Salted Caramel Swirl Brownies

Kitchen disasters and I have come a long way, baby. Sure, there was the chocolate loaf disaster that provided plenty of ammunition for future postings; then there was the s’more pie that boiled not only the chocolate filling but also my temperature (still waiting on the test results to see if graduate school stress levels had anything to do with that); and I was too embarrassed to tell you about the fifteen batches of chocolate chip cookies that I destroyed before finding a recipe that will forever be mine.

I’m seeing a pattern of problems with chocolate. Say it ain’t so.

I’m pleased to say that, while I have not yet made a full recovery from Kitchen Failure Syndrome, I have certainly rounded the corner from crazy to sane. Normally, when something goes awry, I get so frustrated that my blue eyes turn to red and I chuck whatever deflated, burned, gummy, or tasteless item it happens to be directly into the garbage – many times without removing it from the pan. Seriously, it’s just better than I don’t deal with the dishes right away, there could be many casualties.

I’ve been searching for a recipe for salted caramel cupcakes for quite some time and the results have been lackluster – the recipes either varied greatly while still promising the same taste, or there was some sort of red flag ingredient that left me no choice but to retire the thought to the back of my mind and toss away any hope I had for such a recipe. As it always does, the craving reared its ugly head and I decided to try one of the recipes and hey, maybe it would work! Uh huh.

I gave this recipe a trial run only to find the batter was delicious and golden colored but the baked cakes were so delicate I couldn’t remove them from the pan and each one had a sink hole smack in the center of it. I tried to excuse it by saying the baking powder was bad, but it was brand new – no chance. Thankfully, my mother is the sort of wants to pick the edge off of everything I bake which normally makes me want to scream, but for once it made sense so that some part of the cupcakes could be salvaged.

The saddest part was the caramel frosting – a promising buttercream swirled with homemade salted caramel sauce that never came to be. If we hadn’t lost the vessel to carry those swirls and clouds of fluffy frosting, it might’ve come to see the light of day. Solo and behold, I was left with two cupcake tins coated with sticky bits and crumbs, announcing my shame to the kitchen, and a bowl of burnished caramel. What to do?

Swirl it into some brownies, of course. Silly me.

I used my favorite brownie recipe for these but you should know – they are very, very rich. I packaged them individually and brought them into work where I watched one woman wrap up four of them into a napkin and casually walk out. Four. I think I may have to start regulating the break room…

Salted Caramel Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Baked1 recipe of Baked brownies
(pour batter into a pan, but do not bake – you’ll need to add the caramel sauce first)

Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
pinch of kosher salt or fleur de sel

In a heavy-bottomed, high-sided saucepan, cook the sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stirring with a clean wooden spoon, continue to cook until the sugar is melted and has turned golden amber, about 3 minutes longer.

Carefully pour the cream down the side of the pan in a slow, steady stream (it will bubble and spatter), stirring constantly until completely smooth. It might seize up and clump, but keep stirring – I promise it will thin out. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, then pour the caramel directly into a heatproof bowl and set aside. Once at room temperature, you can refrigerate it for up to a week.

Drizzle about half the caramel sauce over the batter and then swirl with the tip of a knife, scooping up a little brownie batter and turning it over in the spots where the caramel gets a little thick. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs stuck to it. Cool to room temperature then cut into squares.

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