November 12, 2010

Ultimate Turtle Brownies: Definitely Worth the Effort!

For some time now, I've wanted to make the Ultimate Turtle Brownies recipe originally featured in the May 2006 issue of Cook's Illustrated, and since reprinted in some of their CI/ATK books and special edition recipe collections.   I'm not sure how many times it's been reprinted, but I have it in two different books, and the brownies have even been featured on the cover of at least two America's Test Kitchen products (Special Collector's Edition Best-Ever Recipes and The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2007).  It's easy to see why this is a popular recipe, and why it's been on a couple of covers:  the brownies look downright delicious!

The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2007: The Year's Best Recipes, Equipment Reviews, and Tastings

Well, recently I finally got a chance to make the recipe, and I can say that its popularity is well-deserved.  These incredibly rich and very tasty treats take a little work, but they're worth the effort. 

One of the things that really makes this recipe work is that you make caramel from scratch, both to incorporate within the brownies and to top them.  I'd never made caramel before making these brownies, and I don't think I'd even had a clear idea how caramel was made.  It's really kind of a neat process.

The first thing the recipe directs you to do in making the caramel is to dissolve some sugar in a mix of water and corn syrup, then heat this mixture to boiling.

Just starting to boil.
As it boils, the sugar mixture starts to darken. First it takes on a slightly golden hue.  This hue deepens the longer you cook it, until eventually it darkens to sort of a honey-amber color.

Starting to carmelize:  slightly golden color
Amber or honey-colored
At that point, you stir in cream, butter and vanilla, which darkens the mixture even more and gives it a distinctly caramel flavor.

Once you've made the caramel,  you mix some of it into the brownie batter.  You drizzle some in after you've added half of the batter to the baking pan, then you add the rest of the batter, then you drizzle some more caramel atop the batter and stir it in before baking the brownie batter.   Here you see what the brownie looks like when you take it out of the oven:  rich, chocolate color with some streaks of caramel swirled in.

Then you top the cooked brownies with the rest of the caramel.

Once you've spread the caramel on top, you put the brownies in the fridge for awhile (I let them stay there overnight).  This firms up the caramel topping and the brownies themselves, which makes them a lot easier to cut. 

Once you take them out of the refrigerator, you cut the pan of brownies into separate servings, then top each serving with a pecan half. 

These brownies are pretty small - a 9"x9" baking pan gives you 25 brownies - but they're quite rich, due to the caramel topping, plus the chocolate chips and melted chocolate mixed into the brownie batter.  And they taste great!

I've given several of these to my coworkers.  To a one they've loved them, and two have asked for the recipe.

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