Not too long ago, I found this recipe for coconut caramel brownies on Pinterest… and immediately forgot about it. Then a few months later, the weather turned cold, I got the itch to bake something new and rediscovered it. After a couple of different tests, I ended up with what I lovingly refer to as my crack brownies. I call them that because these are dangerously good and are probably my most requested recipe. You can’t have just one because they are the perfect combination of salt and sweet. There’s something for everyone: a pretzel crust, fudgy brownie, salted caramel, toasted coconut and a chocolate drizzle. It’s like the seven layer dip of desserts.
6 T butter
2 T brown sugar
1 1/4 c pretzels (crushed)
Preheat oven to 350. Line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper. In a food processor chop the pretzels into coarse bits. Melt the butter add to pretzels along with brown sugar. Stir until mixed and press into the pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes (you really just want it to start to stick together).
While the crust is baking, start toasting your coconut by spreading a thin layer of shredded coconut into a pan (you’ll need about 1 – 2cups and I use my toaster oven for this but you could easily use your conventional oven.) Cook at 400 degrees for approximately 2-3 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Watch it while cooking as the coconut will burn easily. You want it to toast until it has a golden brown hue. Set aside.
Now for my shameful confession: I don’t have a signature brownie recipe. In part because I live at high altitude (and brownies are tricky up here) and also because I can’t find one better than boxed Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate. They are simple, cheap and easy to make, plus they have chocolate chips in the mix which helps to give the brownie a fudge-like consistency. So for this recipe, I make a batch and use half the batter for the brownie layer. I either put the other half into a mason jar and freeze it for later, make a second batch of straight brownies or double the crack brownie recipe. So for this layer, buy a box, make the batter, spread over the pretzel crust and bake according to instructions on the back of the box.
About 20 minutes after the brownies have started baking, I start the caramel process so that it can cool at the same time as the brownies. There are several ways to make caramel, I have tried plenty and this is my personal favorite. It’s adapted from a salted caramel ice cream recipe that I adore.
1 c. sugar
4 T unsalted butter
1 c. cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 heaping tsp. maldon salt
Over medium heat cook 1 c. sugar in large dry heavy skillet (mine is 10 inches), stir the sugar with a fork so that it cooks evenly. Once it starts to melt, stop stirring and start swirling the skillet. Allow the sugar to melt until it reaches a dark amber color. At this point, add in the butter stir with your fork until it has melted. Remove from heat. Add in the cream. The cream will cause the caramel to solidify a bit, keep stirring until it has melted back into caramel again. At this point, add vanilla and set aside to cool for 20 minutes or so (until you can touch it without burning yourself). Then add a heaping tsp of Maldon sea salt. Stir until combined and pour over the brownie layer.
Couple of key things I’ve learned about making caramel
+ Take your time and stay alert. Caramel will burn easily if you rush which will ruin the flavor and it won’t come together properly when you add the cream. Once it starts to melt, the next steps happen very quickly. Make sure that you have everything with you beside the stove so you can add them when you need to. This stage will take you 20 minutes or so. Be prepared to stir for that long.
+ Caramel is extremely hot. I know this seems like a no-brainer but don’t try to taste it. I have burned my tongue too many times because I always want to taste it to see if its ready. You can’t. You have to do this based on color alone.
+ Maldon is the best salt for this recipe. I’ve tried Kosher and other Sea Salts but you really need a flaky salt in order to get those bursts of salt that make this caramel so great.
Coconut Layer & Chocolate Drizzle
While the caramel is still setting, sprinkle the coconut over it. The caramel will “glue” the coconut to the rest of the layers. Allow to cool completely. I often start this at night and cover it with saran wrap at this stage and refrigerate it overnight. Then in the morning, I place about 1c. of chocolate chips in a microwave proof bowl and melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals stirring until smooth. Then using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate over the pan. Allow the chocolate to set and then remove the entire brownie from the pan and peel away from the parchment. Cut and serve.
Let me know if you make these! And does anyone have a favorite brownie recipe they want to share with me?