Monday, 12 December 2011

Dark Chocolate and Bitter Cherry Brownies with Salted Caramel Glaze

Now that I’m London-based and taking the train every day, I’ve taken to reading the free papers and after a month, it’s now firmly in my commuting routine. Metro in the morning, Evening Standard during the post-office dash – day in, day out. But on Tuesday evenings, something beautiful happens. For Tuesday’s are the day that Stylist magazine is handed out at choice locations across the UK. It’s a fantastic free women’s weekly magazine aimed at city ladies with, well, style. As one of my lady friends described it, “Stylist rocks. I’d pay for it – it’s that good! But I don’t have to.” Even better.

I don’t pass any of the distribution points on my normal route so I am forced to divert in order to pick up my copy and get my weekly hit. This week, I didn’t manage to detour on my way to a dance class so I ended up coveting a fellow Tube travellers copy for a good twenty minutes – looking lovingly at the cover across the aisle – before she alighted and – RESULT! – left the object of my affections behind. 

This week’s copy was edited by Nigella Lawson and featured a rather emotive image of the lady herself dripping with salted caramel. This would normally be a complete turn-off for me as I can’t really stand the woman (The Boy and I have bonded over our joint disgust of her visibly sexual imagery, la-de-da tones and smug smile) but I turned the page as usual. Surely Stylist wouldn’t fail me, I thought. And I was right.

I liked the entire issue but in particular, it discussed a long-standing point of curiosity for me. Salted caramel. I’ve never been sold on the concept of sweet and savoury combined in this form, which I suppose is pretty strange when you consider that I like sweet chilli sauce, cheese and pineapple on sticks and sweet and sour stir-fries. Nigella wrote some predictably filthy prose about “her obsession” (honestly, the poor girl can’t even write one ‘clean’ page – who else could include “saliva-spurting lips” and “ménage-á-trois” in a food column?) with the stuff but the idea festered with me until I was drawn to try it out. We’d both enjoyed a hint of saltiness in  Source’s Cherry and Salted Caramel Brownie so I thought that I would attempt my own recipe.

Don’t be under any illusion about just how bad these are for you. But the odd occasional indulgence can’t do you any harm. They’re seriously gooey and sticky but can still be eaten with fingers (Nigella-style sultry digit-licking compulsory). Make them a day ahead of time to let the caramel soak in.

Dark Chocolate and Bitter Cherry Brownies with Salted Caramel Glaze
Makes 16 – 20 brownies

For the brownies
100g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk (or cream!)
75g dried sour cherries
50g dark chocolate, chopped

For the caramel (adapted from Nigella's version)
40g unsalted butter
25g soft light brown sugar
25g golden caster sugar
25g honey
60ml double cream
1 tsp sea salt (fleur de sel if you have it) or to taste

-          - Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 20cm square tin with greaseproof paper
-          - First, it’s time to make the caramel. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat with the sugars and honey, stirring occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve.
-          - Once it is smooth, raise the temperature and let the caramel gently bubble up. Keep a close eye on it at this point as it can burn easily; I like to remove it from the heat every minute or so to and give it a good stir to stop it catching. It’s ready when it starts to thicken and darken.
-          - Remove from the heat and add the cream, stirring constantly to combine into a smooth sauce. Once you have done this, take a little caramel on a spoon and set it to one side to cool – if it completely solidifies, add a splash of milk as you want the caramel to be semi-liquid at room temperature.
-          - Scatter the salt over the caramel and stir well to combine. Taste to check the salt levels and add more if you fancy it. Beware that the caramel may be very hot so don’t burn your mouth! Set aside.
-          - Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until fluffy and then add one egg at a time, whisking well between each addition.
-          - Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the bowl and then gently stir in. Add the milk to loosen then fold in half of the cherries and all of the dark chocolate.
-          - Spoon into the prepared tin and level. Using half of your prepared caramel, add dollops to the brownie batter in the tin. Loosely swirl the caramel into the batter but don’t overdo it as it’ll just mix in.
-          - Bake for 25 minutes or until the top has puffed up a little and has set.
-          - Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes then stud with the remaining cherries (I like to squidge them right into the soft brownie but be more decorative if you wish) and then glaze with the remaining caramel.

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