Sunday, November 30, 2014

Brownie Cookie Sandwich with Salted Caramel

For the past several years I have made it an annual tradition to bake holiday treats and distribute them to my close friends and family. At first I started off small, but by now the box has grown to include more goodies. Of course I always try to improve upon the previous year and use the month or so leading up to the holidays to test recipes for potential new additions to the box.

Last year, I tried a few recipes but ultimately was not satisfied with any of them so I left the box the same as the year before. It contained cranberry bliss bars, berry crumb bars, chocolate crinkle cookies, and almond biscotti. I felt as though I was missing some sort of treat in the "caramel" category but couldn't settle on anything to fulfill it.

So for the past few weeks I have been once again testing nutty/caramel recipes, trying to find something new to include in this year's box. In order to get more opinions, I have gotten in the habit of bringing my baked goods to work and seeing my coworkers' reactions. The first item I tried to make was a pecan pie thumbprint cookie. Although it tasted good, I was not satisfied with the filling-to-dough ratio so for the next batch I reworked it into more of a mini pecan tartlette. This time the filling was much more prominent and I felt the caramel and nut combination stood out.

Then I came across a recipe saved on my browser that I had found months ago but had not yet tested. It was for a cookie that resembled the taste of a brownie, with dulce de leche sandwiched in the middle. You know those two-bite brownies sold in the paper bags at most grocery stores...well believe it or not but these cookies taste exactly like them! The cookie was flaky on the outside and chewy on the inside, simply the perfect bite. Rather than use dulce de leche, I just substituted the salted caramel sauce that I had already made for the previous treats but the result was fantastic.

As soon as I took a bite I knew this cookie was exactly what I was looking for, especially with the slightly salty caramel to offset the rich chocolate, and it fit the bill for the holiday box. Unfortunately, since I already have the chocolate crinkle cookies and two chocolate cookies is too much, I think it will have to replace them. So once again I am faced with a dilemma whether to try and find yet another new recipe, probably something with nuts, or to just swap out the chocolate cookies and leave the box with only four types of treats. I still have a few weeks to decide and test some more recipes.

Brownie Cookie Sandwich with Salted Caramel
Note: This recipe makes about 30 sandwich cookies, 60 cookies overall.
  • 300 grams bittersweet chocolate
  • ½ cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¾ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Using a double broiler, combine the butter and chocolate and melt over low heat until completely smooth and thickened. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Combine the eggs, sugars, and cocoa powder and mix on medium-high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume and becomes very thick, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Reduce the speed to medium and the melted chocolate. Continue to mix until well combined. Mix in the vanilla.
  5. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix just until the flour is incorporated.
  6. Drop spoonfuls of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking tray. The cookies don't spread too much so they can be spaced closely together and flattened if you want them bigger.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The tops of the cookies should look cracked but inside they will be slightly soft and under-baked.
For the salted caramel:
Note: This makes more than enough caramel for the cookies so there will be plenty of extra. Another option is to use dulce de leche as the original recipe suggests.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted), cut into pieces
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½-1 tsp fine sea salt
  1. Heat the sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula. The sugar will start to form clumps and eventually melt into a thick amber-colored liquid.
  2. Once the sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful because the caramel will start to bubble rapidly.
  3. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Very slowly, drizzle the cream into the pan while whisking. Once again, watch out for the bubbling and splatter.
  5. Allow the mixture to boil for one minute then remove from the heat and stir in ½-1 teaspoon of salt, depending on how pronounced you want the taste.   
  6. Cool the caramel before straining into a container. Can be stored for two weeks in the refrigerator tightly sealed.
To assemble the cookies: Place half the cookies flat side up. Warm the caramel if directly from the fridge so it is more spreadable (but let it cool and thicken a little as well). Add a teaspoon or so of caramel to one cookie half and top with another. 

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