Saturday, April 30, 2011

Banana Caramel Brownies

About two weeks ago, a wonderful classmate of mine from Stevens Point posted this brownie recipe on her blog "The Baker Chick" and they have been on my mind ever since. Finding uses for overripe bananas is a perpetual dilemma in our house. There are only so many variations of banana bread and banana muffins I can take. I was really excited to see Audra sing the praises of her successful chocolatey treat and secretly relished the thought of finding a new use for that pesky be-spotted fruit.

Adapted from Audra's recipe at "The Baker Chick"

The Ingredients:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher salt

Banana Layer
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas

Brownie Layer
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
5.5 oz dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

The Process:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and set aside.

Prepare the Caramel :
Melt butter in a heavy sauce pan over medium high heat, add sugar and stir frequently until sugar is a golden brown. As soon as the sugar starts to smoke, remove it from the heat and with caution whisk in 1/2 cup of cream. It will bubble up like lava. Whisk in vanilla and salt. Let cool while you make the other layers.

For the Banana Layer:
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter. Finally, mix in the mashed banana. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

For the Brownie Layer
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.

Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. Add 1 egg to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining egg and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Assemble the layers
Pour the caramel over the banana layer, trying to avoid the edges if possible.
Spoon or pour the brownie batter evenly across the caramel layer. Using a spatula, gently spread it over the caramel to make an even layer over the top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Let cool completely before cutting.

*Baking Note: The individual recipes only called for 25/30 minutes in the oven. For some reason though, these needed a bit more. (Maybe because of the caramel.) Start low and add more time if needed.

I made no modifications to the recipe as written.

The Review:
When Audra stated the caramel bubbles like lava when the cream is added, she was not kidding! Be extremely cautious of the steam that will escape as the cream is incorporated.

I did have some issue with the brownie layer. The batter ended up exceedingly fudge like...almost a cement. The tickness made the batter incredibly difficult to "spread" over the caramel and banana layers. I'm not sure where the error may be likely I accidentally used a full cup of flour instead of the 3/4 listed. So instead, the batter was spooned into little island of chocolate afloat in a sea of caramel over the bedrock of banana.

So as a result, I did not have the beautiful layers that posed Audra's amazing photos. The banana cake swelled up to envelope the spooned bits of chocolate brownie with the caramel bubbling up between. I found mine to be finished baking at 30 minutes...which is odd as my oven tends to need more time for most baked goods.

But you know what...they still tasted absolutely amazing. The chocolate was thick, rich and fudge-y, the banana cake was sweet and cloud-like, the caramel was a complex dance of sugar and salt.

These will be made again!

And if you have a moment, and don't mind drooling a bit check out The Baker Chick. Give her a "buzz" for Foodbuzz and "like" The Baker Chick on Facebook to keep updated on her baking adventures. You won't regret it!

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