Caramel Pecan Brownies

This is the most decadent dessert I know how to make. It is divine. I’ve seen that ATK reprints it every now and again as a “best of the best” recipe, and it is. I got it from the 2007 Best of America’s Test Kitchen Annual, where it’s called “Ultimate Turtle Brownies.” I should note that the caramel is a little tricky. With my electric stove (and because I live at high altitude), I start with the stove at medium until the sugar is melted, I then turn the stove to high, until it gets amber-colored, and then turn it down to medium-high, until it reaches 360 degrees (well, 351 for 4500 feet, where I live). But, once you got it right, it works really well. Enjoy this one!
Caramel Pecan Brownies
For the caramel topping
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I prefer more like 1/2 t.)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the brownies

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 25 pecan halves, toasted*, for garnish

To make the caramel: Combine the cream and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine the water and corn syrup. Add the sugar to the center of the saucepan and gently mix to thoroughly moisten the sugar, taking care not to let sugar crystals adhere to the sides of the pan. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, without stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Uncover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, without stirring but gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the liquid is a pale golden color. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 to 3 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally, until the caramel is a light amber color and registers about 360 degrees on a candy or instant-read thermometer [On my electric stove, this process is quite different and takes longer. See note above. Also, a candy thermometer is pretty critical here]. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cream-salt mixture to the center of the pot, making sure that your hand isn’t directly over the pot (the mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Stir with a whisk or spatula until the bubbling subsides. Add the butter and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Transfer to a medium microwavable measuring cup or bowl and set aside.

To make the brownies: Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the extra foil to hang over the edges of the pan. Lightly grease the foil-lined pan with nonstick spray oil.

Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter and the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely bubbling water, stirring occasionally until smooth; set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, salt and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Add the flour mixture and stir until almost combined. Add the chopped pecans and chocolate morsels, and combine.

To assemble: Spread half of the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan. Drizzle 1/4 cup of the caramel over the brownie batter. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer; spread evenly into the corners of the pan. Drizzle an additional 1/4 cup caramel over the top. Using the tip of a knife, swirl the caramel and batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, 1 to 2 hours.

If necessary, heat the remaining caramel (you should have about 3/4 cup) in the microwave on high for 45 to 60 seconds until it is hot and pourable but still thick, stirring once or twice. Pour the caramel over the brownies and use a spatula to spread the caramel evenly. Refrigerate the brownies, uncovered, until they are fully chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Remove from the baking pan by lifting the foil extensions. Cut into 25 evenly sized squares. Press a pecan half onto the surface of each brownie. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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