Thursday, September 16, 2010

Attempted Caramel Salted Brownies

Well folks.  I'm still in cleaning hell here.  Each night involved more dates with my frenemies: Windex, Swiffer, and lets not forget Dyson.
Yup, I'm still frantically cleaning the house for the arrival of my in-laws! 

Cleaning and prepping has taken up most of my weeknight fun time this week. 
Last night, I couldn't even be bothered to make myself a real meal and instead ate two slices of left over pizza heated in the toaster oven on parchment paper (it's the best way to reheat pizza!).
 With no vegetables, the horror!  I was just too busy to really think about veggies.
Later after more cleaning, I went for a run.  I did 2.3 miles in near complete darkness.  It had gotten late by the time I got out there!
I did it 21:40.

Here's my breakdown:
Mile 1- 9:25
Mile 2- 9:31
.3 mile- 2:43

I downed some water with a splash of Gatorade after.

I'm not sure if this was going on anywhere else in the country yesterday, but here in Charlotte I heard that two places were offering free sweets in honor of the new Top Chef Just Desserts show.

*side note rant* I used to LOVE watching Top Chef when I lived in Virginia.  In fact, I could get sucked in to almost any show on Bravo (inside the Actor's Studio anyone??).  Sad fact- my basic cable down here does NOT include Bravo!  It's considered a somewhat premium channel and you have to upgrade to the next tier to get it, so I've been living without Bravo for about 4 years now.  Sad sad sad.  My only conciliation is that The Next Food Network Star is some what similar and kind of fills the void Top Chef left.  Kind of.

Totally digressed there.  Sorry.  Anyway, where was I?  Ah yes, free desserts.  As luck would have it, one of the participating eateries providing said desserts was Amelies.  Amelies just opened a new location in uptown Charlotte that is fairly close to my building.  So, at the stroke of 1pm, I gathered my nearest co-worker and we headed over for our free sweets.  What would that sweet be?  CARAMEL SALTED BROWNIES! 

Yeah, they are as good as they sound.

I'll wait while you wipe the drool off your mouth.

OMG...  words can not describe the deliciousness....  The brownie was kind of undercooked, in a good way.  The caramel was soft and chewy, and that sea salt is genius.  Pioneer Woman had them when she was in Charlotte and returned home to make them herself.  

Somewhere in my crazy head, I thought that it sounded like a great idea to try making them myself.  Especially with my in-laws visiting.  I could make a batch of these awesome brownies and feed them to my in-laws, thus forever solidifying my awesome daughter-in-law-ness.

I'm a pretty competent baker.  I've been known to make 30-step sugar cookies (I probably won't be doing that again...).  I can make really cool looking pinwheel cookies.  I make an awesome chocolate cake for my hubby every year for his birthday.  I also make that now famous blueberry pie.  Pretty good credentials, right? I'm really not intimidated by much in the baking world.  

Still, in hindsight, deciding to make a semi-complicated dessert when I'm still checking 621 things off my to-do list might not have been the best plan.  

My plan was to make a standard sheet of brownies using my favorite Ghiradeli brownie mix (that stuff just rocks)  Once that was cooked, I'd follow the actual recipe for the caramel.  
Semi-homemade, like Sandra Lee, minus the crazy ;)

Everything started out fine.  I made the brownie base as planned.
MMM, brownies.

  Then I started to tackle the caramel.  One thing the recipe calls for is Gelatin.  Are you aware of what Gelatin is??  Click on the link if you dare to find out.  Ever since I discovered what it is, I've been less excited to eat it.  Actually, to be fair, I've never really been a big jello person.  It's always kind of made me gag, and now I know why.  

Well, in reading Pioneer Woman's post, she did a version with no Gelatin added and said it was fine, just messier.  Messier is ok with me if I don't have to eat animal marrow scrapings.  


This was the sugar dissolving in the water.

The caramel seemed to come out perfect.  It was the right color, the texture seemed right, and I thought this was going to all work out fine.  Then I poured it on to the cooled brownies.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaah.  I think she may have underestimated the need for the gelatin, despite Ree's idea it wasn't needed, because right now I might need a pick ax to get the sheet of Worther's Original type HARD caramel off my brownies!  
This is not the soft smooth texture of the Amelie's brownie caramel.  We're talking rock hard.
Not good!

I'm thinking about putting it in the oven low to see if I can melt the caramel later.
I'm open to ideas if you guys have any!
Any kitchen FAILS you would like to share?

Might be a FAIL though!


Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

I'm sorry they didn't work out! I don't think it was the gelatin, which would have made it set up MORE rather than less. I think the caramel may have been cooked to too high of a heat. Did you use a candy thermometer?

What frustrates me about MANY caramel recipes (including that one from PW) is that they don't give a temperature but talk about things like "amber" or "dark amber" -- that's the same to me as really old cookbooks that talked about a "low oven" -- we need temperatures! Caramel especially is simple with a candy thermometer, and totally prone to epic FAILs without one, in my experience :)

For caramel sauce, cook to around 330 degrees. Here's a chart:

Kristina @ spabettie said...

ha ... I consider my Dyson a friend, not a frenemy... I LOVE my Dyson. :)

I love caramel salted brownies... but ew, if the caramel has gelatin in it I may change my mind. That stuff is horrendous (I didn't dare click your link)...

I just love adding sea salt to sweet.

We recently "opted out" of cable.. and truly the only one I miss is Bravo. *tear*.

I hope the brownies turn out okay!! :)

Ashley and Nate said...

I have had some pretty awesome kitchen fails... like the time I added gelatin (which I don't normally do) to homemade cranberry sauce one Thanksgiving, and we ended up having these gooey/chunky/sticky bites of gelatin in each bite... yum.

I have also been in cleaning hell the past few days! My husband and I moved out of our apartment, which we had been in for 2 years, so I cleaned the heck out of it to try and avoid any charges. :) Not so fun.

Bummer about the homemade caramel... it sounds so good, and now I really want some brownies.

Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said...

Brittany, here's a good temperature-including recipe for caramel sauce. It's liquidy at first, gets gooey in the fridge, and then gets softer as it sits at room temp. I think it'd be perfect for brownie tops!

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture boils and sugar dissolves, washing down sides of pan often with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until sugar turns dark amber (about 345 degrees on a candy thermometer), 5 to 7 minutes more. Immediately remove from heat, and carefully whisk in 1/2 cup cream. Return to medium heat, and cook until sugar melts completely and mixture boils.

Remove from heat, and pour into a bowl set in ice-water bath. Let caramel cool, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Stir in creme fraiche, vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

Brittney said...

Thanks so much Julie! I will try that if I ever attempt caramel again! :)

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