Hello world. I’d like to tell you about the most exciting thing that has happened to me so far this year.
First, you must understand that I like to bake and that I have been doing so since I was a little kid when my mom would put a step stool in front of the kitchen counter so I could help roll out and frost cookies with her. As an adult I have become known for my baking– always bringing homemade brownies, cookies, cakes, and pies to celebrate various occasions amongst coworkers, friends, and family, and at the risk of sounding immodest, I have been told that I’m pretty good at it. I once even received a marriage proposal from a gay man after he had a bite of one of my confections. However, hearing it doesn’t mean you believe it so this winter when I saw an ad for a bake-off at the local library I decided to go for it and see if there was any legitimacy to that marriage proposal. The theme of the bake-off? Chocolate. Something I know a lot about.
I wanted to try something a little different from the ordinary and have always been a fan of salty and sweet combinations so I opted to make a fleur de sel brownie. Never heard of fleur de sel before? I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s just salt. Fancy sea salt. From France.
And let me tell you: it’s not cheap and it’s not easy to find in a medium-sized city in the Midwest but I made it happen, and boy was it worth it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning, with butter– where all good things start.
You melt some butter with some chocolate…
…then you mix it with things like eggs, cocoa powder, and sugar:
You also have to make caramel that starts out looking like this:
And ends up looking like this:
Put it all together, sprinkle some of that fancy French sea salt on it:
And bake it:
So how did my first bake-off go, you ask? Well let’s just say, perhaps I should have taken my friend’s proposal more seriously…
Fleur de Sel Brownies, adapted from Salted Fudge Brownies from Food & Wine magazine (recipe by Kate Krader), and Sweet and Salty Brownie from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
- Prep Time 15 Minutes
- Cook Time 38 Minutes
- Servings: 8
- 1-½ stick Butter
- 2 ounces Dark Chocolate, broken into chunks (I used chocolate with 72% cocoa content)
- ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1 ¼ cups Sugar
- 3 whole Eggs, warmed to room temperature
- 1-½ teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup All-purpose Flour
- ½ tablespoon instant Espresso Powder
- 1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel (coarse sea salt)
- 2/3 cup Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
- ½ cup Heavy Cream
- 1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
- ¼ cup Sour Cream
Caramel Preparation Instructions
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the side of the pan. Cook over high heat until the mixture is dark amber in color, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and slowly add the cream and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.
Brownie Preparation Instructions
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place a large piece of foil in a 9-inch square metal cake pan, draping the foil over the edges. Grease foil with butter.
Melt the 1 ½ sticks of butter with the dark chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Whisk to combine. Add the cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla, espresso powder, and flour. Whisk to combine, though be careful not to over mix. Pour three-quarters of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Set aside the remaining batter.
Bake for about 18 minutes then remove from oven. Drizzle about ½ cup of the caramel over the brownies and use spatula to spread around, avoiding the corners of the pan. Put the remainder of brownie batter over the layer of caramel and spread around with spatula. Sprinkle top with fleur de sel. Bake for an additional 18 to 20 minutes.
Cool at room temperature in the pan for about a half hour, then lift the brownies from the pan and refrigerate in the foil just until they are firm. Remove from foil and cut the brownies into 12 or 16 squares.