Sweet and Salty. Nutty and Chocolately. These brownies, like many that I make, are over-the-top indulgent. They melt in your mouth, make your hand sticky from the caramel and have a lovely salty flavor to cut the sugary overload. Not to be missed!
for the brownies
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso* (optional)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts
1 cup pretzel sticks, broken into pieces
for the caramel
1 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
First make your caramel sauce. It can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in the fridge (note that if it hardens significantly in the fridge, microwave on medium power for 45-90 seconds to thin out again; or set entire jar in a hot water bath about 3/4 of the way up the side of the jar for 5 to 10 minutes).
Add sugar to a large pot over medium-high heat. As the sugar melts, stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. The sugar will liquefy, and then quickly start turning brown. Be very careful at this point, so you don’t create a burned mess. Once the caramel turns a deep brown, stir in the butter and salt. Once the butter is completely melted in, take the pan off the heat, and add the heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
For the brownies: Heat oven to 350F degrees. Make a foil sling for your 13 x 9 inch pan. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces and peanut butter chips.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Then add the topping. Drizzle the surface of the brownies with the salted caramel sauce, then sprinkle an even layer of chopped peanuts and pretzel pieces. Repeat the layers. Let cool for an additional hour before using the foil sling to lift the brownies from the pan. Cut and enjoy!
*the addition of instant espresso won’t make your brownies taste like coffee, it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.