Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownies

My daughter has loved a book series about a girl named “Kylie Jean” since she starting reading them in first grade. In one of the books, Kylie Jean Fashion Queen, Kylie’s mom bakes caramel brownies. My daughter has been asking for them ever since. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to comply! (She’s in 5th grade this year. :/ )

The recipe for these super rich, moist and delicious brownies was adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof via Food Network.com. I used large eggs, espresso powder, salted caramel sauce, and omitted the sprinkling of sea salt. We ate them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Decadent. Thanks, Kylie Jean! 🙂

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 14 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 T instant espresso or 1½ T instant coffee granules, such as NescafĂ©
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 to 6 ounces good caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt, such as Maldon (I omitted this because I used salted caramel sauce)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 x 1½-inch baking pan.
  2. Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar.
  4. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together ½ cup of the flour, the baking powder, and salt and add to the chocolate mixture.
  6. Toss the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour in a medium bowl and add them to the chocolate mixture.
  7. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake!
  9. As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, place the jar of caramel sauce without the lid in a microwave and heat just until it’s pourable. Stir until smooth. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies and sprinkle with the sea salt.
  10. Cool completely and cut into bars.

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Chocolate Babka

I have wanted to bake this special cake ever since first seeing photos of it from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem book all over the blogosphere. It always looks stunning and delicious.

This version is an adaptation of the Chocolate Krantz Cakes in Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi from Smitten Kitchen.com. I loved that she had already made this babka FIVE times, and modified the recipe to perfection. Tried and true. Thank you, Deb Perelman! 🙂

Perelman’s adaptations included omitting the nuts, using granulated instead of superfine sugar, large instead of extra-large eggs, and reducing the amount of sugar syrup topping. She also modified the technique for ease. I melted the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and let the dough rise in a proofing drawer as well.

We enjoyed it warm from the oven for Easter dessert. Rich and wonderful.

Yield: 2 loaf-sized chocolate babkas

For the Dough:

  • 4 1/4 cups (530 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (rapid rise)
  • grated zest of half an orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup water (cold is fine) and up to 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter (150 grams or 5.3 ounces), at room temperature
  • Sunflower, Canola, other neutral oil, or cooking oil spray, for greasing

For the Filling:

  • 4 1/2 ounces (130 grams) dark chocolate (I used 72% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • scant 1/2 cup (50 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Sugar Syrup:

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar

Make the dough:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, yeast and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add eggs and 1/2 cup water, mixing with the paddle or dough hook until it comes together; this may take a couple of minutes. (If it doesn’t come together, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass.)
  3. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough.
  4. If using the paddle, switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times. After 10 minutes, the dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If not, add 1 tablespoon extra flour to help this along.
  5. Coat a large bowl with oil (or scrape the dough out onto a counter and oil this one) and place dough inside, cover with plastic and refrigerate. Leave in fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight. The dough will not fully double, so don’t be concerned if it doesn’t look like it grew by more than half.

Make the filling:

  1. In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in powdered sugar and cocoa; mixture should form a spreadable paste. Add cinnamon.

Assemble the loaves:

  1. Coat two 9-by-4-inch (2 1/4 or 1 kg) loaf pans with cooking spray, oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper.
  2. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, likely 10 to 12 inches.
  3. Spread half of chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around.
  4. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log.
  5. Transfer the log to a plastic wrap-lined, rimmed baking tray. Place in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. (This allows the log to be cut in half more easily.) Repeat with second dough.
  6. Trim last 1/2-inch off each end of log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. (The dough will fill in any gaps by the time it’s done rising and baking, so don’t worry if the pan isn’t filled.) Note: Next time I would try crossing the dough more than once, if possible.
  7. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a proofing drawer or at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.

Bake and finish cakes:

  1. Heat oven to 375°F (190°C), preferably on convection.
  2. Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. A skewer inserted into an underbaked babka will feel stretchy/rubbery inside and may come back with dough on it. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance. If your babka needs more time, put it back, 5 minutes at a time then re-test. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil.

While the babkas are baking, make the sugar syrup:

  1. Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat.
  2. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right — glossy and moist.
  3. Let babkas cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating. (or serve warm!)

Do ahead: Babkas keep for a few days at room temperature. Reheat prior to serving, if desired. If longer, freeze them. They freeze and defrost well.

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Red Velvet Brownies

I think that all I have to say is that I’ve already made these wonderful brownies three times before posting them! They are a great modification of the classic Southern cake- including the essential cream cheese frosting.

The recipe was adapted from Fat Witch Bake Sale by Patricia Helding with Lucy Baker. Fat Witch Bakery is a family favorite NYC bakery, and one of the first we visited after moving to New York. I used semi-sweet instead of milk chocolate chips, lined the baking pan with parchment paper, and modified the baking time for a convection oven.

I contemplated omitting the red food coloring, but it just would not have been as much fun. (…besides the fact that my daughter had a very strong objection!) 🙂 Yummy.

Yield: Makes one 9×9-inch pan 16 square brownies or 32 triangle brownies

For the Brownies:

  • 5 1/2 T (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T whole milk
  • 1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp red food coloring

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and coat again with cooking spray.
  3. In a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, sugar, and milk. Stir until everything is completely melted.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until everything is melted and well combined.
  5. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined.
  7. Sift the flour, salt, and baking soda directly into the chocolate mixture.
  8. Using a whisk or electric mixture on low-speed, beat until no trace of the dry ingredients remains.
  9. Add vanilla and food coloring and continue to beat on low-speed until everything is throughly combined.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula.  Bake for 22 minutes on convection, or up to 30-35 minutes in a standard oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with only crumbs, not batter, on it.
  11. Cool in the pan on a rack for at least 1 hour. Make sure that they are completely cooled before frosting.

Note: This is a good time to bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature before making the frosting.

To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  2. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. Sift the sugar directly into the butter mixture. Beat until thick and creamy.
  4. Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies.
  5. Transfer to the refrigerator to set the frosting.
  6. Cut the brownies just before serving.

Note: The brownies will keep longer if they are stored uncut. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 days.

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Chocolate-Avocado Pudding

This pudding gets its creaminess from avocados- and you would never know. It’s also made in minutes using a blender- fabulous! I love that it incorporated a vanilla bean and freshly squeezed orange juice too.

This recipe is from Gjusta in Venice, California, via Bon Appetit. Fresh and great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 2 large avocados, pits removed
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Âľ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ÂĽ cup agave nectar
  • ÂĽ cup (or more) fresh orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, optional
  • ÂĽ cup cocoa nibs and/or chopped hazelnuts, optional
  1. Scoop avocado flesh into a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)
  2. Scrape in vanilla bean seeds; reserve pod for another use.
  3. Add cocoa powder, maple syrup, agave nectar, orange juice, and salt and blend to a coarse purée.
  4. With motor running, gradually stream in Âľ cup hot (but not boiling) water; blend, adding more orange juice as needed, until smooth and creamy.
  5. Divide pudding among eight 4–6 oz. ramekins or small bowls and chill (uncovered) at least 2 hours.
  6. Just before serving, whip cream in a medium bowl to soft peaks and spoon over pudding, if desired; top with cocoa nibs and/or hazelnuts.

Note: Pudding can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.

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Outrageous Chocolate Chunk Cookies

IMG_2844

Move over brownies! These cookies are super chocolatey, soft, and chewy. Loaded with chocolate chunks. Quick, easy, and delicious. The recipe for these tasty cookies was adapted from Martha Stewart Living; I melted the chocolate in a double boiler and adapted the cooking time to use a convection oven. I’m ready to make them again!!

I’m bringing these goodies to Fiesta Friday #59 at The Novice Gardener. Enjoy 🙂

Yield: Makes 2 dozen

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 package (10-12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (on convection).
  2. Heat chopped chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Set aside to cool.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high-speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate.
  5. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  6. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 8 to 10 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 12 to 15 minutes in a standard oven. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Do not bake the cookies to a crisp; they are meant to be soft and chewy.)

Note: Don’t worry if the batter seems thin. It should look more like a brownie batter than a cookie dough.

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Fudgy Brownie Cake

Brownies are often considered to be cookies- but isn’t it fun to consider them as a cake?!? Fudgy or cakey (I love it all!!) they are one of my absolute favorite desserts- especially warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side. 🙂 This cake was made with Lindt 70% cacao dark chocolate- AMAZING rich flavor. Super moist and fudgy too. This recipe is from Martha Stewart Living. I adapted the time to bake in a convection oven.

I’m bringing this snow day comfort food to share with my friends at Angie of The Novice Gardener’s First Fiesta Friday Anniversary Celebration (Part 2). Enjoy!!

IMG_2277

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into large pieces, plus more for pan
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (61 to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped (I used Lindt 70% cacao dark chocolate)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth.
  3. Remove chocolate mixture from heat, and whisk in 3/4 cup sugar.
  4. Whisk in egg yolk, then cocoa powder and salt.
  5. Beat egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Raise speed to medium-high, gradually beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and beat until soft, glossy peaks form, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Fold flour into chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula, then fold in egg whites.
  7. Pour batter into pan, and bake until set, about 25 minutes on convection or up to 33 minutes in a standard oven.
  8. Let cake cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Remove side of pan, and dust top of cake with cocoa powder.

Note: Cake can be stored in pan at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap (do not let plastic touch cake), up to 1 day.

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Warm Chocolate Puddings

IMG_8183

I dressed up a take-out pizza and salad night with this special dessert. Just as easy as box-mix brownies and much more fabulous! They are more like mini-soufflĂ© cakes than warm puddings. This recipe was adapted from Everyday Food. I used Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate and topped each pudding with salted caramel ice cream. They would have been just as delicious with vanilla bean ice cream- or coffee ice cream- or no ice cream?!? I’m bringing this wonderful dessert to Fiesta Friday #10 at the Novice Gardener this week. Enjoy! 🙂

  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Ice cream (any flavor), for serving (optional) (I used salted caramel)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (on convection). Place four 6- to 8-ounce ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in 2 tablespoons sugar, then egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Still beating, gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until mixture is stiff and glossy.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, mix about 1/3 egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture just until combined. Divide among bowls. (Puddings can be prepared in advance up to this point; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 day.)
  5. Bake until tops are puffed and cracked but insides are still quite soft (a toothpick inserted in center will come out gooey), 10 to 12 minutes on convection, or longer if puddings were previously refrigerated. IMG_8168
  6. Serve, warm or at room temperature (puddings may sink as they cool), topped with ice cream, if desired.

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