Salted caramel brownies with salted caramel-dunked pretzels

I realise it’s pretty basic to say love salted caramel, but it really is the cat’s pyjamas…

Last weekend, I made my own salted caramel – you know, just to have – and thought I’d best put it to use pronto to avoid actually eating it from the saucepan with a spoon. Enter my double chocolate salted caramel brownies, topped with salted caramel-coated pretzels (which were indeed, already salted). That’s a lot to take in, I know. All you really need to understand though, is that you will want these in your life/biscuit tin/belly.

Making salted caramel at home is not difficult but there are several opportunities for it to go horribly wrong. It went horribly wrong when I concocted this recipe, but that’s a good thing because now I can tell you what not to do and also how to bring what looks like a hardened lump of burnt sugar back to oozy gooey yummy salted caramel territory. Once you’ve mastered the molten sugar, you’ll make a soft and fudgy brownie mixture that will crisp and crackle on the top while remaining amazingly unctuous in the middle where it matters.

Things to note: when I say ‘mug’, I’m using a mini mug that’s bigger than an espresso cup but smaller than your average tea mug – one of these, in case that’s any help. I used a wooden spoon and a stainless steel saucepan to make the salted caramel, and I baked the brownie mixture in a 20x20cm non-stick tray, which I lined with baking parchment. Don’t forgo this bit and don’t substitute the baking parchment with tin foil – from personal experience, I can tell you that you’ll be picking bits of silver out of your teeth for hours! Also, don’t be tempted to use salted butter for this salted caramel brownie recipe – as the name suggests, it’s already pretty salty and it just doesn’t work. Normally, salted butter would be my preference, but there’s a time and a place and this ain’t it. Lastly, I’ve put ‘room temp’ for a reason. If you use straight-out-of-the-fridge butter and cream the hardened lump of burnt sugar I told you about before will happen. I’ve included a top tip for bringing it back to life should this happen to you, lower down. Just scroll down for the complete recipe πŸ™‚

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Makes 9 large brownies

You’ll need:

For the caramel

1 mug granulated sugar

1/2 mug unsalted butter, room temp

1/2 cup double cream, room temp

1 and 1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

For the brownies

1 mug cocoa powder (Green & Blacks or Bournville is best IMHO)

1 and 1/2 mug golden caster sugar

2 medium free-range eggs

1 mug unsalted butter

1/2 mug plain flour

3 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon black coffee (feel free to drink the rest for your efforts!)

1/2 mug milk chocolate drops

9 salted pretzels

Make the salted caramel first. Heat the sugar in a saucepan on a medium to high heat for about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir it every minute or so to ensure all of the sugar gets a go on the bottom. It should start to form clumps and turn a light brownish colour, and then it will gradually melt until you’re left with a sticky amber liquid.

At this stage, you should remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter. Keep stirring and watch as it bubbles dramatically for about 3 minutes.

Next, pour in the double cream and sea salt. Again, stir continuously. If your cream was too cold or for some unforeseen reason the caramel turns rock hard, gets stuck to your spoon or to the sides of the pan, don’t worry! Turning up the heat a little and continuing to stir should encourage the caramel to melt back down to the runnier form you were aiming for but you will have to keep a close eye on it and keep stirring slooooowly. When you’re happy with your salted caramel, let it cool away from the hob for about 20 minutes while you make the brownie batter.

Preheat the oven to 180 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Either in the microwave or oven, melt the butter and then mix it with the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt, and coffee in a big bowl. Then stir in the cocoa powder, followed by the flour and chocolate drops.

Pour half of the brownie batter into the baking tray, ensuring it reaches all the corners and lies relatively smooth and even, and then pour in about 3/4 of the cooled salted caramel.

Use a spoon to add the remaining brownie batter to the tray, covering up as much of the salted caramel layer as possible – the bits that are left uncovered are likely to crisp and perhaps even burn, so a little will be nice and provide texture but too much and you’ll lose the brownie’s gooey characteristics and have trouble getting it out of the tray.

Bake for 35 minutes, and if a chopstick prodded into the centre comes out clean, you’re done! For a sweet yet salty finish, dip the pretzels into the remaining salted caramel mixture* and scatter them over the cooked brownie.

Let it cool and then carve up with a cuppa.

*The rest of the remaining salted caramel can be drizzled over the top too but I prefer to save it for ice-cream!

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Freelance writer, eater, drinker and cook living in London.

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