February 14, 2012

Caramel Brownie Pie

This is it: the third and final day of my Valentine's Day Countdown. Those other two recipes were delicious, but they don't compare to my Caramel Brownie Pie. I made this at Taste of Atlanta 2011, and the entire pie was gone in five minutes. I said it then and I'll say it now: everything good in the world is in this pie. Instead of a regular pie crust, it's a brownie. There's caramel. There's caramel whipped cream. There's more caramel and brownie bits sprinkled on top. How could you not love this pie?

It's pretty obvious that this is a pie recipe. However, there was a little too much batter for the pie pan, so I scooped some into mini muffin tins. They make a great snack, and every chef needs to taste their food!

Let's start with the crust. I had to find a new brownie recipe (that one will remain secret, at least for now) because my old one resulted in sinking brownies. The crust was an inch taller than the middle, and that just wasn't right for an edge-hater like me. I set off to find a new recipe but kept the old one just in case. Turns out that was a good thing. I don't want a slab of brownie as a crust; I want a brownie that has room for caramel on top without it oozing over the sides. I remembered my old recipe whose only "flaw" was that it sunk. A lot. Well, that's perfect for this recipe! You can pour in as much caramel as you want, and it won't spill over!

The secret to a dense, fudgy brownie is using as little flour as possible. If you've ever had a flourless chocolate cake, you know what I'm talking about, so these brownies have just enough flour to hold them together.

The caramel is more of a caramel sauce than a brittle or chewy candy. I personally love the gooeyness and lusciousness because everything melts together when you eat it. I don't want to have shards of glass-like candy, for this recipe at least. Make sure you don't pour all of the caramel into the pie or eat it all before you fold some into the whipped cream and drizzle some on top because it ties all of the flavors together.

That brings me to the whipped cream. Let's be honest; whipped cream from a can or a tub, "real" or not, is nasty. It's full of preservatives, oils, and chemicals, none of which are truly necessary. Fresh whipped cream tastes completely different (in a good way!), and it is so easy to make, especially if you have a stand mixer. You pour in some cream and turn on the mixer and you have whipped cream in minutes. I dare anyone who says they can't cook to make their own whipped cream. The only way you can mess up is by making butter, and that's not much of a mistake if you ask me or Paula Deen. To make it even better, I fold in some of that caramel sauce. Like I said, it ties everything together and sweetens it with more complex flavors than plain sugar.

1 2/3 Cup Sugar
6 T Butter
12 oz Semisweet Chocolate
2 Eggs
4 tsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 2/3 Cup Cream
2 T Powdered Sugar

Combine 3/4 cup sugar, the butter, and 2T water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot butter mixture over it. Stir to combine and chill until just warm.

Heat oven to 325F. Grease a 9" pie pan and line a dozen mini muffin cups with paper liners.

Combine the eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Whisk into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and spread the rest into the prepared pie pan. Bake the pie for 20 minutes and the mini muffins for 15, or until cooked through.

Heat 2/3 cup cream in a small saucepan until warm. Combine the remaining sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium pot. Heat until amber, then whisk in the cream and 2 tsp vanilla. Cool until just warm, then set aside 1/4 cup of the caramel. Pour the rest into the cooled pie crust.

Whip the remaining cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Fold in the remaining vanilla, powdered sugar, and most of the reserved caramel until ribbons of caramel remain.

Spread the whipped cream onto the pie. Drizzle with remaining caramel and crumble on a mini muffin, if desired.

Makes 1 Pie + 12 Mini Muffins
Brownie Recipe Adapted from the Kosher Cookbook for Kids

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