The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

I cheated.

And I don’t feel one bit bad about doing it.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

I’m talking about cheating on my old faithful brownie recipe. It’s a fabulous recipe for fudgy brownies and has served me well since 2009, and I’ve had it on my blog since 2011. Every brownie recipe in my cookbook uses it as the base. The batter comes together in minutes by melting chocolate and butter together in the microwave, whisking in sugars, eggs, and flour. No mixer required, nothing complicated, and the results are fantastically fudgy, dense, rich, and perfect.

So why would I cheat on it? Good question. The simple answer is curiosity got the better of me.

The longer answer is that with cooking, if we only ever stuck to something we liked and never branched out, we’ll miss some gems along the way.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

I cheated on these Chocolate Chip Cookies and was rewarding with finding my favorite new recipe for Chocolate Chip and Chunk Cookies. The old recipe was and still is fine, better than fine; I just prefer the new one. But plenty of people still write saying they made the older recipe and are thrilled.

The same with these Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. A few simple tweaks to an already solid recipe and I now have Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies (gluten-free), my new favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.

Sometimes my favorite recipe for an item is on such a pedestal and almost nothing could trump it, and to try is just an exercise in dishes-doing and ingredients-wasting. Oh, I’ve been there. If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

But I have seen so many adaptations to the Alice Medrich brownie recipe from her 2003 cookbook, Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate.

So many good cooks, websites and newspapers just can’t be wrong. Deb’s version has 763 comments, most of them glowing, so it seemed like a good gamble. The worst thing is that I’d be out of is some cocoa powder.

Yes, this recipe uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. Up until these brownies, I was of the mindset that cocoa powder is totally inferior to melted chocolate and that nothing made with it could ever compare. Well, I was wrong, big time. These brownies are every bit as fudgy, moist, rich, and not at all dry, cakey, or inferior in any way to melted chocolate brownies.

I’m a stickler for fudgy-only brownies with zero traces of cakiness. If they fell short in any way, I’d be the first to say it. Actually, I was almost looking for a reason to shun this recipe and was going out of my way looking for faults, but can’t offer a single flaw.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

These brownies, like my old recipe, are so fast and simple to make. They’re as easy as using a boxed mix. In fact, if you like the taste of boxed mix brownies, you’ll especially love these. There’s some old-school nostalgia that comes from using cocoa powder.

They’re made in one bowl and the batter comes together with a whisk in minutes. Melt butter, cocoa powder and sugar together in the microwave. Stir in vanilla, two eggs, flour, and you’re done. If you’re looking for a short ingredients list brownie recipe that’s foolproof, look no further.

After pouring the batter into a foil-lined 8-by-8-inch pan, press 20 caramels in, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Alice suggests baking for 20 minutes but based on reading literally hundreds of comments on various sites from people who’ve made a version of this recipe, 20 minutes seems awfully short, even for me. And I love brownies so fudgy they’re nearly raw.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

I recommend baking for 20 to 25 minutes, checking with a toothpick, and if it’s still soupy, bake for 5 minutes. Do not bake over 30 minutes. The toothpick test won’t necessarily come out clean, but when I inserted a toothpick into the center at 25 minutes, it was still watery-fudgy. At 28 minutes, they were done. They will continue to firm up as they cool.

Don’t be tempted to bake longer than 30 minutes, even if you think they’re raw; they’re not. The longer they bake, the greater chance the cocoa powder will either scorch, burn, or dry out, and you won’t have the wonderfully moist, uber-fudgy experience you deserve.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

I let the pan cool on the counter for one hour, covered with a piece of foil, and placed it in the refrigerator overnight before slicing. I don’t think it’s possible to make really clean cuts unless these brownies are well-chilled because they’re so very fudgy. You could try cutting them with a pizza wheel if they’re sticking to your knife. Plus, in giving them time to really set up, the edges will firm up and turn chewier and the interior remains gooey, soft, and tender.

I prefer rich, fudgy brownies, French Silk Pie, chocolate mousse, and a piece of rich fudge to be served chilled. Or, you could skip all that, disregard any ideas of clean-cuts, and just scoop them out of the pan with a spoon. You may want to grab a huge ladle so you can shovel them in more efficiently.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

My husband said these brownies are not only the best brownies he’s ever had or that I’ve ever made, he said they’re the best dessert I’ve ever made, period.

With over 500 recipes on my blog, 100 in my cookbook, and oodles more that I try and don’t make either cut, for him to say that these are the best dessert I’ve ever made is ridiculously high praise. He does say this every 6 months or so, and he forgets what he likes, but still they trump hundreds of other things.

The Bruce Springsteen song, Tunnel Of Love, comes to mind with the photo below.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

I have been trying to decide which recipe I like better, the old or the new. The old recipe produces brownies that are slightly chewier, and the surface and base have a crisper “skin” because there’s more butter by two tablespoons, and there’s cocoa butter solids from the melted chocolate. They also have a slightly more buttery flavor.

The new recipe is also chewy on the edges but is softer in general. Not cakey soft, just soft and tender and lighter-weight. They’re the brownie equivalent of a Softbatch-style cookie. Both versions are ridiculously fudgy, dense, rich with zero cakiness.

The old is made in a slightly larger pan (9×9 versus 8×8) and based on how much I cook, we don’t need big batches of anything, and the smaller size is preferred, yielding just 9 generous squares.

Both recipes are equally fast and easy to make; made in 1 bowl in the microwave, wish a whisk, no mixer.

There’s less ingredients in the new recipe – 2 eggs versus 3, and just granulated sugar rather than a mix of granulated and brown sugars. Neither recipe produces “sweet” brownies; both are deep, dark, and rich, but the new recipe is even less sweet. They’re a dark chocolate and fudge lover’s dream.

And not to be cheap but cocoa powder is less expensive than dark chocolate. As Alice said, “The best version happens to be the one you can make when you’ve eaten all the 70% bars you bought for baking, and only a forgotten tin of cocoa powder remains on the shelf.” Ironically I used cocoa powder that I’d had for ages that was just sitting on my shelf. I used natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (non-Dutched). However Dutch-process or Hershey’s Special Dark may be used.

Look how dark these are, without even using Hershey’s Special Dark. Unfortunately, I can’t find it in metro San Diego. I have a circuit of about 6 major grocery stores and Target that I utilize, and no one carries it.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

I think, overall, I like the new recipe better by a tiny margin; almost too close to call but I couldn’t very well say it was a tie. There’s a nostalgic quality that reminds me of the boxed brownies I’d made as a kid when I came home from school by stirring in water, oil and an egg and grossly underbaked them so they’d stay fudgy. Except with these, the flavor is infinitely darker, deeper, richer, and better.

And biting into huge caramel chunks doesn’t hurt either.

The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies averiecooks.com

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The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies

Possibly the best brownies I've ever had or made, and definitely my husband's new favorite. It's a one-bowl recipe that's whisked together in 5 minutes and produces ridiculously rich and fudgy brownies with zero cakiness. They're made with cocoa powder rather than melted chocolate, and ff you think cocoa powder brownies are inferior to melted chocolate brownies, these will change your mind. Not too sweet; very deep, dark, and rich. They’re a dark chocolate and fudge lover’s dream, with big chunks of caramel baked in. Ready from start to finish in 30 minutes - as easy as using a boxed mix with results that taste a zillion times better.

Yield: one 8-by-8-inch pan, 9 generous squares

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process, I used natural)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste (I did not use salt, personal preference)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe is 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (weighing nearly 2.5 ounces or 65 grams)
  • 20 caramels, unwrapped (about 1/3 cup very thick, good-quality caramel sauce may be substituted and swirled or marbled over the surface)

Directions:

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang on the sides, spray with cooking spray; set pan aside.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, sugar, cocoa, optional salt, and heat on high power to melt, about 45 seconds. Stop to stir, and heat in 10-second bursts until mixture has melted and can be stirred smooth (mine took 45 seconds + 15 seconds). Batter will be very granular.
  3. Add the vanilla, eggs, and stir vigorously until batter is thick, shiny, and well blended. Add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with a wooden spoon (I used metal) or a rubber spatula. Pour batter evenly into the prepared pan.
  4. Add caramels in four rows of 5 across, pressing each caramel down into the batter so that the top surface of the caramel is nearly flush with the batter surface. They should be wedged in quite deep but not bottoming-out and not touching the bottom of the pan or they'll be prone to sticking to it.
  5. Bake until a toothpick in the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes, is Alice's suggestion, but I think this is too short. I baked for 25 minutes, checked with a toothpick and it emerged soupy/watery at 25 minutes. I baked for 28 minutes total.
  6. I recommend baking 25 minutes, checking with a toothpick, and baking for up to 5 more minutes, as necessary. Do not bake over 30 minutes or brownies will be prone to scorching, burning, turning dry, or setting up too hard. Brownies will firm up as they cool. I recommend cooling brownies on counter in the pan for 1 hour, covering pan with a piece of foil (to prevent fridge smells) and placing pan in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight, to cool completely before slicing if you want clean-cuts because they're so fudgy; using a pizza wheel may help if brownies are sticking to your knife.
  7. Brownies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. I prefer them chilled and keep them in the fridge. The caramel gets a touch hard, but softens in a few minutes at room temp.

Related Recipes:

Fudgy Nutella Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting – My old go-to brownie recipe, that many others are derived from and it works like a charm every time to produce flawless, fudgy, rich brownies in just minutes with one bowl and whisk

Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars – The blondie equivalent of dark fudgy brownies and are as dark as blondies can get. They’re made with dark brown sugar, butterscotch, and caramel for rich depth of flavor. Ready from start to finish in under 30 minutes with 1 bowl and whisk

Oreo Cookie-Stuffed Brownies with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting – Stuffing candy and cookies into brownies is an easy way to get oooh’s and ahhh’s from anyone and is a fun way to use up odds and ends

Banana Bread Brownies with Vanilla Caramel Glaze – A happy accident when I was trying to make chocolate banana bread but instead created bread so fudgy, dense, and moist that it could hardly be called bread. Rich, dense brownies is a much more fitting name

Caramel and Chocolate Gooey Bars (GF with Vegan adaptation) – The hardest part of this recipe is unwrapping the caramels but the results are so worth it. Oozing with texture from oats and dripping with buttery caramel and chocolate

Quintuple Chocolate Fudgy Brownie Cookies – For the ultimate chocolate lover. Chocolate is used five times: Cocoa powder, melted bittersweet baking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, diced chocolate and caramel-filled truffles (or use your fave diced candy bar) and chocolate-filled Oreos

Mounds Bar Chocolate Coconut Cake Mix Cookies – Brownie-like in their fudginess and extremely easy and fast to make. The coconut candy bars are a great pairing with the chocolate

Thick and Soft Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten-free) – If your idea of dark chocolate must involve peanut butter, these are the cookies for you. NO Butter, NO Flour, and NO White Sugar used

Tell me about your perfect brownie. Fudgy or cakey? Frosted – and if so what kid of frosting? Stuffed with candy or cookies? Or are you a brownie purist?

Have you ever cheated on a favorite recipe? Did it pay off?

Thanks for the Breakfast For Dinner Cookbook Giveaway and Unreal Candy Giveaway entries!

   

127 Responses to “The Ultimate Fudgy Caramel Brownies”

  1. #
    51
    vanillasugarblog — March 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    man it’s been ages since I’ve made caramel brownies.
    it’s like every time i go to make brownies i have a specific kind i want to make, then 10 minutes goes by and i’m already changing it. lol
    hard for me to have recipe in hand and follow it to completion.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — March 12th, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      Well this batter literally takes about 4-5 mins, tops, to stir together; so you don’t even have time to change your mind!

      Reply

  2. #
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    ashley - baker by nature — March 12, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    WHOA! These look dangerously good, Averie. Like… I might eat half the pan before they’ve even cooled good.

    Reply

  3. #
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    Natasha — March 13, 2013 at 12:12 am

    I have made Alice’s brownies before! They are great, such a quick and easy go-to recipe.
    And although I prefer this recipe (http://www.butterbaking.com/2013/02/17/kit-kat-chunk-brownies/) when wanting to use actual chocolate in my brownies, these are my all time favourite cocoa-only recipe!
    I’ve used them as the base for loads of things, and adding in caramels is such a great idea Averie! :-)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — March 13th, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Just studied that recipe. It’s sort of what I did with my old recipe that uses melted chocolate. I use 3 eggs, 1 c flour, 2 c sugar, 6 oz choc. You used 5 eggs and a smidge less flour and you also bake in a 9×13 whereas I bake in a 9×9 so they stay a bit thicker. Here’s to fudgy brownie recipes, indeed! :)

      Reply

      • Natasha replied: — March 13th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        Haha I love it, more eggs + less flour = extra fudgy-ness! Those won’t bake up in a smaller pan though, a friend tried and the edges just hot hard while the inside wouldn’t cook. Love brownies :-)

        • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — March 13th, 2013 at 8:43 pm

          I could see where a 9×13 is instrumental or else you’d have chocolate-butter soup. Probably the best kind of soup ever, but yeah.

  4. #
    54
    Valerie — March 13, 2013 at 6:45 am

    The first time I saw Alice Medrich’s recipe, I was hesitant too – now it’s one of my favourite brownie recipes. Cheating can be beautiful! :D

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — March 13th, 2013 at 11:41 am

      I didn’t know you made it, too! Okay, well that confirms that this was a good call! Thanks for the pin, too!

      Reply

  5. #
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    Dana — March 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Just made this! I loved the nutella brownie recipe, I can’t wait to take a bite of one of these!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — March 15th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Thanks for trying the recipe and glad you’re enjoying the brownie recipes!

      Reply

  6. #
    56
    Ari @ Ari's Menu — March 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I have always been in the same mindset about cocoa powder brownies, but these look so ridiculously gooey, and just INCREDIBLE!! And don’t even get me started on those gooey caramels inside!

    Reply

  7. #
    57
    Liz — March 24, 2013 at 7:45 am

    This is exceptional! I’m going to make this next weekend. Just a question, do you sift your dry ingredients? Plus, I can use the 7-minute microwaved caramels instead of the storebought ones, right?

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — March 24th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      No I don’t sift. My cocoa powder isn’t that lumpy and I just combine everything together with a spoon. You can sift, but I don’t bother. I haven’t tried them with 7-min caramels but I see no reason not to. Enjoy! LMK how it goes!

      Reply

  8. #
    58
    Joy @ Baking-Joy — April 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    These look fantastic Averie, I’ve never used cocoa in brownies either, but will definitely try it!

    Reply

  9. #
    59
    Laura — April 7, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Uh-oh…now I can make brownies without going out to get unsweetened chocolate. This could be dangerous! I try new brownie recipes all the time, but I’ve never been happy with an all-cocoa brownie recipe until now. I confess I did not add the caramels; I rarely add anything to brownies because I don’t want anything getting in the way of all that fudgy chocolate. Maybe next time. But these definitely don’t need anything in or on them. They are rich and delicious all on their own!
    P.S. I’m so glad you included weight measurements for the flour. I think overdoing the flour is the worst mistake that can be made in brownie-baking, and I would have added WAY too much if I’d gone by my half cup measure instead of weighing out the 65 grams.

    Reply

  10. #
    60
    Maddie — May 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Hey Averie! I want to make these tonight… is it okay to make these in a 9×13 pan? Can’t wait to try!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — May 15th, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      You would likely need to double the ingredients otherwise they will be PAPER thin! But as long as you double, I’m sure they’ll be fine. I haven’t tried them in a 9×13 but they are amazing brownies and I know you’re going to love them. Please LMK how it goes!

      Reply

      • Maddie replied: — May 15th, 2013 at 9:45 pm

        Used the smaller pan and they worked out great! I was surprised how the batter kept its shape while baking and didn’t spread and flatten out… it must be because of its intense thickness! These pack a lot of chocolate flavor, which is rare. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

        • Averie Sunshine replied: — May 15th, 2013 at 11:48 pm

          So glad they worked out so wonderfully for you and correct, this dough/batter really doesn’t flatter (or rise) all that much. What you see is what you get — super fudginess :)

  11. #
    61
    Patricia Wall (TastyTrish) — May 16, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I absolutely LOVE your recipes, except…I will add pecans. And you don’t like nuts in your brownies??? What’s up with that? I don’t like brownies without nuts. I am a GRITS girl (girl raised in the South), so I learned that all desserts are better with Pecans, since we grew pecan trees! Nothing better than toasted pecans on the tops of brownies!

    OK, you are my brownie girl…the enthusiast, the gourmet. I will follow you…and bring my pecans with me. YAY!
    Trish

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — May 16th, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks for the fun comment & LMK how the brownies (with or without the nuts..haha!) go for you!

      Reply

  12. #
    62
    Ileana Keltz — June 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago. So glad I did! I’ve made several of your recipes, and they are delicious. Most recently, the chocolate cake one that is so easy to throw together. I LOVE your recipes!!! I might not be too happy when I jump on that scale though :)

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — June 6th, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      Thanks for saying hi, finding me, and trying the choc cake. I love that little one pan easy cake, too! Keep me posted if you try other recipes!

      Reply

  13. #
    63
    Dana — December 3, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    hello there, I wanted to tell you that I love your blog and your photos are fabulous! I read a lot of food blogs regularly, but I must say I love your pictures more than most.
    Thanks for this delicious recipe. My old standby is Alice’s recipe and everyone loves them.. I did try this one because I was interested in trying a brownie one similar to Alice’s that used cocoa. I thought they were very good but a tiny bit dry, I followed the recipe and made sure to not overcook. However, I didn’t use as many caramels as your recipe calls for. Do you think that would have made a difference? I used a little more than half what your recipe states, as I had run out. I may just try it again with more caramels. I love the mix of brownies and caramels, simply delish. Thanks again!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — December 4th, 2013 at 2:19 am

      This recipe is really just the Alice M recipe with some caramels added. As far as I can tell, it’s the same base dough, and there are so many blogs that have used the recipe and I linked to many of them in the post.

      Since writing this post, I’ve made it numerous times. Most recently here http://www.averiecooks.com/2013/11/salted-caramel-pretzel-topped-fudgy-brownies.html with backlinks to yet other times I made them.

      I have found with cocoa powder, that you have to be REALLY careful or they will get dry. I swear sometimes 1-2 minutes can make or break it. I would take them out 5 mins before you think they’re done and evaluate. I would rather err on fudgy and a little raw than a little dry. But that’s me. Most of the time these brownies are foolers and I end up inadvertently overbaking, which is something I almost never due. So just be super careful and I think you’ll be set! Maybe by using less caramels, your brownies cooked a little faster, and again small tiny variances can effect results.

      Reply

  14. #
    64
    Faye — January 23, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Hey Averie! I am planning to make a pan of brownies and then do heart shaped cut-outs for V-day :) Serving for dessert that night, either alone or as a base wtih vanilla bean ice cream and hot fudge & caramel sauces (everyone can make their own sundaes :)) I am curious as to which recipe you think would best serve the purpose. There are both kids and adults involved in this dinner party. Thank you so much!

    Reply

  15. #
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    Maureen — February 16, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Hi there

    If I’m using a convection oven with fan, do I bake at 160 degree Celsius for 28mins or 145 degree Celsius for 28mins?

    Do u use a convection or convention oven?

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — February 16th, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      I have a conventional oven, not convection. If using convection, I’d err on the side of less baking time than more.

      Reply

  16. #
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    Kat — February 27, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    I was in the mood for brownies, and since I don’t have a standby recipe, I knew I should check here first! I’ve made a few of your recipes and always think they are fantastic. I didn’t feel like going through the hassle of melting the chocolate so this was a perfect recipe. I followed your directions to a T (except for the fridge- those puppies went right onto a spoon). Now that they’ve cooled down, I find the caramels to be too chewy, and I think they will only get hard and brittle after chilling them. Do they soften a bit or are they just super chewy? Either way they are delicious- I’ll just need to be careful biting into them! Thanks again!

    Reply

    • Averie Sunshine replied: — February 28th, 2014 at 3:34 am

      I think the caramels and how chewy they do or don’t become may depend on the type used. I’ve noticed different brands lend different results. Maybe yours were just more prone to the super chewy side of things. You can always just pick them out if they’re too chewy. Glad you enjoyed the brownies though!

      Reply

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