Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Velvety and rich. Utterly decadent. Seductive.
I'm not sure you can even call these brownies - they're so soft and smooth they're almost truffles.
A few weeks ago I found myself in Paul A. Young's Soho shop. As well as buying a box of his chocolates to sample (they were excellent), I bought a brownie. A salted caramel, cocoa nib and white chocolate brownie.
It was so rich, so precious, that I ate it over two days. A slither with tea. A corner for pudding.
The craving set in the moment I ate the last chunk. I had to make some myself.
My quest was made considerably easier by the fact that I'd been given Paul A. Young's book for my 21st birthday. The book has a recipe for bing cherry and coconut brownies. A bit of tweaking and salted caramel and cocoa nib perfection was mine.
I didn't fancy adding in the white chocolate but if you do, I'd go for about 50g of chunks strewn across the top before you swirl. I made double the caramel recipe below to have some spare for another night (and to counteract the inevitable spoons that somehow find their way into my mouth).
I know cocoa nibs aren't always easy to find (I came across some in Whole Foods) but if you can they work brilliantly here - a slightly bitter crunch against all that silky sweet chocolate and caramel.
My friend Becky came over for bread and brownies last night. When we bit into the first pieces our chatter stopped and silence fell. For a few minutes we sat quietly on the sofa, caught by the flavours, exploring the texture. You know food is good when conversation stops and you lose track of your words.
Salted Caramel Brownies
(adapted from Paul A Young's Adventures with Chocolate)
For the caramel:
75g white caster sugar
50ml double cream
10g unsalted butter
1/8 tsp fleur de sel/good sea salt
For the brownie:
100g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
75g golden syrup
275g quality 70% dark chocolate
70g plain flour
small handful of cocoa nibs
Tip the sugar into a big heavy-bottomed pan in an even layer. Place over medium-high heat. Wait until the edges start to liquify then gently start to move the sugar around onto the wet spots to try and get it to melt evenly - don't stir it. Don't worry if it starts to clump a little, it will melt down later. Keep gently moving the unmelted sugar into the liquid bits until you just have a liquid. Keep cooking until it reaches a deep golden-bronze, almost the colour of a penny. Immediately take off the heat and whisk in about 1/3 of the cream to stop the caramel cooking. Keep pouring and whisking until all the cream is incorporated. Add the butter in chunks and the salt and stir until smooth. Pour into a bowl to cool - at the moment it will pour easily off the spoon in thin ribbons.
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F. Line a 20x20cm tin (at least 2.5cm tall) with paper. Get another big saucepan and add the butter, caster sugar, brown sugar and syrup. Heat until everything is melted together then beat until smooth. Take off the heat then add all the chocolate. Stir until melted and uniform. Lightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl then incorporate them into the mix. Finally add the flour and beat throughly until very smooth. Pour into the prepared tin.
By now your caramel should be gloriously thick, as in the picture above. Spoon fairly evenly over the mix then use a knife to lightly swirl it through. Scatter the cocoa nibs over the top.
Bake for 20 minutes then take out and leave to cool. Once cool, put into the fridge overnight or the freezer until frozen solid. Slice up with a sharp knife dipped into hot water and cleaned between each cut. Serve cold, warm or at room temperature - up to you!
(Makes about 16-20 small but rich squares)
NOTE 19/02 - I've found these freeze really well and come out perfect & ready to eat if you like them cold - they've generally firmed over time. I think the flavours have intermingled and improved too.