Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Greatest Thing Since 7-Up, Sliced Bread, and Basset Hounds

Stop whatever you're doing and listen up! I have earth-shattering news! No, it's not about Britney and/or her kids. And yes, we already know that Al Gore won the Nobel Prize (well-deserved...go, Al!). This is much, much more important. Someone has FINALLY come out with caramels that you don't have to unwrap! Did you hear me? Caramels that don't have to be unwrapped! How I HATE unwrapping caramels! The stupid plastic always sticks to the candy, and you need a magnifying glass, tweezers or perhaps other surgical accoutrements to get all of the plastic shards off so that they don't end up as unappetizing chewy bits in your recipes. And once you've finally gotten one free of its wrapping, there's still the rest of the whole damn bag to do! UGH! But some genius at Kraft has given us these, little blob-ettes of caramel goodness, smaller than chocolate chips, but just as useful, ready to be tossed into your favorite baked goods by the sweet, buttery handful.
I spied these at the Super Wal-Mart this past weekend, and I rushed right home, determined to give them a test run. I didn't have a particular recipe in mind, so I just made something simple from the back of the package. It was called Easy Caramel Pecan Brownies, and the name did not lie. You make it with a box of brownie mix, so it's pretty much a Sandra Lee-type of deal, a fake-out recipe that, nevertheless, will charm you and impress your friends, too. However, I'd like to offer some tips which I gleaned from making this recipe twice in one week (once just for us at home, and then again for my trivia team).

First of all, and you may be tired of hearing me say it, but people, you must toast your pecans! It really does make all the difference in flavor and texture and helps to take the final product to that next (delicious) level. And all it takes is a few minutes in a dry frying pan over medium heat, with you stirring frequently and keeping a close eye on them until they just start to take on color. Secondly, choose a dark chocolate brownie mix (or make your own if you have the time/inclination)--milk chocolate is for wimps! And though I generally favor fudgier brownies, I would advise making the cakier version for this. That extra egg seems to make the recipe turn out better for some reason. Third, I enjoy a salty caramel, so consider throwing in a good pinch when adding the pecans to the melted caramel. Fourth, after baking the bottom layer of brownie batter and spreading on the caramel nut mixture, chill it in the fridge for ten minutes or so until the caramel sets up some. This will help give you a distinct (thin but visible) layer of caramel in between the brownie layers. Fifth, be advised that you will have to bake the top layer of brownie batter longer than the recipe says to, or maybe that's just me because I didn't split the batter evenly (but other reviewers on Kraft's web site said the same thing!). Another tip those reviewers offered was to line your pan with parchment rather than tin foil. I took their advice, and it worked out well. (I'm sure the oozing caramel would stick like sin to foil!)

And finally, I highly recommend tossing a handful--or two!) of toffee bits on top of the brownies before the final bake because, well, I just seem to be in a toffee place in my life right now. And have you TRIED to find a Heath, or preferably, Skor bar lately? Is it a conspiracy? Why don't they want us to have them? Is it the skyrocketing price of dairy products (read: butter) that is to blame? It's a mystery. But I digress. Here is the recipe at long last. No, wait, one more thing. I did not photograph my brownies because they looked like...well...brownies...with pecans on top. However, I have included a photo that I stole from Kraft's web site, but do not expect that thick of a caramel layer unless you double what the recipe calls for...which is probably just what the corporate jackals want you to do! Hmph! Ok, NOW, here's the recipe!

Easy Caramel Pecan Brownies
(Source: www.kraftfoods.com)

1 pkg. (19 to 21 oz.) brownie mix (13x9-inch pan size)
1 pkg. (11 oz.) Kraft Caramel Bits
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups pecan halves, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch baking pan with foil (parchment is a better bet!), with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Generously grease (or spray) foil. Prepare brownie batter as directed on package; spread half of the batter into prepared pan. Cover remaining batter; set aside.

Bake 20 minutes or until top is firm to the touch. Meanwhile, microwave caramel bits and whipping cream in medium microwaveable bowl on high 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or until caramel bits begin to melt; stir until completely melted. Add 1 cup of the pecans (and a pinch of salt); mix well. Spread over partially baked brownie (at this point, I would chill for 10-15 minutes); top with remaining brownie batter. (Some caramel may peek through batter.) Sprinkle with remaining pecans (and maybe some toffee bits, too!).

Bake an additional 25(-35) minutes or until top is firm to the touch. Cool completely. Use foil handles to lift dessert from pan before cutting to serve. Store in covered container at room temperature.

8 comments:

Randi said...

I must say, they do look good. Is there actual butter in the caramels? I'll have to look for those when I go to Michigan.

The Cookbook Junkie said...

I was so thrilled when I saw these because I have a great recipe for caramelita bars that I hated unwrapping the caramels for. But I looked back and my recipe (from a fundraiser cookbook) calls for a certain number of squares. I'm going to have to figure out how to translate that into these bits.

Kathy said...

Cookbook Junkie, I was just thinking the same thing. Do these new caramel have a "conversion chart" on the bag or something?

For instance, my Caramel Apple Butter calls for 21 Kraft caramels; how would I know what that equals for those tasty little morsels?

Perspiring minds wanna know!

Anonymous said...

Caramel Pecan brownies! Humph...the oven is on pre-heat!

Do let me wish you a very happy birthday, Sis, on this your happy day. I'm 'bout to get me a FedEx box and send you some brownies.

Love, Deluxe in Chicago

Randi said...

I bought 2 bags at the super wal*mart in MI, what should I make?

JoyBugaloo said...

My friend at work says she was thinking of making a pumpkin bundt cake with nuts and caramel bits inside and with a maple frosting/glaze on top. Doesn't THAT sound good? Maybe something like that to try in your glorious new oven, Miss Randi?! ;-)

Have fun--Gina

Debbie said...

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading the recipes on your blog. I am going to try the Old Witches Magic Nut Cake. It sounds sooo interesting!!!!

JoyBugaloo said...

Thanks, Debbie! I really appreciate your kind remarks. I love it when people come out of lurk mode to leave a comment. :-)

--Gina

P.S. The witch cake is good. But don't use the original frosting. Use the other one that I posted. You'll thank me.