Chocolate and Salt Caramel Brownies with Cherry and Elderflower Sauce

Scrumptious chocolate and sea salted caramel brownies from The Ethicurean Cookbook. The recipe is finished with a contrasting cherry and elderflower sauce.

Introduction

There are countless recipes for chocolate brownies, and initially we thought that perhaps there were too many already. However, given that our local area has such an illustrious history in chocolate production, we felt it was only fair to come up with our own chocolate recipe. We have the industrious Victorians to thank for making chocolate available to the wider public. It was, in fact, a factory in Bristol, owned by J S Fry & Sons, that produced the first chocolate bar in 1847. The company went on to produce some of our childhood favourites, such as Fry’s Chocolate Cream and Turkish Delight.

We like to use Original Beans chocolate because of its quality and the company’s ethics, which closely match our own. Co-founded by the environmentalist entrepreneur, Philipp Kauffman, Original Beans is renowned for its zero carbon policies and passion for sustainable farming.

The addition of salt caramel is primarily to enhance the sweetness of the brownie, although we have to admit that it does add a lot to the overall presentation too

Serves 4, with plenty of brownies left for tomorrow

Ingredients

250g dark chocolate, at least 72 per cent cocoa solids
170g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk
80ml rapeseed oil
60g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
70g organic cocoa powder
50g Salt Caramel (see ingredients and method below), plus extra to serve
For the cherry and elderflower sauce:
100g frozen sour cherries
50g elderflower cordial
For the salt caramel:
200g caster sugar
2 tsp flaky sea salt

Essential kit

You will need a silicone pastry brush; a heatproof spatula; a 23cm spring-form cake tin and an electric whisk.

Instructions

First, make the Salt Caramel. Heat the oven to 120°C/Gas Mark ½. Place a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet and put it in the oven (if you don't have a silicone baking mat, put a layer of baking parchment on the tray once it has been heated). Have a small bowl of cold water and a silicone pastry brush at the ready.

Put the sugar into a meticulously clean frying pan, add 4 tablespoons of water and stir until there are no dry patches of sugar. Place on a medium-high heat and cook, without stirring. The mixture will start to bubble. As the temperature rises, the sugar will begin to caramelise in certain areas of the pan. You may also notice it beginning to crystallise around the edges of the pan. If left unchecked, these areas can cause the syrup to crystallise, resulting in a pan full of grainy sugar crystals - not the desired result. To prevent this, brush cold water over these crystallised patches on the edges of the pan, using a silicone pastry brush. When the sugar begins to caramelise, gently scrape these darkening patches into the centre of the pan using a heatproof spatula. Keep gently moving any patches of caramelising sugar into areas that are not caramelising. This will ensure an even colour. When the caramel has turned a good, deep golden colour (if you use a sugar thermometer, it will register 178-180°C - however, you can keep checking the true colour by dripping a few drops on to a white plate), pour it immediately on to one side of the silicone mat. Preheating the mat means that the caramel doesn't cool down so quickly when you pour it on, and this allows you to tilt the baking sheet in order to achieve a very thin layer of caramel. You need to work quickly, however. As soon as the sugar begins to cool, it will start to set. Sprinkle the sea salt over the caramel while it is still hot.

Let the caramel cool to room temperature, then snap it into 2.5-5cm shards. It should be brittle. When you eat it, it should be crunchy and not stick to your teeth. Keep it in an airtight container until you need it (for up to 2 weeks).

When you are ready to make the brownies, heat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Lightly grease a 23cm springform cake tin.

Melt 200g of the chocolate in a bowl placed over a pan of lightly simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Remove from the heat.

Using an electric whisk, or a freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and light. Change the mixer attachment to a whisk, or continue using the electric whisk. Slowly add the eggs and the extra yolk, no more than a tablespoon at a time, whisking thoroughly between each addition. Slowly add the rapeseed oil and whisk the mixture for a further 5 minutes, until it has a glossy, silky appearance.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder and whisk briefly until incorporated. Using a metal spoon, fold in the melted chocolate. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top. Roughly chop the remaining chocolate and lightly push the pieces into the surface of the cake mix. Repeat the process with the salt caramel pieces. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes away with a little cake mixture attached; it should not look raw.

If it does, return to the oven, testing every 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Allow to cool to room temperature on a wire tray. Meanwhile, put the cherries and elderflower cordial in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until syrupy. Leave to cool a little before serving.

The brownies can be served hot or cold. Turn out and slice, then serve with shards of salt caramel broken over each portion and the warm syrup poured over. The brownies can be refrigerated for up to 5 days but you would need a great deal of willpower for them to last that long. Freezing is a good way to lengthen their life and it has the added bonus of increasing the fudginess.

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