I meant to post this last weekend, but it was a crazy few days filled with boring Quickbooks data entry, a visit to an awesome vertical farm in Laguna Canyon, drinks with my parents, two kids’ parties, a run around Lido Island and a stop at the Newport Beach farmer’s market.
You might be wondering how my paleo-style diet’s going, seeing as how these brownies are not on the menu at all, and I’m happy to say it’s going well. I made the brownies for the Laguna Beach Public Works Department, as they rescued my iPhone from certain death in a storm drain. Yes, I managed to drop my iPhone during a run which, combined with some unfortunate timing, bounced off my foot and straight down a storm drain.
But they found it, and I was happily reunited with my mobile device, after a thorough bath in Purcell. My Pater, who had suggested checking with the city in the first place, mentioned that perhaps I should bake them some cookies in thanks. It should be noted that the Laguna Beach city workers are not allowed to take gifts from locals, no matter how delicious they may be.
That meant that the people who share my serviced office building and my family were treated to some seriously decadent brownies. The Husband warns that they should not be eaten without a glass of cold milk at the ready. I, of course, cannot confirm or deny this, as I’ve been a complete angel for the last 20 days.
The most shocking thing of the last 20 days (of which there will be just 10 more) is that I’ve been teetotal. Yes, dear readers, this might shock you most of all. More than grain-free, soy-free, bean-free, lentil-free and dairy-free, I’ve been off sugar and alcohol and any processed food for these past few weeks. And let’s be honest here: Most of my sugar intake comes from alcohol. And I miss it!
No day did I miss it more than last Sunday when I attended two kids’ parties. I want to say right now that it wasn’t the kids that made me want to drink—surprisingly, in my mind. The first was delightful—getting to meet one of my best friends’ daughter for the first time, and she is adorable and quite serious, in a wonderful way. I was immediately popular with her when I broke out the $2 Target purple and pink bubble wand. Yes, I know how to get the kids to love me!
It was more the backyard party atmosphere and the hot day that made me feel like I was being left out. And, let’s face it, there’s some people on this planet who are just more interesting to talk to after you’ve had a drink. I’d like to point out right now, for all my friends and family reading this, you are NOT included in this list of people of whom I speak.
But let’s get back to the food here. I mixed up a few recipes to get this, as the Caramel Turtle Brownies we used to make when I was a kid called for German chocolate cake mix. That, my friends, is not home made. So I found a great brownie recipe, made some caramel and we were off.
Make sure to cut these in fairly small pieces, as they are truly, madly, deeply rich. Or so The Husband says.
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 can evaporated milk
2 Tbs butter
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (or your favorite nut)
The first thing to do is peel the label off the evaporated milk, ignoring the warning to not boil the can, as that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Place the can in a large pot and cover with at least 3 inches of water. Boil it for two and a half hours.
DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT let the water level get to the point where the can is not fully submerged. IT WILL BLOW UP. And nobody wants to A) clean up a bunch of sticky caramel from their kitchen ceiling and all their cabinets or B) get covered in burning hot napalm-like caramel and be horribly scarred for life.
It’s best to do this the night before so it’s cooled before you start this process. Open the can to find (magically!) delicious, rich caramel. Put this in a pan and heat it slowly with the butter so that it’s nice and smooth and thick, but pourable.
Now make the brownies: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on all sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
Spread half of the batter evenly in the lined pan. Place in the oven and bake for 8-9 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the caramel carefully over the brownie mix, spreading as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts over, if using (and I really recommend at least the chocolate chips), and then cover with the rest of the brownie batter.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.