When you crave fudgy brownies like nothing else matters, sometimes the only way to satisfy this desire is make them for yourself. It is my experience, homemade brownies have just the right texture and flavor that I want. There were too many times I bought a brownie at a gourmet store and they were dry and dull. I guess I am very particular about my brownies. Fortunately, it is not difficult to make good fudgy brownies at home.
Other than the dark chocolate, what I love about making brownies from scratch is I can mix them by hand. It doesn’t take a lot of whisking, whipping or timing, just a good stir to mix everything up. For the novice baker, homemade brownies are a good place to start learning how to bake.
This recipe is from Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownies from her book, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof. Ina’s cookbooks and recipes are very well organized and constructed. You can trust her to present each recipe clearly, accurately and efficiently. Her brownies are dangerously delicious. They have deep dark chocolate flavor with just the right amount of moisture without being gooey. For all brownie lovers out there, chocolate fudgy brownies with rich caramel and flaky sea salt drizzled over the top are a masterpiece. There is nothing that grabs your attention like chocolate, caramel and sea salt all in one delectable brownie bite. This is a happy marriage.
I made two changes to Ina Garten’s recipe. In the original recipe she uses semisweet chocolate chips in the brownies chocolate foundation. Chocolate chips have additional ingredients besides cocoa butter and sugar and I believe should only be used as chips. Sometimes, melted down chocolate chips has a chalky flavor and grainy texture. This is not something I want in my brownies. A bar of good quality semisweet chocolate melted with a bar of unsweetened chocolate gives the brownies a lighter texture and a purer chocolate flavor.
The other change I made is, I use less caramel sauce than she recommends in her recipe. She specifies 5 ounces of caramel sauce to drizzle over the brownies. That is a lot of caramel sauce and looks more like frosting on a cake then a glaze. Feel free to adjust the amount of caramel sauce according to your preference.
Caramel Sauce for Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel
If you are buying caramel sauce, please seek out real caramel sauce. The common brands you’ll find in a super market are mostly made with artificial flavor and corn syrup. You want the real deal to drizzle over your homemade real chocolate brownies. Ina Garten recommends Fran’s, but I also like Cara Sel and Fat Toad Farm Caramel. Fran’s is a company out of Washington that specializes in chocolates. Cara Sel comes from a family run company in the NY Hudson Valley. You can find their caramel sauce in stores all over NY State and on-line. Fat Toad Farm is a family run farm in Vermont and their caramel sauce is made with goat’s milk. All three sauces are delicious artisan caramel sauces you can buy online or in specialty stores. Use any brand you like, but please make sure it is the real stuff.
Often, I make caramel sauce while these brownies bake in the oven. It takes about 20 minutes and is something worth knowing how to make. Loaded fudgy brownies have a lot of dark chocolate, almost 12 ounces worth, plus 6 ounces of chocolate chips. Depending on what brand chocolate you buy, brownie ingredients are expensive. Add another $10 to $16 for a 6 oz jar of caramel sauce turns these homemade brownies into gold.
The caramel sauce recipe I use is from Simply Recipes on the web. It makes caramel sauce using the dry method, which I prefer because it takes less time and I am impatient. Here is a recipe for caramel sauce using the wet method. It takes longer but the sugar melts at an even rate. Also, it does not have butter in it. You need a good heavy-bottom 3-quart sauce pan to prevent the sugar from burning. Follow the directions carefully and please take the necessary precautions so hot caramel does not bubble over your mixing hand.
Tips for Making Fudgy Brownies
- One special piece of equipment you need is a double boiler to melt the chocolate and butter. If you do not have a double boiler, make one by fitting a small heat proof mixing bowl over a 3-quart sauce pan filled with less than an inch of water.
- While melting the chocolate in a double boiler, keep the heat medium-low and make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the pan, or bowl holding the chocolate.
- Allow for several minutes to cool the chocolate before you add it to the eggs and sugar. If the chocolate and butter are too hot, it will cook your eggs.
- Before you add the chocolate chips to the brownie mix, allow some time for the mix to come to a cool room temperature. This insures the chips don’t melt and ruin the brownies.
- Be careful not to over bake the brownies. They are done when a tooth pick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. If you do over bake them they will still taste good, but they won’t be as moist.
Whenever you need to bring a dessert to a friend’s house, a hostess gift, a dessert for a weekend getaway, or a last minute get together, these brownies will please everyone who loves chocolate. I even mailed them as a care package to Taylor in college. Fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel are a family favorite.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Whenever I make Chocolate Pots de Creme or other custard dessert, I have a lot of egg whites looking for a purpose. For years I would throw out the unused egg whites until I learned egg whites freeze well. Now, I freeze the egg whites and pick a time to make one of my favorite desserts, mousse, dacquoise, or meringue cookies. During the winter, I especially enjoy peppermint meringue cookies with their pink swirls and minty flavor. These light and crispy cookies have just enough peppermint flavor and taste as good dressed up with peppermint candies or white chocolate, or as is. They are festive cookies, perfect for the holidays and make a great hostess gift.
It is not difficult to make peppermint meringue cookies, but there are a few factors to keep in mind.
- Eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, but room temperature egg whites get more volume. Separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are just removed from the refrigerator. Make sure there are no traces of yolk in the egg whites. Leave the whites on the counter for 30 minutes to come up to room temperature before making meringue.
- Use clean beaters and bowls. It seems like an obvious statement, but any trace of water, soap, egg yolk, or other proteins will hinder your success at getting silky and airy meringue with lots of volume.
- Add the egg whites and acid or Cream of Tartar together, then whisk the egg whites. Acid, like lemon juice, white vinegar, or Cream of Tartar, are stabilizers and help with the structure of airy meringue.
- Slowly add the sugar to the whites one tablespoon at a time. If you add the sugar in too quickly the egg whites will deflate.
- Pipe the meringue and bake the cookies immediately after you stop whisking the meringues.
- Cool the meringue cookies in the oven after baking. Unless you need the oven to make dinner, it is a perfect air tight space to cool the meringue. I often make meringue at night because meringue take so long to bake, then I keep the meringue in the oven overnight. Once cool, store the cookies in an airtight container on the counter. Meringues do not like moisture and will sweat or get sticky when left out in the air.
How to make the red swirls or stripes on the meringue cookies:
- Method 1 as suggested in the recipe: add drops of red food coloring to the finished meringue in the mixing bowl. Do not mix. Then spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip. Press out the air and secure the pastry bag. Pipe the meringue in a spiral motion and make a 1½ inch (4 cm) circle. This produces meringue cookies with swirly pink lines in each cookie. No two cookies look the same. As pictured in this blog post.
- Method 2: use an artist’s paint brush and paint 3 evenly spaced lines of red food coloring inside and up the length of the piping bag. It will look like three straight candy stripes in your piping bag. Carefully spoon the meringue into the piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip or your choice. Press out all the air and twist and secure the top of your pastry bag. This method produces uniform looking meringue cookies with evenly spaced vertical red lines.
Personally, I like the first method because I love the pink swirls in each cookie, and I don’t have to worry about messing up the painted lines while I am spooning the meringue into the piping bag. If you don’t own piping tips and a pastry bag, plastic bags work just as well. See recipe description for instructions.
Toppings for your Peppermint Meringue Cookies
- Make the cookies as the recipe states without extra decoration. The peppermint flavor is pronounced, and the meringue cookie is light and crispy.
- For a little extra crunch, add crushed peppermint candy to the meringue cookie batter. And/or sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the meringue cookies before you place them in the oven.
- Dip the bottom or top of cooled meringue cookies in melted white chocolate, then coat the white chocolate bottoms with crushed peppermint candy or coconut flakes.
There are endless possibilities for decorating and personalizing your meringue cookies. If peppermint is not your thing, fold in a couple of tablespoons of freeze-dried coffee granules into meringue. The coffee granules will create a subtle swirly pattern of coffee-colored meringue in each cookie. The coffee meringue will also taste great dipped in white chocolate. Or flavor with lemon extract, orange blossom water, or rose water and minced pistachios.
This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit. I use their piping technique, but I slightly changed the ingredients. These cookies are great as is, but I love the peppermint meringue cookies dipped in white chocolate and peppermint candy. The white chocolate adds a creamy texture and taste against the crispy and minty meringues. These airy cookies are a real crowd pleaser.
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
What do you get when you combine, rolled oats, sun-dried raisins, butterscotch chips, dark chocolate chips and cinnamon? You have everything but the kitchen sink oatmeal cookies. This recipe is a family favorite and one of our staple cookie recipes. Kitchen sink oatmeal cookies have stood the test of time and saw this family through growth spurts, swim meets, birthdays, snow days, fun days, and holidays.
I got this recipe about 19 years ago from a friend. Our children were in nursery school together and it was her turn to bring the school snack. I can still hear Jane’s friendly voice telling me about her cookies.
Me: “What are these cookies? They are delicious.”
Jane: “They are Kitchen Sink Cookies.”
Me: Perplexed and speechless as I tried to grasp the meaning behind naming cookies after a kitchen sink. Certainly, my kitchen sink was not an appetizing sight, especially after making cookies. Obviously, I was not to date with familiar expressions.
Jane: Seeing my befuddled expression rescues me from my confusion and with a joking smile on her face says, “They’re called Kitchen Sink Cookies because they have everything in them but the kitchen sink.”
Me: (LOL) “Oh yeah, I get it. Right.”
With that mystery solved, Jane gladly shared her recipe.
The real surprise inside these oatmeal cookies is the blast of buttery caramel from the butterscotch chips. Even though there is a decent amount of butter, the butterscotch makes everything stand out. Every bite is loaded with surprises. I believe there is no such thing as too many goodies mixed into cookie dough.
When I make these cookies, I feel like I am not just sharing cookies, but my family’s history as well. This oatmeal cookie recipe begins when my youngest son attended preschool and fills many spaces up to the present. Hopefully, there will be several opportunities to share these oatmeal cookies in the future. Every time I make these cookies, clear memories of each of my sons come to mind. It is one of the great things about homemade cookies. Not only do they bring joy, but they share a story of life well lived.
One memory I have, and it always gives me a laugh, is from Andrew’s college years. You would think nothing would outshine cute preschoolers eating cookies with their classmates, but imagine college varsity swimmers inhaling a bag of cookies after an exhausting swim meet. That is a sight to see. Think of Doctor Seuss characters with crazy spiked hair and large funnel-shaped mouths, sucking up everything in its path.
After giving Andrew two bags of Kitchen Sink Oatmeal Cookies to share with the team, I noticed everyone seemed restless. The whole team sat on the bleachers, supposedly listening to their coach go over the team’s accomplishments after a triumphant swim meet. However, all the swimmers discretely had their eye on the bags of cookies. Their facial expressions said, “Where’s the cookies?” while glancing back and forth from their coach to their teammates searching for the cookie trail.
I discovered Andrew was on a mission to hide the cookies from his best friend. A person who had no problem inhaling the double batch of cookies in one bite, especially after a swim meet. When I caught up with Andrew I saw a full bag of crumbles, not a full bag of homemade with love oatmeal cookies. I imagined this bag of cookies being tossed about and stuffed into backpacks just to keep them out of sight. Andrew did not mind because with his mission accomplished, that bag of cookie crumbles was all for him.
I really like cookies and for many years always had them in the house. Between myself, Joe, and three sons we easily went through more than one box of cookies a week. If there weren’t any cookies in our pantry, the boys would say there was no food in the house.
We are now better behaved. Several years ago I made a promise to myself, I would no longer buy cookies. If I wanted them, I would make them, or someone else in the family could. I made this promise to cut back on processed food and lose weight. It worked, and over the years I kept this promise 98% of the time. It is not as much of an inconvenience as I first thought.
There is a big difference in flavor and texture between homemade and store-bought cookies. If you are going to eat sweets, then you might as well eat the freshest and healthiest option you can.
Fortunately, when I make kitchen sink oatmeal cookies they satisfy everyone’s favorite cookie requirement. Joe and Andrew’s favorite cookie is oatmeal raisin. I always want some form of dark chocolate in my cookies, and Evan and Taylor are just happy to have them. Making one batch beats buying multiple boxes from the store every time.
Making cookies instead of buying them is an easy promise to keep. I discovered it is not a major production to do. Besides, cookies are timeless and every generation enjoys having fresh made cookies, as they bring out the child spirit in all of us.
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.