As someone who thinks about food almost constantly and someone who also has a great memory, it is only natural that I remember most of my friends’ individual food preferences.  I seem to have a catalog in my mind with each friend and their likes, dislikes, etc.  Several months ago I was at a get together and someone brought salted brownies from Trader Joes.  My friend Andrea (who also happens to be the wonderful wife of my fab art director Ryan) was all about those brownies and asked me to recreate them.  I filed that request away in the catalog and waited for just the right brownie recipe, and then the perfect opportunity to make them.

Last weekend for the first time in what seems like forever, and in truth what has been at least three or four months, we had a weekend with zero plans and zero commitments.  I checked to see what Ryan and Andrea were up to and the next thing we knew, we were enjoying the sunny weather while the kids played in with the sprinkler, slip n’ slide, and water table.  (And these sweet peeps with this handsome little man joined us as well.  This kid is too cute for words.)  Due to the short notice, my options for contributions to the menu were limited but I was able to bring a layered mediterranean dip and these brownies for dessert.

Now as much as I love sweet and salty desserts, those Trader Joes brownies were tooo salty for me, so I was pretty nervous about these.  There is salt in the caramel, in the brownie itself, and then sprinkled on top (mixed with a bit of coarse sugar).  Thankfully I found these to have that perfect balance, and everyone else seemed to agree.  We were semi-jokingly fighting for leftovers.  The caramel sauce is layered with the brownie batter but rather than form a distinct layer, it seeps into the batter to produce a super fudgy brownie infused with caramel undertones.  These are a great choice to bring to a casual get together – a universally loved treat with a touch of sophistication to set them apart from the boxed variety.

  • Prep about 20 minutes
  • Cook 30 minutes
  • Yield about 24 brownies


For the caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • ½ cup heavy cream, slightly warmed
  • 1 tsp. fleur de sel
  • ¼ cup sour cream

For the brownies:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 11 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Splash of Kahlua (optional)


  • 1 tsp. fleur de sel, to finish
  • 1 tsp. coarse sugar, to finish


  • 01

    To make the caramel sauce, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes deep amber in color and reaches 350˚ F on a candy thermometer.  Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream in a steady stream down the side of the pan, whisking constantly to incorporate before adding more.  Once all the cream has been incorporated, stir in the fleur de sel and sour cream.  Set aside to cool while you prepare the brownie batter.

  • 02

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line a 9 x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper or lightly greased foil.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and cocoa powder.  Whisk to blend well.  In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and butter.  Microwave in short intervals (about 30-35 seconds), stirring in between, until everything is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Whisk in the sugars and then the eggs.  Whisk in the vanilla and Kahlua, if using.  Mix in the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined and no streaks remain.

  • 03

    Spread about half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan and smooth with an offset spatula.  Drizzle the caramel over the top in an even layer.  Top with the remaining brownie batter, smoothing gently over the caramel and completely covering it.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.  Remove to a wire rack and let cool.  Combine the fleur de sel and coarse sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle about half of it over the top of the brownies.  Add the remainder to taste.  Let cool completely before slicing and serving.  Pawn off on friends to prevent binging.