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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Caramel Brownies

Once upon a time I lived in a cold, frigid land with howling winter winds and a lack of parking in the university center.  The evil professors took all the parking for themselves and left the poor, lowly graduate students to take to public transportation.  In the bright and sunny days of June, July and August, there were none happier than the graduate students as they waited for the busses to come and whisk them to work.  However, as the summer gave way to fall and the trees shed their leaves, the temperatures began to drop as well.

One early winter morning, a bright-eyed first year graduate student bounced out the door in a fire-orange wool jacket, ready for the day ahead.  Only this was not any normal morning, it was the morning of her first Midwestern winter and the graduate student was ill-prepared in her beautiful orange coat.  While her faithful coat protected her from the milder winters of the East coast, it was no match for the winds that tore down the streets. 

The graduate student was no longer bright-eyed, instead she was chilled to the core, red-nosed and buried under layers of sweaters and scarves.  Week after week the winter winds grew stronger, the temperatures plummeted and the graduate student realized that her orange coat would not be enough. 

Armed with her trusty credit card, the graduate student ventured out to find the coat to face all winters.  One that would stand up strong to blustering winds and laugh off snow as it came pelting down.  Searching store after store, the graduate student tried on coat after coat.  Short ones, long ones, puffy ones and sleek ones.  None seemed up to the task of providing her the protection she needed. 

As all hope was dwindling away, the graduate student found it, the perfect coat.  More down-filled comforter than jacket, just the right length and the perfect mocha color.  This coat would allow the graduate student to not only handle the Midwestern winter, but conquer it. 

The blanket jacket protected the graduate student as she waited for her early morning bus and it kept her warm in the evening hours or her return trip home.  The years passed and the jacket provided just the right amount of warmth when the graduate student moved to the milder winters of the Colorado Rockies and it hugged her tight on her long walks home from the lab when she moved back to her beloved East coast.

As the years passed, the blanket jacket became thinner and thinner, yielding its downy filling to the hands of time.  As the graduate student prepared to make her way out into the real world, she realized that it was time to say goodbye to her longtime companion.  The corporate world is no place for a blanket jacket.  Packing it up with loving care, she sent it off to the hands of the Salvation Army, hoping that someone would love it just as much as she had.

Now don't worry, the story doesn't have a sad ending.  While wandering her new hometown, the former graduate student found a new coat.  A beautiful, plum-colored, wool coat, perfect for her new life in the real world.

Caramel Brownies
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

While this recipe was from Cooking Light, I'm pretty sure it's anything but light!  If you want to have a nice 180 calorie dessert, cut the finished brownie slab into 20 pieces.  Personally, I cut it up into 9-bars and ate it with lots of ice cream!  Hello calories, delicious!

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
cooking spray

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 tbsp evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8x8-inch pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, brown sugar and baking powder.  Combine butter, eggs and vanilla.  Add the liquid ingredients to the wet and stir to combine.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-23 minutes.  (test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center, only crumbs should come out on the toothpick when the brownie is done)

Allow brownies to cool in the pan on a wire rack while you prepare the topping.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add brown sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp evaporated milk.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and add vanilla and powdered sugar, whisk until smooth.  Pour evenly over the top of the brownies and allow to set about 20 minutes.

In a small microwaveable bowl, combine bittersweet chocolate and 2 tbsp evaporated milk.  Drizzle over the caramel and cut into squares.  Delicious with vanilla ice cream!
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