Salted caramel, yes. We get it, it’s amazing, it’s everywhere, if it was possible to be sick of something as delicious as salted caramel, then we would be by now (but we’re not, and we never will be). So no, I’m not claiming that the scattering of sea salt flakes on top of this brownie is revolutionary.
But dig down a layer…into the depths of dark black brownie below. There you will find not only the chewy cocoa base that your heart desires, but also something more. Something with a spiky little kick to it. Salt’s best friend, it’s inseparable table mate, black pepper!
The recipe for these ridiculous Salt and Pepper Caramel Brownies comes from Samantha Seneviratne’s book The New Sugar & Spice. And it is a total beauty, both the recipe and the book. It’s full of recipe’s for ‘bolder baking’ as Samantha puts it, which means a lot of interesting, creative twists on old favourites. And I’m all about those new twists.
Black pepper, for example, brings a fun and delicious lilt to these brownies. Black pepper in sweet things is not as crazy as it sounds, it was a pretty common addition to any of the spice-heavy dishes of Medieval Europe, and is even still used today in a lot of Italian recipes. So that acidic, yet rounded and spiky hit of pepper might seem unusual at first, but it works beautifully with the rich and again, slightly acidic cocoa flavour of the brownies. Add in plenty of chewy brown sugar and butter, and it’s clear this is a winner.
These would be brilliant to give out as gifts, cut into little squares and boxed up nicely, to anyone who is having you over for dinner or just as a holiday thank you. But they are equally good in a little bowl, zapped in the microwave so the caramel melts back into a sauce, and topped with a milky scoop of vanilla ice cream, served as a solitary treat.
Me, I have been sitting at my desk frantically trying to tie up all my loose ends for this year and cramming sticky brownie bites into my face as I type! Is anyone else already feeling that holiday time pressure? Or is it just me? I hate to be a cliche, here, but WHERE DID THIS YEAR GO? Tell me something soothing in the comments, please, I need to calm down!
- 1 stick (115g) butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup (220g) brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup (115g) plain flour
- ¾ cup (70g) cocoa powder
- 2½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp water
- ⅔ cup (135g) caster sugar
- ⅓ cup (85ml) heavy cream
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp sea salt
- To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 160C/325 and line an 8inch (20cm) square tin with baking paper.
- Place the butter and brown sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat until combined. Then add in the eggs, vanilla and salt and beat again until combined.
- Sift in the flour and cocoa, then add the pepper and baking powder, and stir gently with a wooden spoon until just combined. Scrape into the tin, smooth out the top and bake for 16-20 minutes, or until slightly risen, and a skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the caramel, place the water into a large, heavy based saucepan, then pour the sugar into the centre of the pan, making sure the sugar is evenly moistened. Place over a medium heat and cook for about 5-8 minutes. The sugar will melt, boil, and then begin to turn a golden amber colour.
- When the sugar is amber, remove from the heat, and carefully add the cream and butter (it will steam and bubble up a lot). Stir until everything is melted, then place back on the heat and cook for a few minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir in the vanilla, and then set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.
- When the caramel is no longer boiling hot, but oozy and warm, pour over the brownies and spread evenly. Scatter over the sea salt, and then refrigerate until set.
- To serve, cut into small squares.