Salted Caramel Pretzel-Topped Fudgy Brownies
Calling all salty-and-sweet fans, these brownies are the hot ticket.
Fudgy, caramely, dense and rich with crunch factor. Something for everyone.
The brownies are as fast and easy as using a boxed mix, and the brownie batter is whisked together in one bowl in minutes.
The brownies are the epitome of dark, rich, and fudgy and are the chocolate version of these Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies, which have always been popular with readers.
They’re like Turtle brownies with pretzels instead of nuts.
And they’re not at all cakey, which would be a total deal-breaker for me. I want my brownies dense like a slab of fudge. Cakes need not apply.
The ironic part of these ultra-fudgy, rich brownies is that the recipe uses cocoa powder, not melted chocolate. I used to think that cocoa powder brownies were inferior to brownies made with (more expensive) melted chocolate, but I’ve been proven wrong.
After making the easy brownie batter, I topped it with pretzels. I used 6 small bags of airplane pretzels that I found in my pantry. I don’t know how I ended up with so many bags of Southwest’s and Delta’s finest, but they taste way better on the brownies than they’ve ever tasted in my cramped seats.
Before baking, drizzle on salted caramel sauce. I used Werther’s Original® Baking Caramels that I melted together with a pat of butter, half-and-half, and a pinch of salt and it turned out so buttery, creamy, and dreamy. To save time, use a favorite storebought sauce.
The entire surface of the pan won’t be completely covered in caramel sauce, but while baking, the sauce thins out, melts, and ultimately covers the whole pan.
Make sure not to overbake these so they stay gooey and fudgy. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean, but will likely have a few moist crumbs.
The caramel sauce will never ‘set up’ so make sure to examine the brownie portion, not the caramel portion, when glancing at your toothpick. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of thinking my brownies weren’t done when I saw (caramel) goo on the toothpick, thereby overcooking them.
I know it’s going to be hard and it’s a cruel trick, but you have to allow the brownies to rest for at least 1 hour, or overnight, before digging in. It’s very important to let them cool properly to give the caramel a chance to soak in. Same concept of letting meat rest before you slice it so the juices don’t run everywhere.
I know you don’t want to lose a drop of precious caramel sauce to your cutting board so have patience.
When slicing, I used a large serrated knife. The knife needs to pierce the crunchy pretzels, and it’s inevitable that the super soft brownies will get a bit squished and messy in the slicing process; embrace it. They’re gooey, messy, drippy, and fudgy. The best things in life are. Don’t fret if slicing turns messy because it will.
You could always just grab a spoon and dig in straight from the pan and not even slice them. You know, and straighten out the rows, bite by bite.
They’re moist, soft, and intensely chocolaty without being overly sweet. The smooth brownies are sharply contrasted with the pretzels, which add a salty element along with crunch and texture.
The glistening, buttery, rich salted caramel balances the different flavors and complements both the brownies and the pretzels. It’s the proverbial icing on the cake.
Everything tastes better when it’s dripping in caramel sauce.
Salted Caramel Pretzel-Topped Fudgy Brownies
These dense, rich, fudgy brownies are topped with pretzels and salted caramel sauce, making them the quintessential salty-and-sweet treat. They’re as fast and easy as a boxed mix, and the brownie batter is whisked together in one bowl. Make your own salted caramel sauce, or save time and use a favorite storebought. The brownies are moist, soft, and intensely chocolaty without being overly sweet. The crunchy pretzels add a salty element along with crunch and texture. The glistening, buttery salted caramel sauce balances the different flavors and complements both the brownies and the pretzels. It’s the proverbial icing on the cake because everything tastes better dripping in caramel sauce.
Salted Caramel Sauce
1/4 cup half-and-half or cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
about 12 caramels, unwrapped (or about 5 ounces, or a half package) Werther’s Original® Baking Caramels
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Note – If using storebought caramel sauce to save time, use about 2/3 cup to 3/4 cup (just eyeball it)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), melted
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons brewed coffee (leftover from the morning brew is fine), optional but recommend to enhance chocolate flavor and does not make brownies taste like coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process, I used Hershey’s natural)
1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee granules, optional but recommend to enhance chocolate flavor and does not make brownies taste like coffee
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup mini-pretzels or pretzels
- Salted Caramel Sauce – In a medium saucepan, combine cream, butter, and heat over medium-low heat to melt butter and until mixture is simmering, stirring frequently.
- Add the caramels, salt, and stir frequently until melted. Take pan off the heat; set aside while preparing the brownie batter.
- Brownies – Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang on the sides, spray with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a large, microwave-safe bowl, add the butter and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute. Allow butter to cool momentarily so you don’t scramble the eggs.
- Add the eggs, sugars, optional coffee, vanilla, and whisk to combine.
- Add the cocoa powder, optional espresso granules, optional salt, and whisk to combine. If your cocoa powder is lumpy, it could take a couple minutes of vigorous whisking.
- Add the flour and stir until just combined, don’t overmix.
- Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula or knife. Batter is very thick and fudgy so take your time to work it into the corners of the pan.
- Add the pretzels in an even, flat layer over the brownie batter.
- Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top in an even zigzag pattern. The entire surface of the pan won’t be completely covered in caramel sauce, but while baking, the sauce thins out, melts, and ultimately covers the whole pan.
- Bake for about 26 to 28 minutes, or until done; don’t overbake (I baked for 26 1/2 minutes). A toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean, but will likely have a few moist crumbs, but no batter. The caramel sauce will never ‘set up’ so make sure to examine the brownie portion, not the caramel portion, when glancing at your toothpick.
- Allow brownies to rest for at least 1 hour, or overnight, before lifting out with foil overhang and slicing. It’s very important to let them cool properly to give the caramel a chance to soak in. When slicing, I used a large serrated knife. The knife needs to pierce the pretzels, and it’s inevitable that the brownies will get a bit squished and messy in the slicing process; embrace it. Brownies will keep airtight at room temperature or refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Some people prefer to store rich brownies like this in the fridge and serve them slightly chilled.
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Fan of salty-and-sweet desserts? Favorite brownie or caramel-containing recipe?