I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. It's a manufactured, consumerist holiday, meant to con us into buying things we don't need and feel things we don't feel... blah, blah, blah, all the things single people tell themselves. Rolls eyes. The truth is that I grew up in a fairly religious Jewish community, where Valentine's Day, just "wasn't done", and that's sort of stuck. Whether single, or in a relationship, it's just never really been a priority for me.This year though, single and all, I celebrated Valentine's Day. Sort of. I went to a party. A housewarming party on Valentine's Day. Most people brought wine. I brought salted caramel brownies, because if I'm going to be celebrating Valentine's Day, there will be chocolate. Cliches are cliches for a reason.
These brownies, man. These brownies are a rom-com in baked-good form. They will (should) win you a kiss in the rain; a run through the airport; a boombox under your window. They are rich with butter, and not too sweet-until you hit the burnt sugar taste of caramel, that is, and then there is so much sweetness it's almost bitter. And maybe that's a metaphor for love, or maybe it's just brownies.
Salted Caramel Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, twice over
For the caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream
For the brownies:
10 tablespoons (140 grams) butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1) Start with the caramel. In a dry saucepan, melt your sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about five minutes it should take on a beautiful, amber color. Remove from heat. Carefully stir in the butter. It will splatter, so stand back. Stir in salt and cream and return to heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until any solidified sugar has melted, and the caramel is a shade or two darker. This should take a few minutes. Remove from heat. Place a square of parchment paper over a plate. Lightly grease the paper and then pour the caramel onto the plate. Transfer the plate to the freezer and freeze until solidified-this can take anywhere from 20-40 minutes, depending on your freezer.
2) While the caramel is setting, make your brownies. Preheat the oven to 325. In a heatproof bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt. Place over a pan of barely simmer water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in the vanilla and then beat in the eggs, one at a time. When the batter looks nice and smooth add the flour.
3) Remove caramel from the freezer and chop into 1- inch pieces. Stir most of the pieces into the batter. Pour the batter into a well-greased 8-inch baking pan. Scatter the rest of the caramel pieces on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.