By Gabrielle. Photos by Liz Berget for Design Mom
Woo hoo! The next installment of Dessert for Two is ready to share. And as usual, my mouth is watering at the photos. I’m officially dedicating this post to everyone out there burning the midnight oil on a project — from science fair displays and purging your closet, to term papers, taxes, and building a startup. When you and your kid/partner/spouse/bestie need a late night boost, this recipe will be waiting for you.
Alternatively, I’m also going to give this a big thumbs up for your Valentine’s Day celebrations. In case you need a reminder, Valentine’s Day is Sunday after next, and if you are looking for a way to add a little romance to the day, dessert for two is pretty much perfect.
Liz came up with this month’s recipe, and she had me at salted caramel. Doesn’t it look amazing?
Before we jump into the recipe, I just wanted to mention that I LOVE the enthusiastic response to this new column. Feel free to keep the ideas coming. If you have particular dessert cravings, I want to know about it!
Here’s what Liz says:
I was so happy when Gabrielle decided to turn Dessert for Two into a monthly series because these small dessert portions fit in perfectly with a tradition my husband and I started about a year ago. It’s your basic date night in, inspired by a fabulous cookbook of the same name, in which we put our littles to bed and enjoy a late dinner together in which no drinks get spilled and the topic of conversation is allowed to extend beyond Anna, Elsa, the Hulk, or Tarzan.
Because we are among the dishwasherless, we generally keep these meals pretty simple so we’re not faced with a mountain of dishes at 10 p.m.. On most Wednesday nights, you can find us chowing down on copious amounts of bread and cheese and wine, sometimes talking, sometimes silently letting the brie talk us down from the day’s chaos. We call our date nights Wine Not Wednesdays? mostly because I have a giddy love of puns but also because giving it a name makes it feel official and helps us stick to it more faithfully.
Our meals on nights like these always end in something sweet and indulgent, and a dessert portioned for two is helpful so that it’s not me vs. half a cake the next day. What I usually want for dessert, and really, on any given moment of every day, is brownies. Dense, fudgy, chocolatey-rich brownies.
So I was happy to face the challenge of turning my go-to brownie recipe into something two people could share, but I also couldn’t resist adding some salted caramel to the mix. These brownies are chewy and moist, fudgy and thick. The caramel layer is soft and the sea salt just takes these over the top for me.
Truth be told, I’d say these are brownies make Dessert for 2.5, which works well for our family since I’m pregnant and unceasingly hungry. But with the little you might have leftover, you can treat yourself to a bite or two the next day or maybe even share them with your toddler after lunch the next day.
Whether you’re looking for a sweet treat to end a date night or something to share with your roommate while you count the weeks to spring break, these salted caramel brownies are the perfect treat to share with someone at the end of the day!
Salted Caramel Brownies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup flour
½ cup caramel bits*
½ cup sweetened condensed milk**
generous ¼ cup chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, or dark – your preference)
6 ½-inch cast iron pan or 2 ramekins
*I found that caramel bits as opposed to caramel squares worked best for quicker melting that didn’t scald the sweetened condensed milk in this recipe. Plus, no unwrapping caramel squares!
**Unused sweetened condensed milk can be kept for up to two weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator. Otherwise, it can be frozen for up to three months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. It may need a bit of a whisk if it separates once thawed. I like to use the leftovers for an additional batch of these brownies or in my coffee if I’m feeling indulgent.
Preheat oven to 350°. Line cast iron pan or ramekins with parchment paper that extends up the sides. Spray parchment paper with cooking spray.
Place the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a bowl large enough to fit the batter ingredients. Microwave in 15-second increments, stirring between each increment, until mostly melted. Remove from microwave and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the sugar. Then whisk in the egg, table salt, and vanilla extract. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir in the flour until completely combined.
Spoon a little under half the brownie batter into your prepared pan(s). You want a really thin layer here – a ¼” deep at most. Bake this thin layer for 5-7 minutes until just beginning to look a little puffy.
As it bakes, melt the caramel bits and sweetened condensed milk together in the microwave in 10 second increments, stirring between each increment until melted together and smooth.
Once the thin brownie layer is bit puffy, remove pan(s) from the oven. Pour the melted caramel/condensed milk layer over the base brownie layer, spreading as needed. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over that. Use a spoon to dollop the remaining brownie batter over the caramel and chocolate chips. Use a butter knife to combine the caramel and brownie batter and swirl. Take about a tablespoon of the caramel/condensed milk mixture and drizzle over the top of everything to make the top look pretty.
Return the pan(s) to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Once done, don’t be concerned if it still looks a little gooey and a toothpick inserted in the center doesn’t come out clean. The residual heat of the pan(s) will finish the brownie, and we’re going for fudgy brownies here anyway.
Sprinkle a couple turns of sea salt over the top to taste. Allow to cool slightly before digging in. You can eat this straight from the pan(s) or use the parchment paper as a sling to lift this onto a plate once mostly cooled.
Wow! Thank you so much, Liz. I can not wait to make these. And, I’m totally enamored with your “Wine Not Wednesdays?”. A weekly date night at home sounds wonderful. Especially when half the country is snowed in!