I won’t lie to you, ‘food trends’ often make me squirm a little bit and brace myself for the multitude of recipe requests about to come my way for the new ‘in’ dessert. What bothers me is that they are often theme based rather than flavour based; anyone ever been disappointed to taste a rainbow cake and find it actually just consists of vanilla sponge covered in unflavoured buttercream and tastes insipidly sweet? Or ordered one of those shiny tempered chocolate dome desserts in a restaurant where the waiter pours over a hot sauce to dissolve it, only to discover that it’s really just a sweet, soft mess underneath? Unicorn freakshakes? Rainbow bagels? I’ll pass.
One trend, however, which has intrigued me, is the rise of sweet and salty food pairings. I say trend, but this really is nothing new. Salted caramel has existed for years, hidden under the guise of 'butter caramel’, just the salt wasn’t the focus. Try making a caramel without adding salt of any kind, and you’ll quickly realise just how necessary the salt element is - whether it comes from salted butter, a pinch of table salt or a sprinkling of sea salt flakes. A deliberate pinch of flaked sea salt stirred though or crushed over the top after drizzling is the perfect foil to super sweet caramel.
I must also warn you that salted sweet foods are the most moreish of them all, so bake these brownies at your own risk. I’ve tested this recipe lots of times over the last few months to get it spot on, and it’s safe to say Michael has had to start doing more exercise as he simply cannot resist a square. The pretzels and popcorn across the top add the perfect amount of crunch and just look so pretty, I couldn’t stop snapping pictures. Drizzle over a generous about of salted caramel whilst the brownies are still warm and it will pool lovingly around the toppings and stick it all together into beautifully sticky, salty squares.
Let’s talk ingredients first. For the brownie base, make sure you use a dark chocolate which is at least 70% or the base won’t have enough of a bitterness to stand up to the sweetness. I’ve opted for sweet and salty popcorn, but you could use sweet or salted, or even pop your own. I’d recommend Proper Corn as my favourite brand for this. The pretzels need to the the mini crunchy kind that you’d buy as a snack: PennState are perfect. As for the salted caramel sauce, the glue that holds these brownies together, there are a few options! You can make your own from scratch, or buy a jar and use that. A really good brand of caramel is Joe and Seph’s - I’ve seen it being made in their factory and it is DELICIOUS!
Salted caramel popcorn pretzel brownies
If you give the recipe a go, please share your photos with me as I love seeing you reinvent my creations! Tag with #BakingMartha and @marthacollison. Happy baking!