After the wonderful craziness of my Christmas Holiday I finally have time to post about my yummy Gluten-Free Caramel Brownies that I made for the Boulder County Celiacs annual cookie exchange. I had tried the brownie recipe from the Gluten Free Girl and the Chef blog, however, I wanted to dressed up a bit to qualify for a “holiday” dessert. I went online to do a little gluten-free browsing and stumbled across the Baking Beauties website and found a post about their Gluten-Free Holiday Baking e-book (which I do recommend downloading). Sorry to be posting this a little late for Christmas baking. (But who says it has to be Christmas to bake yummy treats?) The very first recipe listed in the e-book is Turtle Brownies . . . hmmm that sounded worthy of a cookie exchange. So, I decided to adapt the glutenfreegirl brownie recipe to work with my high elevation and to fit a 13×9 pan (her recipe is for an 8×8 pan) and then use the topping from the e-book. My final adapted recipe is at the end of this post.
Off to the store to find caramel and pecans. The Baking Beauties blog recommends using Kraft caramels, and even though I know I could have created a lovely home-made caramel, the simplicity of unwrapping and melting caramels seemed very attractive to me. I would be baking after a day at work and would not have a lot of time. Plus, I knew Kraft has an impressive gluten-free labeling policy and once I saw there wasn’t any wheat, barley, rye or oats listed on the package, I knew I was safe!
Click here to go to the gluten free section of the Kraft website to read more details about their company labeling policies.
Finding gluten free pecans proved more difficult. I went to King Soopers and found only two brands: Diamond and Kroger store brand. The diamond brand pecan packaging stated they may contain wheat due to cross-contamination and when I called about Kroger pecans the rep said gluten cross contamination was likely . . . Well, I certainly did not have time to go to another store so I decided to change my “Turtle Brownies” to “Caramel Brownies”.
Back at home it was time to lay out the contestants. I always grab everything out of the fridge and cupboards before I start for a few reasons. First, I have been burned way too many times by trying to cook a dinner or bake something at the last possible minute only to find halfway through baking that I do not have enough eggs or milk or some other vital ingredient. (Thank goodness for awesome neighbors that have come to the rescue more than once!) The other reason to lay out ingredients is to snap a photo for my blog. I think it is so valuable for gluten-free bakers to share what brands they use. The last reason is I just like to “Rachel Ray It” which is what I call stacking a ridiculous amount of ingredients in my arms and rushing over to put them on the counter top before I start baking.
I started with the eggs and sugar and whisked until I had a silky/whipped texture.
Here I just wanted to show this handy new McCormick vanilla lid with pour spout. I actually prefer Rodelle Vanilla, but McCormick is cheaper and I had it in the cupboard.
This photo is just to show that the label actually states gluten free. However, I noticed something I didn’t notice before, McCormick vanilla contains corn syrup! I am not by any means against corn syrup, but I would prefer it wasn’t an ingredient in my vanilla extract. I am definitely noticing the benefit of becoming more aware of ingredients in my foods since going gluten free.
This might sound strange, but I just love chopping chocolate. I find it very therapeutic. I have no idea if I have proper chocolate-chopping technique, but the way I chopped the Bakers chocolate into “slivers” as the recipe instructed, was a surprisingly smooth and gliding knife stroke which ended with a quick pop at end when I cut through the bottom and hit the cutting board. The wonderful chocolatey aroma wafting up to me didn’t hurt either. Yeah, I know, weird, but I am just falling in love with baking. I just didn’t mind at all that over the course of the night I chopped about 2 lbs of chocolate into slivers!! Oh wait, my husband did help some 🙂 He is pretty good about helping me finish my “baking projects” and still get a little sleep before the next day of work.
Mmmmm. Butter and chocolate.
Into my make shift double boiler. I wonder how many people have real double boilers? This method seemed to work just fine and as my mother-in-law says, the more we can re-use the same kitchen tools for multiple purposes, the better!
Hmm, I thought I liked chopping chocolate, melting chocolate is even better. The texture is incredibly velvety. Now who wants to use powdered cocoa after doing this?
I did especially appreciate my husband’s help with pouring the chocolate-butter into my flour-salt-egg-vanilla and sugar mix while I stirred!
So here I decided to try parchment paper lining the bottom. AFTER I had cut the paper out, my husband asked why I didn’t leave the two ends longer to hanger over as tabs to pull it out later. I asked him why he didn’t ask me that BEFORE I was done cutting! (I did try it my husband’s way next time and it worked like a charm!)
Yumm! (yes, of course I tried the batter)
It came out pretty well with adjustments for altitude and a larger pan, though I did leave it in about 1-2 mins too long and the edges were a little over done.
So, you could stop right here and have a wonderful pan of brownies, but I proceeded on to the topping.
First the caramel and heavy whipping cream.
If you start melting the caramels right when the brownies go in the oven, they are just about melted as the brownies are done.
We poured the caramel right on after the brownies came out and they bubbled deliciously around the sides of the pan. My husband could not believe I snitched a little taste test before the caramel went on; I just couldn’t help it. My habit of “sampling” a bite right after my baked goods come out of the oven, typically before I can even snap a photo, has prompted my new nick name “One Bite Brooke”.
I took the brownies outside into our brisk December night air to cool. The original recipe says to put the brownies directly into an ice bath, but I had a “feeling” that the author was not using a glass or Pyrex pan like I was! Cooling the brownies as quickly as possibly helps aid the amazing fudgy texture in the middle of the brownies and still capture the slight crunch on the outside. I put the pan in the fridge as soon as it was cool enough.
Onto the ganache. I have to admit, when I first read “chocolate ganache” I pictured a professional pastry chef creating an amazingly difficult chocolate masterpiece that someone like me would never have the skills to duplicate in a simple house kitchen. And then I found out that the french term ganache is simply a combination of chocolate and cream. Oh, I can do that!
In this case I used heavy whipping cream and Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and melted them over a double boiler. Simple, elegant and delicious.
Next I took a fork and drizzled some over the top of the mostly cooled caramel. The self restrain it took to take a photo before my husband called me One Bite Brooke again; I’ll tell ya, I’m mighty proud of myself!
The parchment paper sure worked, once the brownies were cold and I (I mean my husband) ran a sharp knife around the edges, it came right out.
My husband peeled off the parchment paper then used a knife that he periodically ran under hot water and they cut well. I later tried cutting another batch and if I didn’t run the knife under hot water, I sure made a sticky mess with the caramel.
These are truly rich and decadent treats! They were a hit at the cookie exchange. I did feel the caramel was a little too thick without the pecans and when I make the caramel version again I will make less caramel and drizzle a little of both the caramel and ganache over the top of the brownies.
Even if you don’t make these with the caramel or ganache topping, you won’t be disappointed. I have made four more batches and experimented with perfecting the recipe for my mile high elevation. My poor husband was stuck with taste testing all the batches. . . Yesterday was my final trial and I knew I got it right when both my mother in law and my husband said, “You got it!! Post it!!! WOW, it’s GOOD!!!” Whew, I believe this is the first recipe that I have changed enough that I feel like I own these brownies! If you were at the cookie exchange and got my recipe, check out this new one that I feel is a little better. They are pretty rich and I can suggest a few alterations if it is too rich for you! These are perfect for chocoholics. If anyone tests this at sea level or anything below 5,000ft let me know how they turned out!
1 stick plus 1/3 cup unsalted butter = 9.3 oz = little more than 13 tablespoons
7 ounces unsweetened bakers chocolate
2 cups sugar (I like evaporated cane sugar, but regular sugar works!)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (79 g) superfine brown rice flour (I measure my flour in grams)
1/2 cup (60 g) tapioca flour
Optional Caramel Topping:
40 Kraft caramels
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups pecan halves (make sure they are gluten free; neither Diamond nor Kroger are safe!)
Optional Ganache Topping:
2oz semisweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Brands I used: (Of course you can use whatever brand you want; these are just examples of gluten-free brands I used.) Challenge Butter, Kraft Bakers Chocolate, Private Selection Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar (Kroger Brand, so I had to call to verify it was GF), Rodelle Vanilla, Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice Flower, Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour/Starch, Kraft Caramels, and Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Before you start: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan (use a metal pan if you have one) or line the bottom with parchment paper for easy removal.
Preparing ingredients: Start by chopping the chocolate into pieces as small as you have the patience for. Slice the butter into small cubes. In a separate small/med bowl, combine the two flours.
Melting the chocolate and butter: Use a double boiler or make your own by bringing a saucepan of water to a simmer and placing a metal or glass bowl over the top of the saucepan. Put the chocolate and butter into the bowl and stir occasionally as they both begin to melt. As they come to a full melt stir constantly until you have a cohesive mixture.
Making the brownies: While you are melting the chocolate, get out a medium-sized bowl and combine the sugar and eggs by whisking rapidly until they are creamed together. Add the vanilla extract and salt and stir well. Add in the gluten-free flour mix and stir. Finally, pour in the melted chocolate-butter mix and stir, carefully, with a rubber spatula, until the mixture has become smooth.
Baking the brownies: Pour the mixture into your baking pan. Smooth the top with the spatula. Slide the baking pan into the oven and bake for 17-22 minutes depending on your oven and pan. I found mine were done at 22 minutes with a glass pan and 20 minutes with a metal air-bake pan.
Finishing the brownies: If you have a metal pan, prepare an ice bath as the brownies are baking. If you are lucky enough to have a large sink, (or are adapting this for a 8×8 pan) do this by filling the sink with ice cubes and 1 inch of water. I have a regular sized sink that is not large enough for a 13×9 pan and I found that it worked to put ice cubes and cold water in a jelly roll pan. When the brownies are finished baking, remove the pan from the oven and place it immediately into the ice-water bath. (Don’t let any water splash up onto the brownies!) Let the brownies stay there until they have cooled completely. If you are using a glass or Pyrex pan, cool the brownies inside or outside depending on which location is cooler. Once the pan is cool enough, cover and place in the fridge. These brownies taste best the next day, after an entire night of refrigeration. That makes the top crunchy, the insides nice and chewy. Can you eat them the same day if you cannot wait? Of course! They just have a slightly different texture.
Optional Caramel Topping: Place unwrapped caramels and cream into saucepan and melt, over low heat (stirring frequently), until smooth. If using pecans, stir them in now, making sure all pecans are coated with caramel. Spread the caramel topping evenly over the still warm brownies.
Optional Ganache: Once the caramel has cooled on brownies, pour heavy cream into a double boiler with the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips. Stir and melt. Use a fork to drizzle over brownies.