Baked in Toronto + Sweet and Salty Brownies

by byn on November 13, 2010

in Brownies & Blondies

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Last week the boys from Baked came to Toronto and did a brownie demo and book signing at the Williams-Sonoma in Yorkdale. I found out about the event on Twitter after Matt asked for Toronto bakery recommendations (I suggested Wanda’s Pie in the Sky in Kensington), and I knew a foodie fangirl such as myself had to be in attendance.

I bought their first book last year after seeing a handful of recipes on Smitten Kitchen. Lydia and I almost made it to their bakery in Red Hook on our trip to NYC last year but unfortunately we couldn’t fit it in. For my birthday last month I got a copy of their new book from Joel & Tara, who said they had to restrain themselves from giving it to me with post-its flagging all the things they wanted.

First the guys did a demo of their Sweet and Salty Brownies, and gave a lot of great pointers about brownies and baking in general such as:

1. Chocolate: So important! Matt and Renato firmly believe that if you make brownies with low-quality chocolate, you might as well not bake them at all. They totally called out Bakers Chocolate, as I hung my head in shame because I use this all the time! Their recommendations are Valrhona, Callebaut, or the brand they used at the demo – Camino, which is organic, fair-trade chocolate that you can buy at Whole Foods. As for the other two, I’ve seen the slabs at St. Lawrence Market on the lower level in one of the corners.

2. Vanilla: Interesting, as the boys said they always use the Tahitian variety of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla. I have been buying the Madagascar one for a few years, so some experimenting is in order here.

3. Whisk/Spatula: While your whisk is great for getting your melted chocolate nice and smooth, and then incorporating the sugar and eggs, you need to put it away after that. When it’s time to add the flour, you have to switch to a spatula. Why? The whisk adds excess air, and you’ll end up with a cakey brownie. I for one am opposed to cakey brownies. If you want cake, make cake. Brownies should be fudgey and gooey and give you stomach ache if you eat too many.

4. Caramel: As you know, caramel scares me. Matt made the salted caramel for the brownies, and he didn’t even use a candy thermometer! He said to just eyeball it! I am definitely not there yet, and I totally used one when making my salted caramel when I did this at home. His was a perfect dark brown and delicious, as we got to try a little sample. Very impressive! I need to practice. This makes my friends and co-workers happy.

Aside from that, they answered a few questions and we got to sample some Sweet and Salty Brownies that were made in advance. I asked how they felt about the food blogging community, and mentioned how Smitten Kitchen had just posted their Buckeyes the week before. Matt talked about how he’s a Facebook, Twitter and food blog addict, and food bloggers have definitely helped spread the word about their books. Then I got my book signed and we chatted about my Vanilla Bean Caramel Apples from last week. So fun!

Of course, I had to make the brownies for myself. They are insanely good. A deep, dark brownie with a layer of salted caramel in the middle, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt on top. The caramel stressed me, but it actually went okay. I used a candy thermometer as a guide, but you can definitely tell just by looking at it when it’s ready. The only thing I would note is that mine continued to get a few shades darker even after I removed it from the heat. I remembered at the demo the guys had a bowl with ice in it that they set the pot on after removing it. Now I know why – this will quickly cool down the caramel and prevent it from getting darker than you want it. This caramel is just beyond. It’s got a smoky, bordering on bitter taste because of the salt. I could drink it.

As for the brownie, it was definitely worth a trip to Whole Foods to pick up some Camino.  It’s rich, dense and fudgey – everything a brownie should be. I’m just about to go drop off packages of these to Kristine and Leianne. I even have one in the freezer, which I’m going to package up and ship to Danielle in St. John’s. She needs to try these!

Sweet and Salty Brownies

Source: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito


Salted Caramel Filling

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp light corn syrup

1/2 cup whipping cream

1 tsp fleur de sel

1/4 cup sour cream


1 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (don’t worry if it’s Dutch processed or not)

11 oz high quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1″ cubes

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

5 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp fleur de sel


  1. For the caramel, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan, stirring together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan.
  2. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees, or until the mixture is deep amber in colour. Keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly. It should take about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat, and stick the pot in a heatproof bowl with a layer of ice to cool it down quickly.
  3. Slowly add the cream (be careful, because it will bubble up) then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.
  4. For the brownies, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder in a medium bowl.
  5. Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the double boiler, and add both sugars.  Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.
  6. Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined.  Ad the vanilla and stir until combined.  Do not overbeat your stage, or your brownies will be cakey, which is blasphemy.
  7. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a SPATULA, fold in the dry ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible.
  8. Pour half the brownie mixture into a 13×9 pan, that has been lined with parchment paper (I used tin foil which makes it easier to lift out after it has cooled) and sprayed with cooking spray, and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
  9. Drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use your offset spatula to spread the caramel layer evenly across the brownie layer. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer. (This is challenging because the brownie is so thick, but i just did the best I could)
  10. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes in a 350 oven, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the centre of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  11. Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with fleur de sel.
  12. Cool completely before cutting and serving.
  13. Deliver to your most frequent commenters.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

nicole November 15, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Looks like i missed this brownie boat.
ok..i’m just confessing all over your to me about fleur de sel, it scares me too and why do i need to use it to make brownies?
ps. were you happy with your organic chocolate choice? What was the name again?


planetbyn November 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

fleur de sel is like flaky sea salt. the brand i bought is maldon, and you can find it at the grocery store. because it’s flaky it melts in your mouth, instead of crunching, so you can sprinkle it on top of stuff for that nice sweet & salty combo! i really liked the orgo chocolate – camino – i would definitely buy it again.


Kristine November 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Thank you thank you thank you! They were worth the wait!


Matt Nielsen November 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Hi Robyn! Thanks for mentioning us in the section on vanilla. There are certainly differences among the various growing regions for vanilla beans. The Madagascar, that you use, is the most traditional with a deep, creamy flavor while the Tahitian is much more unique – very fruity and floral. And then there’s Mexican characterized as having a good depth of flavor with a spice note to it. They all can be used differently or will give a distinct flavor difference in the same recipe than another region. Experiment and find which you like best! Thank you again!

Best Regards,
Matt Nielsen
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas


thestubbiechef November 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I LOVE brownies…YUM! Thanks for sharing…I will be trying these for sure!!


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