This year I plan to focus on more meal-oriented recipes, but before I do, I’m going to start out with a dessert recipe that really steals your attention: Caramel Comatose Thunder Brownies (made with real canned thunder!—kidding). If desserts were people, this one would be Chuck Norris.
Here are a few things Chuck Norris and these “brownies” have in common:
- You don’t find them, they find you.
- Both can kill you with a simple stare.
- Under their ‘beard’ lies another fist.
- They’re both rugged at first, but are sweet once you get to know them (or so they say).
- And so on and so forth…
In other words, make sure you’re wearing your big boy pants before digging in. On a more serious note, this dessert was born from my curiosity to play with opposites.
I wanted something that was chewy but crunchy, sweet but salty. After throwing a few ideas around and creating a few sketches, I decided on a brownie mixture that included caramel, extra chocolate, pretzels, and marshmallows.
The pretzels are my favorite part of this dessert and provide an awesome opposing crunch to an otherwise chewy dessert. To quote a health-conscious in-law, the pretzel “really seals the deal.” They also offset the sweetness with some a satisfying amount of salt.
A few tips for preparing this recipe, especially if you’re new to working with homemade caramel:
- Allow the brownies to cool to near room temperature before adding pretzels and caramel on top. This keeps them from sweating and becoming too gooey once the caramel is added.
- Cook the caramel until it reaches softball stage (~230°F to 235°F), where it turns a rich amber brown and produces thick bubbles. When placed in cold tap water, it can be kneaded into a ball that will slowly flatten back out when placed on the cupboard.
- If using a nuker (much more fun to say than microwave), melt your chocolate in 30-second intervals, stirring between each one. When most of the chocolate is melted, pull it out and stir the chocolate until the rest of it melts. Overcooking the chocolate causes it to flake and crumble.
That’s it! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have. A special thanks to my coworkers & friends who were forced under fork-point to be my Guinea pigs and eat these a couple of times before finalizing the recipe. I’m sure they hated every minute of it…
Caramel Comatose Thunder Brownies
Gather all your ingredients. Because I forgot to gather the marshmallows and chocolate chips in the first picture, you get two pictures. You can use your favorite brownie mix, though I’ve always loved the Betty Crocker fudge brownies, so that’s what I’m using here. Just make sure it’s enough to make a 9 x 11 pan. I have oil and water combined in the smaller liquid measurer and evaporated milk and corn syrup in the larger one.
If using the same Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie mix as shown in the picture, then add the mix to the bowl, and add three extra generous tablespoons of flour. The flour helps adds bounce and volume. If you’re using another mix, you should probably still add some extra flour, unless the brownies are already cake-like.
Add your oil and eggs, and blend it until everything comes together evenly. Then pour it into a 9 x 11 baking pan, and cook according to box directions, most likely around 25-30 minutes at 350°F.
Cover the brownies in lightly crunched pretzel pieces. Avoid pretzel dust or super small pretzel pieces. The pretzels give a nice crunch to this dessert.
The caramel takes 25 minutes to cook. In a large pan, ~5-7 quarts (heavy-bottomed or enameled cast-iron provides the most even cooking), add all of the ingredients (white sugar, evaporated milk, brown sugar, salt, buttern, light corn syrup) at once and turn burner to medium heat.
Stir once or twice, even thrice if you want, until all the ingredients melt together. We’re going to be cooking the caramel to softball stage, ~230°F to 235°F.
Once the caramel begins to boil, don’t stop stirring or it will burn to the bottom of your pan and create hard pieces once it cools, and those hard pieces sure make for an unpleasant surprise. The pictures below show the progress from when it first starts to boil until it reaches softball.
Stage 1: Beginning boil. Notice how the bubbles are small and thin.
Stage 2: Approaching softball. The bubbles have become thicker and larger. The color has also deepened (though hard to tell in these pictures.)
Stage 3: Softball. The caramel has become thicker and the bubbles heavier and less uniform. The color has turned a deep, rich amber.
Pour the caramel over the pretzels until the pretzels are covered (or mostly covered). You can scatter a couple pinches of kosher salt across the caramel’s surface right now too, if you’d like.
Allow the caramel to cool until the surface is warm to the touch (about 5-7 minutes), then cover it with marshmallows. A warm surface helps the marshmallows to stick in place without melting which is handy for the next step.
Melt your chocolate and pour it over the marshmallows. Use a spreading spatula to make sure all the marshmallows are coated.
Place the entire concoction into the refrigerator until the chocolate on top is solid again.
Before cutting into squares, remove from the refrigerator for 15 minutes to allow the caramel to soften (it’s a real beast to cut when it’s chilled). Cut into 24 pieces, serve, and enjoy!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please share it with your friends!
Recipe for Caramel Comatose Thunder Brownies (PDF, 2 pages, 118 KB)