Well, what does one do with an oven? The fact is that, growing up, we never had an oven at home; in Singapore, and across much of East Asia, the stove dominates cooking to such an extent that I never felt I was missing anything.
Then I went to London, and mostly used ovens to heat up yesterday’s pizza, but then I came across this: a recipe for salted caramel brownies from Smitten Kitchen. After thoroughly enjoying the well-written article, I set my mind on making this brownie.
That was a year and a half ago (thereabouts), and since then I’ve made this brownie a few times, with a few tweaks (there’s enough sugar in that caramel already) for special people, parties and the like. So it only seems fitting that it would be the first thing I make with my black, shiny monster of a new convection oven.
This might be mildly heretical, but I personally prefer my brownies to move more towards the cake end of the Gooey-Fluffy continuum; so the biggest change to the recipe as I make it is the self-raising flour. If you’re more the full gooey type, forego it. If you’ve got your own preferences (and why shouldn’t you), then adjust the ratios however you like. Go live your own life, for goodness’ sake!
Salted Caramel and Cashew Brownies
Makes: A square of goodness, 21 cm on each side. I don’t know how much goodness fits into the average person so it’s up to you.
125 g white sugar
40 ml cream
60 g butter (unsalted, preferably)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes (adjust if using table salt)
2 eggs, beaten
60g plain flour
30g self-raising flour
175g granulated sugar
80g dark chocolate, chopped
115g butter (unsalted)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Making the Caramel
Over a medium heat, slowly melt the sugar. As it melts, it will also lump, so stir those lumps until they melt. Continue cooking the melted sugar carefully until it is the colour of [Editor’s note: that is not a suitable description for a light yellow colour in a culinary context], then take it off the heat.
Chuck the butter in; it will immediately bubble and boil, so stir it in. Then pour in the cream, and the salt, and mix. The mixture will be cooled by now, so put it back on a medium-low heat and continue to cook and stir until it’s darkened by a few shades to a light, toffee brown. Yeah. That’s why it’s called toffee brown, see?
Pour the caramel onto a piece of baking parchment and let it cool for a bit before slinging in the fridge. You want that thing hardened so it can be cut into chunks. Leave it and get started on the brownie.
Brownie Batter. Do not eat at this stage. (Actually, heck, eat at this stage, drizzled with butterscotch sauce, because why don’t you)
Making the Brownie Batter
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. They like to be prepared.
Also, prepare the baking tray. Being hideously lazy I just smear it with butter, but placing baking parchment on the bottom and smearing that with butter is better. Probably.
Over simmering water, place a bowl, and then put the chocolate and butter in. Stir until melted and glossy and gorgeous.
Take the bowl off the heat, and then beat in the sugar, eggs, vanilla essence. Finally, stir in the flour. There should be a bit of resistance in the batter to your movements now. That’s good.
Into this batter, drop the cashews; then take the caramel out, chop it into squares (or any shape). Leave a handful aside and fold the rest into the batter.
Decorate the top of the brownies with the rest of the caramel, and then bake it in the oven for 30 minutes. Let it sit for a bit – it is insanely sweet, gooey, and falls apart if touched warm – before attempting any cutting or manipulation on it.