One of my favorite cookbooks to come out in recent years is Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. When I heard that the proprietors of Baked bakery in Brooklyn were coming out with a second cookbook, I pre-ordered Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented as soon as I could -- and it finally arrived a couple of weeks ago!
I decided that the first recipe I wanted to try was the Sweet & Salty Brownie. The Sweet and Salty Cake recipe from the first Baked cookbook is really delicious, and this brownie recipe includes the exact same salted caramel made from sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream, fleur de sel, and sour cream.
The brownie itself is made from flour, salt, cocoa, chocolate, unsalted butter, sugar, light brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. The recipe specifies dark chocolate with 60 to 72% cacao content. I made this recipe twice -- once with Callebaut extra bittersweet (70.4%), and once with Hershey's Special Dark bars (45%). I'm happy to report that it comes out just as well with either. To assemble the bars, you spread half of the brownie batter in a pan, drizzle on a layer of caramel, cover the caramel with the remaining brownie batter, and bake. After you take the brownie out of the oven, you sprinkle on both fleur de sel and sanding sugar (which, much to my surprise, actually stuck to the brownie top and didn't just fall off).
The first time I made these brownies, I let them cool at room temperature before cutting. The second time, I put the bars in the refrigerator before cutting. I would highly recommend chilling the bars before cutting, because it makes them easier to cut and allows you to make cleaner cuts with a much neater appearance. The caramel is not really visible as a distinct layer after the bars are cut, although you can most definitely taste the salty, smoky caramel in the finished product. I kind of like the fact that these brownies look fairly ordinary, but deliver a surprisingly deep and complex flavor. These bars are awesome. There was a slightly more intense chocolate flavor in the bars I made with the 70.4% Callebaut, but the bars made with Hershey's Special Dark were also very tasty. I will happily make these with Hershey's Special Dark in the future and no one will notice the difference.
The bars are very fudgy, but I thought the creamy texture was decadent and divine. One warning -- these bars are most definitely salty. For a single batch of brownies in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan, there is a teaspoon of fleur de sel in the caramel, another teaspoon of salt in the brownie batter, and an additional teaspoon and a half of fleur de sel sprinkled on top. In fact, Claire Robinson declared the Baked Sweet and Salty Brownie as her favorite "salty goodness" food on an episode of the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate."
I knew those boys from Baked wouldn't let me down!
Recipe: "Sweet & Salty Brownie" from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
Previous Post: "The Sweet and Salty Cake: Chocolate Cake, Salted Caramel, and a Runaway Ganache," February 8, 2009.