I went to the Baked Explorations book signing a month ago and thoroughly enjoyed Matt and Renato's demo of their signature Sweet & Salty Brownie. Any recipe that could be whipped up while chatting candidly with the audience with anecdotes of their baking experience cannot be that hard.
Mixing sweet and salty in dessert is very fashionable in the last few years and I certainly count myself a fan (hello chocolate-dipped pretzels and chocolate-dipped potato chips!). This Sweet & Salty Brownie is based on Baked's Original Deep Dark Brownie (recipe published in their first book or check out David Lebovitz's version with Altoids) with a layer of salted caramel sandwiched in the middle and flurries of fleur de sel on top. Cooking the salted caramel was a breeze, just remember to warm the cream before adding it to the pot of boiling caramel. The addition of sour cream was quite interesting. It adds a bit of unexpected tanginess to the salted caramel sauce. The brownie batter was typical of most fudgy brownies with zero leavening agents. I took care to beat in as little air as possible so the brownies would not turn cakey as the recipe advised. The most difficult part of the recipe was to refrain myself from pouring too much caramel between the two layers. It was such a delicious addition that it was hard to practice less-is-more.
As is my habit, I chilled the brownies overnight in the fridge so it would be easier to cut. When it was finally ready, I was pleased to sink my knife into a pan of moist fudgy brownies. None of the caramel spilled out to the side of the pans so no chewy bits here! Later that day, I served myself a piece with some warm salted caramel sauce and extra pinches of fleur de sel and raw sugar crystals. Each bite melted in my mouth and I particularly enjoyed the extra hits of saltiness from the salt cyrstals. I shared the brownies with coworkers and was a little disappointed that not everyone appreciate the mix of sweet and salty. "The salt was weird" was among the feedback, sigh. My response was "Just brush the salt off the top". On the plus side, another coworker told me him, his wife, and even his toddler daughter all love it. I will probably make this brownie again for more adventurous palates. However, for a crowd-pleaser, I will stick with the Original Deep Dark Brownie.
You can get the recipe from BAKED Sunday Mornings and check out the work of other members too! As for the leftover salted caramel? May I suggest making some Peanut Butter Cookies with Peanut Caramel? The proportions for the salted caramel between these two recipe is very similar. Just eyeball how much chopped peanuts to use to have right consistency for the filling. I was lucky that the leftover caramel from the brownies was the perfect amount to fill one batch of the cookies. However, if you happen to have more cookies than caramel filling, that bottle of Nutella from the last BAKED Sunday Mornings doesn't look too bad either. Life has come full circle.
This is part of my holiday gift 2010 series. See what other goodies I came up with this year!