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Nailed it, or failed it? –Salted Caramel and Milk Chocolate Brownies from Half Baked Harvest

So I’ve been dying to try these brownies since Half Baked Harvest put them on her instagram in December, and finally got around to it today. I love Half Baked Harvest, and strive to come up with, or at least try, some inventive and original ideas like what she has on her blog daily (seriously, she puts new content up all the time, check her out), so this is in no way an opinion on her blog itself, only these brownies.

So here’s a full review of this recipe, from an unbiased source with medium baking skills:

I had some serious troubles making the caramel. The recipe said to melt the sugar over medium heat until golden brown, which takes about 8 minutes. I’m not sure if I misunderstood it or not (I figured it was 8 minutes from turning the heat on until I had a melty golden brown sugar), but that was not the case. This could be because I have an induction cooktop and I think she uses gas burners, but I have no idea how those stack up against each other. After 8 minutes of stirring, the sugar was just starting to melt, and I even turned it up a little bit. Then, I added the butter, which took quite a while to incorporate, and then the cream. Now here is one mishap that I blame completely on myself: the recipe said to slowly stir in the cream. I started doing it slowly, and then got impatient and poured most of the cream in at once. This led to the caramel mixture to get quite hard, so it took a while to combine. So, if you try this recipe, do not skip over that very important word: SLOWLY. Do a little bit at a time so the cream doesn’t cool down the caramel too fast, otherwise you end up with chunks of hard caramel trying to mix with cold cream.

The last caramel catastrophe is cooking it at the end. The recipe says to cook the caramel until thickened, about 5 minutes. Now, since the old time didn’t work, for whatever reason, I didn’t trust this 5 minute statement. That, and the fact that I had no idea what “thick” is in caramel terms, I think I cooked it too long. I put it in the freezer to set, as directed, and took it out not much longer, and it was quite hard. From the one picture she has of the caramel before baking it in the brownies, it seems like it’s supposed to be like those ones people make at christmastime and wrap in wax paper- chewy and soft. Mine turned out slightly hard, cracking and shattering around the edges and pretty hard to cut in the middle. For those of you who are wondering- “did you leave it in the freezer too long?” I really don’t think I did. When I took it out, the caramel was not cold at all, it seemed about the same as room temp. Plus, I left the caramel that I didn’t put in the brownies out while I made the brownies and baked them, and the caramel was still just as shatter-y as before.

Now, for the brownies- no trouble making the batter, but Tieghan is not kidding when she says the batter will be quite thick. Very thick. So much so that it makes it incredibly difficult to spread nicely in a parchment paper lined pan- the parchment paper kept slipping around whenever I tried to spread the batter throughout the bottom of the pan. Now, I don’t have a ton of experience in baking brownies in a parchment paper lined pan, but for your regular amateur baker, this might be difficult.

Now, I got them in the oven, baked them 25 minutes, as indicated, and they were pretty perfectly baked. Tried the edges a little early, despite the warning that you should wait 30 minutes to let them cool, but had no problems cutting them or having caramel oozing out (probably cuz I screwed it up anyway). My thoughts were that the brownies themselves weren’t super sweet, despite the cup and a half of sugar in the batter, and a little too chocolate-y, which is something I never in a million years thought I would say about anything. If I were to make these without the caramel filling, I would probably add some powdered sugar on them or cool whip. The edges weren’t hard, at least when I ate them, but the insides weren’t super gooey either, so I’m unsure whether I over baked them or not. I also thought the batter would kinda thin out and fill out the pan while baking, but that’s not really what happened- the batter stayed mostly how it was when I put it in the oven, so the edges were much thinner than the middle, which didn’t do much to convince me that parchment paper was an entirely good idea.

Final verdict: I’d say 3.5 stars. The brownies were pretty good, but not out of this world good (honestly, I’d rather eat out of the box brownies, but I guess that’s what I’ve always done, so maybe I just don’t know goodness when it hits me). Caramel was slightly challenging. Parchment paper is super annoying. Glad I tried it, but probably won’t be trying it again, at least in the near future.

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