Gold Bar Brownies - made November 17, 2010 from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow (book #12)
Last year, for my nieces' birthday, I baked up a bunch of brownies and portioned them out into goodie bags for them to give to their friends at their birthday dinner as party favors (hey, those are my idea of party favors). This year I suggested to my nieces that we set up a chocolate fountain and I'd prepare stuff like rice krispie treats, sliced bananas and strawberries, pretzel sticks, pound cake, etc and we'd have chocolate fondue for dessert after their birthday dinner. They liked that idea so I'm packing up the chocolate fountain my sister had given me for Christmas a few years ago. However, one of my nieces also asked if I would do brownies again as their party favors for their friends to take home. Never one to turn down a chance to bake brownies for voracious appetites, I was happy to agree.
The request gave me an excuse to try new brownie recipes, always one of my favorite baking endeavors. This one is from book #12, Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow. The original recipe calls for almonds so (of course), I substituted with more chocolate chips. I also substituted dulce de leche for the caramel sauce. However, instead of swirling the caramel through the batter, I spread 2/3 of the brownie batter evenly in the pan, dropped dollops of the dulce de leche on top then covered that completely with the remaining brownie batter. The reason I recommend this way is when caramel (or dulce de leche) is baked uncovered, it tends to get hard and chewy after the brownie cools. The point of caramel (to me) is having that soft, sweet texture. If I wanted hard and chewy, I'd eat a Tootsie Roll. Some of the dulce de leche leaked through the top layer in the last minute of baking - that's okay as that doesn't happen until towards the end of the baking time and the brownie is probably done, the dulce de leche is overheating and that's why it's bubbling over. As long as it's not baked uncovered for too long, the texture will still remain soft.
Note the relatively high amount of semisweet chocolate the recipe calls for. Always use a high quality chocolate. Trust me, it makes a difference in how your finished product turns out and tastes. I used a combination of Valrhona and Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate. Also, because of the high proportion of chocolate, don't be afraid to underbake this slightly. The chocolate will set once the brownie cools. For the toothpick test, make sure there are still moist crumbs clinging to the toothpick when you insert it close to the center. Raw batter means it's still not done, "clean" means take it out right now. This brownie is rich and fudgy. The dulce de leche provides a nice contrast of sweetness to the chocolatey richness. I cut these into squares, packaged them 2 squares to a pack wrapped in saran wrap and placed them in ziploc freezer bags in the freezer, ready for the trip to So Cal for my nieces and their friends.
1 cup caramel sauce (use your own recipe or storebought – I used dulce de leche)
8 ounces (1 2/3 cups) whole almonds (I left out the nuts and used more chocolate chips)
1 pound (16 ounces) semisweet chocolate
1 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
3 large eggs
1 ¾ cups cake flour, sifted then measured
(Directions slightly modified from the original recipe)
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325˚F.
2. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
3. Place the almonds on another baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool then roughly chop into ¼” pieces. Set aside.
4. Finely chop 12 ounces of the semisweet chocolate for melting. Chop the remaining 4 ounces of semisweet into ¼” chunks for chips.
5. Melt the finely chopped semisweet and unsweetened chocolates in a double boiler over low heat. Remove when nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth.
6. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and two sugars until light and very fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the vanilla and the espresso powder.
7. Add to the butter mixture and beat to combine. (I added to the melted chocolate instead to make it easier to combine to something more liquid.) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions and scraping the bowl several times. Pour in the melted chocolate and beat to combine.
8. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the sifted flour by hand until no traces of white remain. Fold in the toasted almonds and the 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks. The batter will be quite thick. Evenly spread the batter in the prepared pan. (I reserved 1/3 of the batter and spread 2/3 evenly in the pan.)
9. Spoon the caramel sauce (dulce de leche) in tablespoon-side dollops over the top. Cover completely with the remaining 1/3 batter. Try to make sure all the dulce de leche or caramel is covered by the brownie batter. Bake for 45 minutes. When tested with a toothpick in the brownie portion (not the caramel), it will have moist crumbs.
10. Let cool in the pan 1 hour. Cut into squares and remove with a spatula. Store brownies in a sealed plastic container up to a week or freeze.