The Baked Brownie with Pretzels and Toffee

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A long time ago I had found a recipe for brownies with pretzels and toffee, but I had failed to bookmark it. I wanted to make them again, so I went looking for the recipe. I couldn’t find the one I was looking for, but I found a bunch of other options. I narrowed it down to a couple of recipes, and I let my wife pick the one I used. She chose this one. Baked is a great bakery in our neighborhood with amazing baked goods, so I figured it was worth giving their recipe a try.

Now you might be asking yourself: why did I let my wife pick the recipe? Was it because I’m a nice guy? Was it because she’s an enthusiastic supporter and taste tester? Yes and yes. But mainly I let her pick because I was making it for her. It was the night of the Golden Globe Awards. (As regular readers of this blog know, I bake and write up these posts far in advance of when I post them.) The Golden Globe Awards are a big thing for her. It’s not because she was nominated for anything, even though I do think she deserves several awards. Rather, it’s because she’s a big fan of awards shows.

It’s a big night, and she has a special ritual. (As she has said, it’s like her Super Bowl.) She starts watching it early, to see all the pre-show coverage, flipping back and forth between a couple different channels, to get the best information. She has a dear friend, who long ago moved to a  different town, who she still watches it with via phone and text. She has particular foods that she prepares and eats.

Along with these particular foods, she was going to get something for dessert. I interjected and said I could make something. I could tell she was pleasantly surprised. Her eyes lit up, and her tone of voice changed. She said, “I didn’t know that was an option!”

I try not to have too much dessert in the house. I generally don’t make a new dessert until the old one is finished. But the previous night we had just finished off the previous recipe. And I figure it’s better to have homemade desserts (or homemade anything really) than buying something in a store.

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So I set about to make this recipe. And I have to say it’s an awesome recipe, and it turned out great. There were a couple of details about the ingredients, though. The supermarket didn’t have a ton of choice for toffee, so I picked up the milk chocolate toffee they had. And I ended up using regular semisweet chocolate chips for the chocolate, because I happened to have them handy. Also, I thought about making it gluten-free. I don’t know how it would have turned out, but I didn’t have gluten-free pretzels, so I figured it was moot anyway.

In fact, I didn’t really have great pretzels at all. All the supermarket had was Rold Gold pretzels. I have nothing against them. They’re perfectly fine if you want a generic, middle of the road pretzel. But they’re no Snyder’s of Hanover or even Utz. Yes, I’m a little bit of a snack food snob. (You can read more about my snack food snobbery here.)

And as long as we’re talking about the pretzels, it would have been great to have a measurement of the pretzels in weight or mass, instead of volume. Depending on how you break them, pretzels can have a vastly different weight for the same volume. (You can read more about my thoughts on measuring here.) Also, while the recipe calls for crushed pretzels, the pictures look more like broken pretzels, which is what I ended up using.

Between prep and actual time to make, these only took about an hour. Sometimes I feel I take a little bit longer than what the recipe says you should. I think part of that is due to being methodical and careful. But I also think part of that reflects a familiarity with the recipe already, masterful baking skills, and/or wishful thinking on the part of the recipe makers. This time I think it also took a little bit longer because I did all the mixing by hand. It’s a little bit more work, but it’s fun, and it really makes me feel connected to the recipe and to baking. It also feels a little bit like I’m stepping back in time. Like I’m baking how people baked before electricity.

Something that saved me time in the long run, however, is measuring out the ingredients ahead of time. It’s a little bit more prep ahead of time, but when it comes to doing each step, it doesn’t interrupt your baking rhythm or mojo. You can just keep going with the flow.

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Something that added a little bit more time though is doing what I call the “brown sugar trick”. If you’re like me, you will inevitably end up with brown sugar that is no longer usable because it has turned into one solid block. I can’t remember where I first learned about it, but there’s an easy way to make it usable again. Break a piece of it off, stick in a bowl, cover that bowl with a wet paper towel, and microwave it. Microwave it for 30 seconds and then check on it. Microwave it in 30 second increments until it reaches the consistency you need. It will eventually absorb the moisture from the paper towel and become usable again. It works! You should try it. Let me clarify that. Really, you should take better care of your brown sugar than I do, but if you’re in the same boat as me, you should try it. (Unfortunately for me, I had to do it twice this time. Once when I originally measured it, and then once again when I actually used it, as it had hardened again.)

The directions were a little unclear in step 3. I ended up adding the sugar to the saucepan I was using, then I removed it from the stove and poured it into a mixing bowl. I think it would have been easier to deal with if I added the sugar in after pouring it into the mixing bowl.

Other interesting things to note about the process: I added the eggs in one at a time like they said. I’ve usually just added in all the eggs at once in a recipe, but I figured I would follow their lead. Also, instead of greasing the pan, I used parchment paper. I figured there was a lot of butter in there already. And I used a regular spatula to smooth out the batter, not a greased one. I baked them for 30 minutes in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish and cooled them on a wire rack.

They were so fudgey, some of them were hard to remove from the parchment paper. I ended up with 33 brownies. I know it’s an odd number, but since they were so hard to remove, I ended up cutting some of them smaller to make it easier. Also, some of them fell apart differently than how I had originally cut them.

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Before even eating them, they looked and smelled delicious. And once it came to actually eating them, they were delicious. Absolutely delicious. Fudgey. Yummy. I had almost put more pretzels and toffee on top, because I thought they needed it. But they were so rich, they didn’t need anything. Writing this up, I can still remember what they looked and tasted like. I kind of want to make them again right now.

Instead, I will do the next best thing. I will ask you to make them and let me know what you think. Alternatively, if you have a better brownie recipe, send it along so I can try it out. I think this is one of the better brownie recipes I’ve tried, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

Recipe courtesy of Baked, via The Crepes of Wrath.

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