Here’s what I can tell you: handing out these Salted Caramel Crunch Brownies to a room full of students at the beginning of your food blogging class (the very first class you’re teaching in your entire life) is a terrific ice breaker. You say the words salted caramel brownies and you’ll get a lot of “oh wow” and “yes please” and “omg” – none of that nonchalant “sure, okay” that you might elicit if you brought a veggie platter (with ranch dip).
Eating brownies at the beginning of class means you don’t have to awkwardly sit and try to avoid making eye contact with other people. You can smile at each other, but you might be paranoid of having fudgy brownie stuck in between you’re teeth so you’ll spend extra time running your tongue across your teeth to clean out any chocolate bits. You’ll be lucky that the caramel doesn’t stick to your hair this time. You’ll think that the brownies nudged everyone to be in a more pleasant mood, and you’ll be less nervous. You might even be tempted to hug people whom you just met for the first time.
(Sorry, peeps, if I were creepy and tried to hug you. Also I’m sorry if I talked too fast, I was just so excited!)
So, yes, I brought brownies to a class I was teaching. No, it wasn’t to bribe the students. My co-teachers that night, Melanie from A Beautiful Bite and Debbie from A Little Bit About a Lot of Things, and I planned to bring snacks to class and of course I volunteered to bring dessert. Plus I had to get these brownies out of my house ASAP. Eating them straight out of my freezer was becoming a problem. You can’t blame me.
These brownies are INTENSE. Intensely dark and fudgy. Intensely salty. Intensely sticky. Intensely crunchy. Ridiculous.
I made my latest favorite brownie base – I used dark chocolate cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate, then amped it up with ground coffee, chocolate extract, and chunks of really good quality dark chocolate (Lindt Excellence 70%). Then I topped it with salted caramel – I bought a jar of my favorite salted caramel from Trader Joe’s but of course you can make your own. Then I took some of my favorite cereal, brown rice crisps, drenched that in more salted caramel, let it cool, chopped it into pieces, and then topped the brownies with it. There’s a lot of favorites in here.
I think I was a little heavy handed with the smoked sea salt – the caramel was salty enough as is – so you can decrease the amount if you like. Lately I just can’t get enough desserts sprinkled generously with smokey salt, such as these chocolate chip cookies or these dulce de leche cake balls. But here’s a little secret: if you force me to choose between brownies, cookies, and cake balls, brownies will always win.
Salted Caramel Crunch Brownies
1 1/4 sticks butter, softened
2 large eggs
3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (I used Lindt 70% dark chocolate, chopped into little chunks)
1/4 cup salted caramel (I used Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel caramel sauce)
Caramelized Crunch Topping
1 cup brown rice crisps
1/4 cup salted caramel
2 teaspoons smoked sea salt (or any other coarse salt)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Make the crunch topping first. Spread brown rice crisps in an even layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Warm up the salted caramel sauce by heating for 45 seconds in the microwave, and pour over brown rice crisps. Toss well and let cool.
- Make the brownies. In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter, eggs, sugars, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, chocolate extract, and coffee. Mix well, then stir in flour and salt. Whisk together until smooth.
- Fold in dark chocolate chunks and mix gently until just combined.
- Spread brownie batter in a foil-lined buttered 8x8 pan. Bake 22-24 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in brownie comes out clean.
- Pour salted caramel sauce over brownie.
- Take caramelized rice crisps (it should be cooled and solid by now) and chop up into clusters or break apart with your hands. Place on top of caramel sauce, and sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Let brownie cool then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or freeze for at least 30 minutes before cutting into squares.
If you don't have chocolate extract, just substitute with more vanilla extract.
Thanks to everyone who attended the BCAE class a couple of weeks ago and to friends who sent me all the good vibes! Thanks also to the student who compared me to a Kardashian (I hope you meant Kim? And that it was a compliment?)
Who else agrees that we should start all classes/all meetings with brownies??