I love fudgy brownies. I also love caramel. Well, in this very inclusive recipe, you can love them together!!
These are great to bring to a party. People will ooh and aah over them, asking how you got the caramel to stay just so in the center and, unless you tell them, no one will ever know that they are so-o-o easy to make! You don't even use a mixer! Literally, the most time consuming part is unwrapping all of the caramels!!
What's also really amazing about these brownies is that though they are only made with cocoa powder, yes, that's right, there's no actual melted chocolate bars in these, they are among some of the richest, chewiest, chocolatey-tasting brownies I've ever made! You start by melting butter over a double boiler and then adding sugar, salt and cocoa--
Then you mix in vanilla and eggs. At first the batter will look quite grainy--don't worry--this is right and then after you mix it vigorously, it will turn satiny and shiny. That's when you add the flour, mix a bit more and pour into the pan.
Next comes the artistic portion of this recipe, in which you line up the caramels in 5 rows of 4, so that you wind up with a neat geometric grid-like pattern.
Then all you do is bake them, let them cool and cut into squares so that each brownie has a caramel square in its center.
The combination of chewy chocolate fudginess and chewy sweet caramel is amazing, not to mention the crackly top that forms on these brownies as they cook. My son brought these to a play rehearsal recently and they were gobbled up with amazing speed-gotta love those actors!!
Makes 20 small brownies
Prep Time: 15 minutes: Bake Time: 25-28 minutes
11 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 scant cup natural or Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
20 caramels, unwrapped
1. Line an 8-inch square cake pan with foil so that it overhangs for easy post-baking brownie removal. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. In a double boiler over barely simmering water, melt butter. Add the sugar, cocoa, and salt and stir until the mixture is well blended and hot. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool a bit till the mixture is only warm. Stir in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mixture will look grainy at first, but as you mix, it will turn shiny and thick. Now add the flour and stir it into the mixture until no traces of it remain. Then give it another 40 vigorous strokes with your spoon. Pour into the pan and smooth the top.
3. Making 5 rows of 4, press caramels gently into the brownie batter, so that the tops of the caramels are almost flush with the top of the batter, but not so deep that the caramels touch the bottom of the pan or they may stick. Bake for 25-28 until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges with a bit of batter sticking to it ( I baked for closer to the 28 minutes because they seemed to wet at the 25 minute mark.)
4. Let brownies cool on a rack until completely cool. Lift the edges of the foil and remove the brownies from the pan. Peel off the foil and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. If you like, you can chill these for a couple of hours to make for neater cuts. Using a sharp knife, cut into 20 brownies so that each one has a caramel square in its center. Serve immediately or store chilled in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week. When chilled, caramel may harden a bit, but if you leave them out for a few minutes, the caramel will soften up nicely.
Note: Brownies are based on Cocoa Brownies from Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy by Alice Medrich and on Averie Cooks The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies, http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/03/the-ultimate-fudgy-caramel-brownies.html