I didn't have Valentine's Day in mind when I made these brownies. I just really wanted some chocolate. The heart shape came about because brown squares aren't terribly photogenic. =) I feel a little like a copycat, posting these Sweet and Salty Brownies relatively soon after my friend Tracey did. I admit, she was the immediate inspiration, but I've actually made them about 4 times in the past year. Unfortunately, until this most recent batch, I didn't manage to take any pictures of them so I could actually post about them. We were too busy eating them. =) The brownies come from a cookbook that I picked up after Christmas last year--Baked Explorations. This was actually was the first recipe that I made from the book. (And I really need to delve into it more than I have so far.) The recipe makes a 13"x9" pan, and since the brownies are really rich, I always cut them small, so there are plenty to share.
To make the brownies, the first thing you do is make a salted caramel sauce. I've mentioned before that I became a much bigger caramel fan after I discovered what a difference it makes to add salt to it. With a full teaspoon of fleur de sel as well as some sour cream, this particular caramel sauce has a complexity to it that I really enjoy. The next step is to make brownie batter. I like mine bittersweet, so I used some 70% El Rey for the chocolate. The recipe also calls for dark cocoa powder, like Valrhona. I prefer natural cocoa; since there isn't any leavening that would be affected, I went with my preference and used Scharffen Berger cocoa powder. Once the brownie batter is made, you spread half of it in your prepared pan--I line my Pyrex pan with non-stick foil rather than parchment. Next you drizzle some of the caramel over the batter, and spread it to form a thin layer. Finally, you top it with the remaining brownie batter, then stick the pan in a 350º oven. (My brownies took 30 minutes to bake.) Once they come out of the oven, you sprinkle the top with a mix of fleur de sel and coarse sugar; I used turbinado sugar for mine.
The verdict? Well, as I mentioned above, these brownies are very rich, and very delicious. I love salt with chocolate as well as with caramel. I also prefer fudgy brownies (as opposed to cakey ones), and these are definitely in my favorite category. Everyone here loved them, as did my coworkers. They've also been a hit at the daycare when I've taken them there in the past.
If you'd like to try these for yourself, you can find the recipe in Baked Explorations. You can also find it all over the web, but I encourage you to check out the cookbook (maybe your local library has it!) since there are lots of other great recipes in it. Hopefully I can manage to make and blog about some more of them soon. =)