Saturday, 17 December 2016

Salted Chocolate Brownies with Smoky Caramel

Before we start, I apologise for what I'm about to reveal. You might have been trying REALLY hard to banish those hefty Christmas eating habits, and here I am about to ruin it.

There's chocolate... Yep, we all love chocolate... Salted caramel... Yep, that too... And the addition of booze... Now we're talking! Smoky booze at that; hell yeah!

Here we go then; Salted Chocolate Brownies with Smoky Caramel.

Like a magpie, I was drawn towards this diamond of a recipe from Thomasina Miers’ Guardian column just before Christmas (she’s the lady that won 2005’s Masterchef and has since gone on to open up the Mexican street food chain Wahaca). I vowed to make the brownies as soon as I had the chance and, to be honest, I couldn’t wait any longer. I was incredibly good last week; I snubbed the scraps of various cheeses and meats in the fridge, avoided the mountain of Miniature Heroes, and didn’t even touch a drop of alcohol. But, after all that virtuous eating, something had to give, and these luxurious umber squares were it.

The recipe calls for the caramel to be made with mezcal; it’s that pungent smoky spirit from Mexico, made from agave plants. It’s not easy to find in the shops - I’m pretty sure no supermarkets stock it yet - but it’s a good thing to have, especially if you dabble in cocktails at home. Master of Malt stock a number of mezcals, but this entry-level priced bottle seems like a good place to start, Del Maguey Mezcal Vida (70cl, 42%) is £41.83 from Master of Malt. The tasting notes of “smoked almond, a little light peach juice, hints of potpourri and mixed spices with tobacco and cinnamon on the finish” sounds like it’d work a treat for these brownies!

Alternatively, if you don’t want to fork out on a bottle (or simply cannot wait for postage like me) a peaty whisky would work too. The salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper still gives it that Mexican-Aztec feel, just you might have to shake your maracas with a kilt on instead.

Nowhere does peat better than Islay, and you can get the Laphroaig 10YO for £28.00 in Sainsburys, though Tesco have the Isle of Skye’s Talisker Storm on offer for £30.00 (down from £40.00). I sneaked 2tbsp of my other half’s Kilchoman 5YO 2009 Original Cask Strength, but you might have to go for something else as it's been discontinued.

These salted chocolate brownies are perfect as they are, but to spruce them up for a dessert, simply serve them with softly whipped cream. Oh, and if your will power is as low as mine, and you’re concerned you might scoff the lot, you could always freeze some to save for a rainy day.

Let’s do this... Sorry. Not Sorry.


Salted Chocolate Brownies with Smoky Caramel
Makes 20 brownies

For the brownies
  • 240g unsalted butter
  • 240g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 1 large pinch sea salt
  • 1 small pinch ground cinnamon
  • 130g plain flour
  • 4 medium eggs, beaten
For the caramel
  • 4 tbsp whole milk
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp mezcal (or whisky)
  • 1 large pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 large pinch salt
  • 100g caster sugar
Method
  1. Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Grease and line a 20cm x 26cm rectangular cake tin. 
  2. For the caramel, put the milk, butter, mezcal, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Put the sugar and two tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a medium-high heat and simmer rapidly until the sugar melts and the resulting syrup starts to darken in patches. Turn down the heat a little, and swirl the pan around (don’t stir with a spoon) to amalgamate. Once the sugar has turned a very dark reddish-brown (if you overcook the caramel, it will turn black and bitter, but do try to take it far enough to develop some lovely dark complexity), add the contents of the milk bowl and quickly stir in. Whisk over a medium heat until all the ingredients are well combined, pour out on to a baking sheet lined with baking paper (or a silicone sheet), and refrigerate or freeze to thicken.
  3. Now for the brownies. Melt the butter in a medium pan over a low heat. Once melted, stir in the chocolate, being careful not to burn it. Once the mixture goes smooth and velvety, add the sugar, salt and cinnamon, stir until the sugar melts, then gradually sift in the flour, stirring to combine. Beat the eggs bit by bit into the chocolate mixture, until fully incorporated, then pour the lot into the prepared tin.
  4. Remove the caramel from the fridge or freezer, and sink spoonfuls of it deep into the cake mix, until you’ve used up two-thirds of it; dribble the rest on top of the brownies. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake is firm on top but still slightly gooey inside. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares.

You can find the recipe, along with a couple of other alternative dessert ideas HERE.

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