For pretty much my entire baking career, I have been on the hunt for the perfect brownie. The one that turns out velvety, fudgy and dense, with that slight crust on top. I think, with this recipe, I have found perfection. These are richer than Rockefeller, with a subtle warmth from the cinnamon and cardamom which lifts them even further towards brownie perfection.
The pink peppercorns are optional but they look beautiful sprinkled on top and I think they give a subtle but racy kick to the chocolate and complement the sweet caramel beautifully. My partner loved the brownies but hated the peppercorns – not to his taste at all. So leave them off if you must, though I would encourage you to try it at least once.
The ‘candy milk’ in the title is the addition of the caramel. The recipe I based this on called for Dulce de Leche – that thick sugary caramel so popular in South America. ‘Dulce de Leche’ literally translates as ‘candy milk’. You can buy tins of it in delis in the UK but most supermarkets stock what I used instead – Nestle Caramel. This is a thick ready to use caramel with a taste that is pretty close to the original dulce de leche, though thicker. I recommend stirring it well with a warm spoon before dolloping onto the brownie mix to make it smoother and allow it to drop from the spoon more easily.
Leftover caramel should be licked from the spoon or slathered onto fresh bread for breakfast the next day (I picked up this habit from a German I met during my time in Ecuador, who told me it is a popular morning treat in Germany. It certainly made for a good strong sugar kick to start the day …).
I would also like to dedicate this recipe to Sebastian who tap danced, and Alicia who composed the song xx
Pink Peppercorn Candy Milk Brownies
85g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
225g dark chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract or scraped seeds from one vanilla bean pod
2 large eggs, at room temperature
35 g plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp freshly ground pink peppercorns
8 tbsps of Nestle caramel or dulce de leche
Preheat the oven to 180°C or 170°C for a fan oven. Grease well and line the bottom of a square 20x20cm tin. Let the baking paper hang over the long edges, it will make it easier to lift brownie out later.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla until combined. Stir in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Add the flour and stir energetically for just a minute, until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan.
Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Drop half of the caramel, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining caramel in dollops over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the caramel slightly.
Sprinkle the ground pink peppercorns evenly over the top of the mixture and then bake until the centre feels almost set, about 25-30 minutes. Don’t over-bake or the brownies won’t have that dense fudgy texture. Let cool completely in the pan before lifting out the brownies using the baking paper overhang. Slice into 16 equal pieces. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 days or freeze for up to a month.