longer.

e) For all your brownie recipes, and regardless of the pan you're using, start testing for doneness after 20 minutes of baking. First, press your fingers gently into the center of the pan. If the brownie feels like it's just setting, insert a toothpick near the center.

-Brownies are underdone when smudges of wet batter cling to the toothpick.
-Brownies are just right when traces of moistness and fudgy crumbs cling to the toothpick.
-Brownies are overdone when the toothpick comes out perfectly clean.

f) For uniform squares, flip the cooled, whole brownie out of the pan. You'll have a much easier time cutting neat squares, with the option of cutting off the edges if you want to. Lining the pan bottoms with parchment makes it much easier to get the brownie out of the pan. If you don't have any on hand, waxed paper works, too.

g) Although it's awfully tempting to cut into a pan of just-baked brownies be patient. The flavor and texture of each type of brownie will be at their best when completely cool. Well worth waiting for!!!

Mari Tuttle is owner of Mari's New York, a New York based company that specializes in gourmet artisanal brownies. For more information about her company, please visit her site here .

** Mari Tuttles Caramel Sea Salt Brownies**

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup caramel sauce, warmed*
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease an 8 x 8 square pan. Line with parchment; grease again.Sift flour; measure; resift with salt. Over double boiler, melt butter. Once melted, add chocolate; stir until melted. Remove from heat.

With hand or stand mixer, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together until fluffy and light in color; add chocolate mixture; mix until combined; fold in flour. Pour half the batter into pan; smooth top; pour half the caramel sauce over mixture; smooth evenly; pour remaining batter over caramel; smooth top again.

Drizzle remaining caramel sauce over top, in one continuous zig-zag pattern. Turn pan 90 degrees; with toothpick, drag tip through top caramel and batter layer making same zig-zag pattern.

Bake for 20 minutes, turn pan and bake for 15 minutes more.Remove from oven and sprinkle sea salt on top. When cool, cut into squares or bars. Enjoy!

**Caramel Sauce**
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour sugar into heavy skillet and caramelize over low heat; constantly stirring until it has completely melted and is light brown in color. Remove from heat and very slowly stir in hot water. Don't worry if sugar clumps, it will melt again when you reheat the mixture.Return the pan to medium heat; stirring to melt sugar clumps. Mixture will begin to boil. Continue boiling until mixture thickens and the boil isn't as rapid. Remove from heat; add butter, salt and vanilla. Strain if there are remaining sugar clumps.

Yield: 1 cup
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  1. I just love brownies Val and these look so good! My little princess would love you for these too!!

  2. The Brownies sound very promising! A scrumptious treat! I love this flavor combo...



  3. "Or do you swing?..." I wasn't sure we were talking about brownies...LOL

    I like mine chewy, but they can be tricky. I like the flavour combo behind these...salt and caramel are a perfect marriage.

  4. I am not a Johny Depp fan, but the movie definitely is one of my alltime favorites. The brownies with salt and caramel sounds to-die-for!!!!

  5. I love caramel and sea salt and chocolate together. These look just wonderful.

  6. These sound fantastic! I don't think I could pick a particular class of brownies--I swing both ways, lol!

  7. Good looking brownies......

  8. These brownies sound wonderful. I love the addition of fleur de sel.

  9. I'd give you an Oscar for these val...they are gorgeous. How nice to see SWEET on your blog.

  10. Great brownie tips, Val---very helpful!

    I love the film Chocolat, it's one of my favorites for multiple reasons. Funny though, every time I watch it, I get an insatiable urge to open up a chocolate shop. Does that happen to anyone else?

  11. i dunno, val--sounds like you're an expert to me... :)
    thanks for the tips.

  12. With a title like that I had to hurry over and wasn't disappointed. Yummm!

  13. YUMMY! I love cakey brownies and these sound amazing. I am also a HUGE fan of the movie Chocolat! I could watch it over and over and over again!

  14. These look SO good. I love salty chocolate. I am a fudgy brownie person myself. Mmmm.

  15. I'll take brownies any way I can get them--OK maybe skip the dry ones. These look fab. Everyone is making brownies and it's driving me crazy!!

  16. Wow, we really were thinking alike today. I love brownies as well and these sound delicious!

  17. A wonderful movie, and these brownies look to die for!

  18. Val, these look wonderful. BTW... I'm doing a week of blogging about Blogger Aid in various ways...

  19. I really dig the hint of salt that seems to bring the best out of caramel. I enjoyed the movie, not too chick-flicky either.

  20. Caramel and salt get me every single time. These look wonderful!

  21. Well, hello there possible New Favorite Brownie :) Love the combination of salt and caramel. Caramel needs salt to balance its sweetness. And I'm a fudgy girl, myself. My favorite definition of a brownie comes from Ann Hodgman's Beat This! cook book: "frosting you can pick up!"

  22. Fudgey all the way! Really want to try flicking a bit of salt in cookies and brownies for that zing factor. These sound great!

  23. wow- another great way to add poundage!! Thanks!

  24. Love brownies!!! yummmm....

  25. Oh, yummy, Valli! Brownies are one of my absolute favorite desserts, and I'm in the cakey group! With ice cream, and yep, definitely a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup! lol But I think I could be lured over to the caramely group with a platter of these to tempt me! They look wonderful. :-)

  26. I think I live somewhere between the fudgy and chewy camp...
    These look delicious! I'm always up for trying a new brownie recipe.

  27. OMG Bellini, you already post it yours, I am still in process of making something ....
    Your brownies sounds perfect and delicious.

  28. This is a definite gotta try brownie! Caramel and sea salt and chocolate....yummmm

  29. Mmm caramel sea salt brownies! They sound amazing and look delicious.

  30. the brownies are calling me for a bite, I hope you did leave me a piece... I have to try them soon.
    I like mixing sweet and salt flavours...

  31. OMG - these look amazing!!

  32. Those brownies are calling my name, Val! The sea salt sounds like a nice touch and the caramel just puts it over the top! Thanks so much for sharing these with us.


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