- 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 substitued and swirled or marbled over the surface)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.