National Post (National Edition)

Scoring brownie points

Chocolate chip’s got nuthin’ on this dessert

- AMY ROSEN

It never hurts to have a few go-to recipes up your sleeve — a fast soup, a great pasta and a signature sweet treat. And while most people may fall back on the fan-favourite chocolate chip cookie, for my money, you will please more people and make more friends with a warm pan of chocolate brownies.

Fast, decadent — you can slice them big or small, or even make them into a nostalgia inducing dessert-in-a-bowl with the additions of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

Some brownie recipes are as easy as a one-pot stove-top method, while others have more ingredient­s and steps than a three-tiered wedding cake layered with lemon curd, Italian meringue and a wrapping of fondant.

This recipe, from Baked Exploratio­ns: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), falls somewhere in the middle. But just like a great wedding or a mind-blowing chocolate hit, they’re worth the effort. And it’s nice to see that some things, like this updated brownie recipe, never go out of style.

SWEET & SALTY BROWNIE, FROM BAKED EXPLORATIO­NS

(Yield: 12 large or 24 small brownies)

For the filling: ❚ 1 cup sugar ❚ 2 tbsp light corn syrup ❚ ½ cup heavy cream ❚ 1 tsp fleur de sel ❚ ¼ cup sour cream For the brownie: ❚ 1¼ cups all-purpose flour ❚ 1 tsp salt ❚ 2 tbsp dark unsweetene­d cocoa powder

❚ 11 oz quality dark chocolate (60% to 72%), coarsely chopped

❚ 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes ❚ 1½ cups sugar ❚ ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

❚ 5 large eggs, at room temperatur­e

❚ 2 tsp vanilla extract For the assembly: ❚ 1½ tsp fleur de sel ❚ 1 tsp coarse sugar The caramel: 1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermomete­r reads 350F, or until the mixture is dark amber in colour (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), six to eight minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool. The brownie: 1. Preheat oven to 350F. 2. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9x13-inch glass or lightcolor­ed metal pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment. 3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder. 4. Place the chocolate and butter in the top bowl of a double boiler, and set it over the bottom portion of the double boiler, which should contain simmering water (make sure the bottom of the top bowl is not actually touching the water). Stir occasional­ly until the chocolate and butter have completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperatur­e. 5. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey. 6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredient­s into the wet ingredient­s until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible. To assemble: 1. Pour half the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about ¾ cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use your offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer. 2. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. To check that the brownies are done, insert a toothpick into the centre of the pan, then remove. It should come out with a few moist crumbs. 3. Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar. Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving. The brownies can be stored, tightly wrapped at room temperatur­e, for up to four days.

❚ Amy Rosen is the food editor at Canadian House & Home magazine.

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