Sometimes when you’re developing a recipe, you have a very specific image in your head of how you want the finished product to look. This was the case five years ago when I came up with my original Salted Caramel Brownie recipe. I had the most insanely, frustratingly specific idea of how I wanted them to look. I wanted two fudgy, dark chocolate brownie layers with a layer of thick salted caramel in the middle. It couldn’t be pockets of caramel or a faint ribbon of caramel – it had to be a distinct, gorgeous, continuous copper layer of caramel.
No joke, I drove myself crazy trying to accomplish this. Every time I pulled the brownies out of the oven, I’d get my hopes up thinking maybe this adjustment fixed it. But, more often than not, the caramel layer would bake into the brownies and all I’d be left with is the faintest caramel remnant. I was just about to give up, when a seemingly crazy idea popped into my head. What if I created a frozen layer of salted caramel??? This would give the brownies enough time to bake and because the caramel was frozen it wouldn’t immediately dissolve into the brownie layers.
It was my only idea left, so I gave it a shot. I made my salted caramel, carefully poured it onto a small sheet pan, spread it into a thin, even rectangle…….and then shoved it in the freezer and hoped for the best. When it came time to make the brownies, I poured half the brownie batter in the pan then placed the frozen caramel layer on top and then carefully spread the remaining brownie batter on top of that. The baked brownies didn’t look that much different from the outside, so I didn’t know if my idea had worked. But when I cut into them, there it was…….a gorgeous layer of caramel smack dab between the two brownie layers. It was perfect.
These Salted Tahini Caramel Brownies are a fresh update on my original recipe. It’s the same brownie base, but with Salted Tahini Caramel in the middle and some halvah folded in for good measure. I’m on a massive tahini kick lately (not even kidding……I’ve got another tahini recipe coming your way soon) and this seemed like a natural way to give one of my old recipes a more modern taste. These brownies are crazy rich and decadent, so a little goes a long way. And they definitely require a little more forethought than your average brownie since you have to make the caramel layer and freeze it ahead of time. Buuuut they are totally worth it!
Salted Caramel Brownies
Makes 16 brownies
Salted Tahini Caramel
* adapted from Sweet by Ottolenghi
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup tahini (my favorite is Soom)
½ teaspoon flakey sea salt
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
10 oz bittersweet chocolate (anywhere in 70% range will work well), roughly chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup broken up halvah
To make the caramel: Place the heavy cream, sea salt, and butter in a measuring cup and set aside
Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper.
Mix the sugar and water together in a medium saucepan. Over medium-high heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring, increase the heat to high and boil until the sugar turns a dark copper in color (slightly darker than the color of a penny). Don’t be scared here! You want to get a nice deep color on the caramel.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in cream mixture (in will sputter and steam a bit). Add in the tahini and stir until smooth.
Pour the caramel onto the prepared pan and, using a small offset spatula, spread into a thin, even rectangle roughly 6 x 10 inches.
Place in the caramel in the freezer and let chill for at least one hour.
For the brownie: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with a foil sling and spray lightly with vegetable oil.
Sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder and set aside.
Place the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 20 seconds, then stir. Repeat this process until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. On medium speed, whip the mixture until very thick and fluffy and light in color. This can take anywhere from 6 – 10 minutes depending on your mixer.
Drop the mixer speed to low and pour in the melted chocolate/butter and mix until well incorporated. Then add in the dry ingredients and mix until just barely incorporated.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a spatula, gently fold in the halvah.
Assembly: Pour half (if you have a scale – it’s roughly 1 lb 10 oz) the brownie batter into the prepared pan and, using a small offset spatula, spread into an even layer.
Working quickly, remove the caramel from the freezer and place the caramel layer on top of the brownie layer.
Pour the remaining brownie batter on top of the caramel layer and gently spread into an even layer. Make sure all the edges are covered and sealed well.
Bake for 20 – 22 mins, rotating the pan halfway through. The edges will be set, but the middle will still be slightly wobbly. If anything, err on the side of under baking with these brownies! Place the pan on a wire rack and let the brownies cool completely before cutting.