I’m not quite sure when I ate the first brownie but it must have been from a bakery in my neighbourhood. I remember that I was not particularly pleased with its cakey, dry texture and weird tasting walnut. But then, later in my teens, I discovered the Betty Crocker brownie box mix and my world changed. First, it was the astonishing revelation that you could simply add the required amounts of oil and eggs for the box mix, stir, pour into tin and within thirty minutes you’d have a delicious brownie, far superior to those I had eaten at my neighbourhood bakery. What kind of Betty Crocker sorcery was that?!
The neighbourhood bakeries in 80s Singapore were not so adept at ‘western’ cakes and pastries such as brownies, croissants, baguette etc. They were better at making traditional local favourites like pandan chiffon cakes, traditional Chinese pastries and breakfast buns. So a brownie made from an American boxed mix was like fwah!
These days, however, the food scene in Singapore has changed completely. Neighbourhood bakeries, especially traditional ones, are few and far between. They’ve been overtaken by the supersized, air-conditioned malls in almost every estate that are overrun with generic cafés that only sell mass-produced cakes and loaves. Yes. Very depressing indeed.
Also, gone are the days I use a boxed mix to make brownies. In fact, I’ve sworn off them as the list of ingredients are mostly unpronounceable and mostly because I have learnt to make a brownie from scratch since my teens. Why would you need a boxed brownie mix when you could make one with the exactly the way you like it- fudgy or cakey.
These Salted Milk Caramel Fudge Brownies are (yes, you guessed it!) not cakey but very, very fudgy because I do not know of anyone who likes brownies that are more cakey. Perhaps, unintentionally, that is how I have chosen my friends. Chocolate cake is not a brownie. Period.
So, these Salted Milk Caramel Brownies- the best brownies I’ve made and perhaps tasted. I know I’ve posted another brownie recipe but you can never have too many brownie recipes, can you? And these are very chocolatey, fudgy and very difficult to stop at one. The milk caramel veers away from the traditional caramel as it’s from condensed milk a bit like Dulce de Leche but its sweetness is countered by the dark chocolate and that flakey sea salt. Delicious, if I may say so myself! Also, they make a large 35 x 25 cm tray and taste much better the next day and phenomenal the following day as they miraculously become fudgier- a sorcery a Betty Crocker brownie mix would be unable to conjure. So, they’re a perfect sweet treat for a dinner party as you can make them two days ahead and pretend that you worked your arse off that day. Ha! Just make sure you don’t polish them off before your guests arrive. Warm it up in the microwave on high for 10 seconds, add a scoop of good vanilla ice-cream and you’re all set to be the superstar in the eyes of your family and friends.
Salted Milk Caramel Fudge Brownies
- 300g butter, cut into medium-sized pieces
- 300g dark chocolate 50% cocoa, cut into medium-sized pieces (I used Whittaker’s)
- 1 tsp strong instant coffee granules
- 6 eggs, at room temperature
- 170g/ 1 cup soft brown sugar
- 200g/1 cup caster sugar
- 190g/ 1.5 cups plain flour
- 50g/ 0.5 cups dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 can/380g caramelised condensed milk**
- about 100g or 3/4 cup extra chopped dark chocolate 50% cocoa
- flakey sea salt
- Preheat oven to 170°C/ 340°F. Line and lightly grease a 35 x 25 cm tin. Sift flour and cocoa powder.
- Melt 300g butter, dark chocolate and instant coffee granules in a medium bowl, over a saucepan of gently simmering water (bain marie). Stir only occasionally. Cool to room temperature.
- With your kitchen mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, brown sugar and caster sugar until pale and foamy, about 5-6 minutes. This is essential to get a fudgy brownie texture and that brownie crackle ‘skin’ on top.
- On low-speed, add melted butter-chocolate mixture and vanilla extract.
- Add sifted flour and cocoa powder. Gently fold flour and cocoa powder until just combined.
- Fold in extra chopped dark chocolate. Pour into prepared tin.
- Add large dollops of caramelised condensed milk and use a skewer/spatula to make swirls. (Tip: After inserting the skewer/spatula into batter, make large ‘S’ shapes continuously, without lifting. ‘cut’ through large areas of caramel.)
- Sprinkle liberally with flakey sea salt.
- Bake for 35-30 minutes, or until skewer comes out slightly moist still and the brownie has just begun to pull away from the sides of the tin. Brownie will continue cooking while it’s out of the oven.
- Leave to cool overnight in your cooled oven. Trust me on this.
- The next day, use a sharp knife to cut about 24 squares.
- Serve warm with vanilla ice-cream and a tiny pinch of flakey sea salt.
- If caramelised condensed is unavailable in your country, you can make your own. It can be easily made by boiling unopened condensed milk tins in large cover pots, completely submerged in water for 2-3 hours or in slowcookers. Remove their labels and make sure to refill the water so that the tins remain submerged. Also, do not use the tins with the removable pull tab tops.
- Store brownies in an airtight container or freeze them for later. These brownies keep very well for days.
P.S: For those of you mourning the loss/ celebrating the win of the Singapore General Elections 2015, I see no better way to be depressed/jubiliant than with these brownies on your plate, stacked high!