Brownie Tasteoff, Round 4: Salty Brownies

So after going through the rounds of classic, superfudgy, and fruity brownies, the fourth and final preliminary round of the brownie tasteoff featured salty brownies.  I only have three salty brownies in my regular baking repertoire, but I wanted to offer a fourth brownie, so I snuck a non-salty brownie into the selections.  Here was the line up.

As with other rounds, I cut the brownies into small slices and asked tasters to try all four, rank them against each other (with 1 being best and four being worst), and score them on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being best).

Brownie A was the Salted Fudge Brownie from Food and Wine.  This is a moderately fudgy brownie with no salt in the batter, but fleur de sel sprinkled on top before baking (because you add the salt before baking, it sinks into the top of the brownie and isn't readily visible the way it is on Brownie B).  Tasters who liked this brownie praised its fudgy texture, simplicity and good chocolate flavor.  However, others noted that this brownie was quite plain in comparison to the others, and some remarked that it was too salty. 

Brownie B was the Sweet and Salty Brownie from Baked Explorations. This is a very fudgy brownie with salted caramel inside, and coarse sugar and fleur de sel sprinkled on top after baking.  Tasters loved this brownie's combination of salty and sweet, submitting comments including, "This brownie just changed my week," "Perhaps the best brownie I've ever eaten," " I like how the chocolate, the caramel, and the salt flavors come in waves as you eat it," and "Omg, the perfect 10!  Brownie nirvana, fantanstic flavor, texture, everything."  However, some tasters found it too salty, or disliked the chewy texture of the caramel. 

Brownie C was the Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownie with Salted Peanuts.  This is a very fudgy brownie with salted peanuts, topped with layers of peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache.  Many tasters noted that the superfudgy texture of this bar was closer to fudge or a candy bar than a brownie (most of them found this to be a minus).  While some tasters liked the big chunks of peanuts, other complained that it was too peanutty (or not chocolatey enough).  Tasters gave the brownie high marks on appearance, and several commented that they were not fans of peanut butter, but nonetheless surprised at how much they liked it.

Brownie D was the Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie with Milk Chocolate Frosting.  Okay, so this one wasn't salty, but I thought it was a reasonable choice to round out the group, since there was already a nutty choice in the group.  Unfortunately, it was a very hot and humid day when I baked these, so the frosting did not set up properly, and these brownies were literally a mess (the brownie and frosting should look like the picture in this post).  This poor brownie never had a chance in the salty group.  Several tasters opined the would have preferred semisweet or bittersweet chocolate over milk chocolate in the frosting, and many complained the frosting was too sweet.  There were also multiple complaints that the pieces of chopped hazelnuts were too large and that the hazelnuts were drowning out the chocolate flavor in the brownie.

The clear winner of this round, without question, was Brownie B, the Sweet and Salty Brownie, which was ranked first by 32 of 52 tasters.  With an average score of 8.72 out of 10, this brownie had the highest overall score of any brownie in any of the preliminary tasteoff rounds, as well as the lowest average rank (1.62).  It was essentially a tie for second place between Brownie A, the Salted Fudge Brownie, and Brownie C, the Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownie with Salted Peanuts.  Each was ranked as first by 9 out of the 52 tasters.  While A had a slighter lower average rank (2.50) than C (2.52), Brownie C had a slightly higher average score (7.83) than Brownie A (7.80).  Brownie D was the clear last-place finisher in this round, with an average rank of 3.23 and an average score of 6.74 out of 10. 

So, up next: the brownie tasteoff finals, which will feature:
  1. The Baked Brownie (the classic round champion)
  2. The Recchiuti Brownie (the superfudgy round champion)
  3. The Chocolate Fudge Brownie with Toffee and Dried Cherries (the fruity round co-champion)
  4. The Mint Brownie (the fruity round co-champion), and
  5. The Sweet and Salty Brownie (the salty round champion).
Stay tuned for the final tasteoff results!

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Anonymous said…
LOVE your salted fudge brownie recipe...I've had it several times! I keep reading about the Baked Explorations one...need to try that soon, but I'm intimidated by the carmel making! The one with peanut butter looks great too!
Louise said…
With the exception of the F&W brownie, I've made all of these salty brownies and have to agree that the BAKED is a superior brownie. I don't know if it's fair to have plain brownies compete against kicked-up brownies, but I'm interested to see what your tasters thought. A couple of days ago, I made a half recipe of the Regan Daley Toffee Cherry Brownies but increased the cocoa to 1/3 cup, used Guittard bittersweet wafers, and added an extra egg. The result was very decadent.
Toni said…
How about a chewy brownie tasteoff? I love Cooks Illustrated CHewy fudgy brownies. The texture is so appealing. It has substance and doesn't taste like dense fudge. I like some gluten action in my brownies. Try them!