Dulce de Leche Brownies

 One of the things that I've realized about myself -- along with the fact that I really just don't like the taste of alcohol, and I'm better suited to blonde hair -- is that cooking is a constant for me. Preparing and sharing food is something I am always up for, no matter my current state (a good quality to have when one has a food blog that needs updating twice a week, I might add). I cook not only when I'm hungry, but also when I'm happy, as a way to spread my good mood and joy with all those around me via a plate of freshly baked cookies. I cook when I'm sad, as a way to console myself (I distinctly remember crying into a bowl of chocolate banana bread batter a few years ago after realizing it was really, definitely over with my then boyfriend). I cook when I need to unwind, allowing all of my thoughts to momentarily melt away into the pool of butter caramelizing a pile of onions. I cook when I'm anxious, letting any nerves to reduce down along with the pot of tomato sauce I have on the stove. 

And here's a new one to add to the list, discovered just the other day -- unlike probably 99% of the population, I cook when I'm sleepy, too. I flew back to Rome after a brief visit to the U.S last week and though intensely tired (who can really sleep on a plane?!) I decided to bake up these dulce de leche brownies, as a way to keep myself occupied until at least 9pm, thus outsmarting the fatigue that would see me asleep the minute I got home from Fiumicino. The brownie-baking kept me alert and awake, not to mention left me feeling satisfied, productive, and happy, all the while providing a dose of sugar to keep me going. Added bonus? They totally made me look like some sort of a baking magician when I brought them to my colleagues the next day at work ("Um, when exactly did you make these, in between landing yesterday and getting to work at 8:30am today?!" - cit. my colleague, the lovely Emily Carroll). 

But enough about me! Whatever mood you're in, you're going to want to make these brownies, because they're spectacular, one of those desserts that leaves the eater silent for a long while after their first bite. The brownies themselves are pure, intense fudge -- the very definition of fudge-y brownie -- its rich chocolate-y goodness interrupted only by pockets of sweet, gooey dulce de leche, that caramel-y Argentinian concoction that you must try, if you never have. One of my colleagues took one home for her husband, who passed on a messaging asking if it would be at all possible to make another pan of them, just for him?! Another declared it the best brownies she had ever eaten, ever. Still another came back for seconds, and thirds. Are you running to your kitchens yet?!

A couple of notes: I used store-bought dulce de leche for this recipe as it was faster and easier (for anyone living in Italy: your local Carrefour should have it, for anyone in Rome: Castroni will also have it). I have seen it in American supermarkets as well. If you're feeling very ambitious, feel free to make your own homemade dulce de leche (recipe here). The nuts in the ingredient list below are optional; I left them out this time anticipating I would be sharing them with colleagues who might prefer the brownies plain, but the pecan, chocolate, and caramel combo would make these kind of like Turtle brownies (yum). Finally, these brownies will keep well for up to 3 days at room temperature (like they would ever last that long) and that they can be frozen for up to two months. 

Want another recipe with dulce de leche? What about this Banoffee Pie? Want more brownies? Check out these Perfect Fudge Brownies, these White Chocolate Chunk Brownies, and these Cheesecake Brownies. Not a fan of brownies? I've also got Blondies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Lemon Squares

DULCE DE LECHE BROWNIES

Ingredients:
8 tablespoons (115 grams) unsalted butter
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1/4 cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140 grams) flour
1 cup (about 16 spoonfuls -- no need to be super precise here) dulce de leche 
Optional: 1 cup (100 grams) chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 C).

Line an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with a long sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If it doesn’t reach all the way up and over all four sides, cross another sheet of foil over it, making a large cross with edges that overhang the sides. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil with a bit of butter or non-stick spray. 
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted.  Remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Let cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour. Mix in the nuts, if using.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Drop one-third of the Dulce de Leche, by heaping spoonfuls, evenly spaced over the brownie batter. Then drag a knife through the dulce de leche mounds to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining Dulce de Leche in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Dulce de Leche slightly, again (be careful not to overswirl -- we want nice pockets of dulce de leche, not skinny threads.)
 
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The brownies are done when the center feels just-slightly firm. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares (or if you can't wait that long feel free to eat while they're still warm, but make sure you have a spoon/fork as these are extremely gooey). Makes about 12 brownies if you cut them larger.
Recipe from the genius David Lebovitz (www.davidlebovitz.com). 




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