How to Make Salted Dulce de Leche Brownies

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Salted dulce de leche brownies. [Photographs: Nila Jones]

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If you ask me, you can never have enough recipes for brownies. Fudgy, cakey, or chewy; studded with nuts or chips—I like them all as long as they have an intense chocolate flavor and a great structure. But this recipe with dulce de leche is my absolute favorite.

They're topped with generous dollops of homemade dulce de leche and a generous sprinkle of sea salt. The thick layer of dulce de leche has the same fudgy texture as the brownie underneath, and the salt wakes the whole thing up. Consider yourself warned, because you're gonna want to make these every day.

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As you may already know, brownies are usually made with just five ingredients: sugar, butter, chocolate, flour, and eggs. Most recipes start by melting the butter, chocolate, and sugar together in a saucepan, after which the eggs and flour are whisked in and the batter is poured into a buttered brownie pan.

This recipe is a little different. To make these, I start by beating together softened butter and sugar. I know, it's the cake method—dreaded by fudgy brownie enthusiasts all over the world. But just because this recipe uses the cake method doesn't mean the brownies will be cakey. Not at all!

There's a method to this madness. By using the cake method instead of the more classic brownie-batter method, we get a thicker, sturdier brownie batter, which prevents the dulce de leche topping from sinking to the bottom of the pan as the brownies bake. I tried making these brownies using the more traditional approach, and the dulce de leche sank to the bottom while the tops of the brownies came out rock hard.

So if you're a fudgy-brownie-lover, just ignore your brownie-making instincts this time, because they'll lead you astray.

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The method isn't the only unconventional thing about this recipe. The ingredient list is a little wacky also. First of all, this recipe doesn't call for chocolate, but cocoa powder. I prefer to use cocoa powder to bake chocolatey things because whenever I buy chocolate it usually gets eaten (either by me or my boyfriend) before I get around to baking with it. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is something I always have in my pantry. An extra half a stick of butter makes up for the lack of cocoa butter (which you would normally get from using chocolate). The result is a rich brownie with amazing flavor.

Furthermore, these brownies are made with three different sweeteners: granulated sugar, light brown sugar and corn syrup. The brown sugar not only adds moisture but also intensifies the chocolate flavor by giving it a hint of butterscotch, while the corn syrup—a liquid sweetener—helps makes these cake-method brownies so irresistibly soft and fudgy! Consider it the secret ingredient.

And then of course there's the dulce de leche itself.

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I always use homemade dulce de leche for this recipe, because it's really easy to make. Just take a look at my explanation of how to do it using a can of sweetened condensed milk. In my dulce de leche recipe, I explain that it can be cooked for two hours for a lighter caramel color, and up to three hours for a darker result. For this recipe, I advise you to cook the can no longer than two hours, otherwise the dulce de leche may get too dark when it's baked on top of the brownies.

Oh, and you might want to make two cans. Dulce de leche is something no one seems to be able to keep their hands off! (And given that it keeps for months at room temperature as long as the can remains unopened, you'll surely use it up.)

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So there you have it: super fudgy salted brownies with an intense chocolate flavor and dollops of thick, creamy dulce de leche. I think I'm gonna go make another batch now...