Make no mistake, these are some decadent brownies, not for the faint of heart. But we could all use a little indulgence when winter sets in. And these are, to me, a sort of winter brownie. A classic, deep fudge-y chocolate with a rich caramel swirl, warmed up with the spices redolent of a cup of chai tea. And it is easy to create that oozing swirl with readily available canned dulce de leche (find it by the condensed milk or in the Hispanic foods section). The simplicity of this canned wonder makes it seem like you really slaved over these treats!
I make this in an 8 by 8-inch pan so you get lovely thick brownies with a generous swirl of caramel, I find it is hard to get a full layer of brownie batter fully across the bottom of a large pan, and you do need that base layer. Of course, you can forego the spices in the caramel (you still need to stir it loose) or just use cinnamon, or maybe cinnamon and a little ancho chili powder, but the added hint of spice really sets these apart. Scoop tablespoons of the caramel over as much of the batter surface as you can, then spoon over the remaining batter, just smoothing it out to try and cover the caramel. I use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Randomly dot the last bit over the top and gently swirl it through. You can cut these into small squares and eat as a normal brownie or make slightly larger pieces and serve with ice cream or whipped cream as a dessert, just remember these are rich as is!
Chai Caramel Swirled Brownies
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon cardamom
A few grinds of black pepper
1 (13.4 ounce) can dulce de leche
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
- Mix the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and black pepper together in a medium bowl to combine. Scoop the dulce de leche into the bowl and whisk vigorously to loosen it up. It won’t seem like it’s going anywhere at first, just keep going until it is loose and smooth, making sure the spices are combined with the caramel. If you absolutely need to, zap it in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get things moving.
- Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then stir in the sugar to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, the add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir to completely combined. Spread half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan, then dollop tablespoons of the caramel mixture over the top, using about ¾ of the caramel. Spoon the remaining batter over the top and gently spread it out over the caramel (don’t be too persnickety, some caramel peepeing through is fine). Dollop the remaining caramel in spoonfuls on top, then with a thin bladed knife, swirl the caramel through the top of the brownie batter. Don’t stick the knife all the way through to the pan, just about halfway deep.
- Cook the brownies for 25 – 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with no brownie crumbs (it may have a bit of caramel). Cool completely, then left out of the pan by the foil and cut into small squares.