Remember the first time you saw someone put salt on your cookies or caramel? You were probably like, "Whaaaaaat?!!" As politely as you possibly could even though you were probably thinking, "What the H-E- double hockey sticks are you doing to my perfectly good cookie??". Then you tasted it... That's when you realized that your cookie had been average all this time and you didn't even know it! Now it had been transformed into this sophisticated, sultry, multi-dimensional, EXPERIENCE!! Bet you didn't know a cookie could do that, huh?
The sweet and salty combination opened up a whole new world. (Cue the Aladdin magic carpet scene) All of the sudden things that didn't go together just did. Just like that! One of my favorites since the beginning was pretzels and, yes you guessed it, chocolate. This is probably one of the oldest sweet and salty combinations but it's a favorite.
I'm gonna take this moment to have a little aside solely about brownies for a second. Most people know what kind of cookies they like. I hear all the time, "The best cookie has to be crumbly." or "I will only eat soft chewy cookies.". But which is the real best one? All of them! Your favorite type of cookie is the best kind of cookie! I still don't know which kind of cookie I like but I'm religiously trying a bunch of different recipes until I find my favorite. I do, however, know what kind of brownies I like. That is most definitely super fudgey brownies. Dark chocolate, not too sweet, borderline raw, fudgy brownies. The ones that stick to the roof of your mouth a beg for a cup of milk type.
I don't want you all getting the wrong idea about me here. I'm 100% a milk chocolate girl (though I'll admit, every once in a while I'll have these crazy cravings for a good solid dark). Brownies though, that's a whole separate deal. A brownie with a milk chocolate flavor is just wrong and it definitly does not pack the same punch that a dark chocolate brownie does. It's like a whole other world of flavor. Other kinds of brownies, it's like a going, GOING... wap wap wahhhh, SPLAT experience.
Okay, so that aside aside (ha-ha) I obviously needed a super deep and mature brownie flavor to that would be worthy of being "salted". (You don't just put any salt on top of anything. It's an art. Both have to be worthy.) I am proud to say this brownie definitly holds it's own. The problem was the pretzels.
I used honey wheat pretzels to make this crust just cuz they have a salty component and are also the most addictive things on the planet besides maybe thin wheats. (Omg! What can I make with thin wheats? Brie pie maybe???). The first time I took this out of the oven (a bit too early cuz I was so impatient and I'm serious about the raw brownie thing) it was still not set. It kinda tipped a little on to my outfit and I was covered in brownie. It kinda ruined the glossy perfect top so that meant I was going have to make another (oh well!). So as I made my next batch and licked brownie off my skirt (gross, but it was so good!) I realized I didn't measure the amount of pretzels I used the first time. I kinda eyeballed it. The second batch crust, which I made a double recipe of, came out kinda dry and too pretzely tasting. It needed more of like a cookie-pretzel crust.
So as Julia Child suggests, I added more butter because everything is better with more butter. The proportion was perfect! And then the masterpiece was finished! Salty, slightly honey-tasting great texture crust with quite possibly the best brownie I ever made in my life! Gold I tell you! I think I had more than one dream about eating them, looking at them, smelling them, and pretty much anything else you can think of doing with a brownie. I had a proud 36 minutes of self-control after I woke up the next morning until I devoured all the "ugly corners". (It's amazing what can be ugly when you look at it right. That's probably one of the only good things that comes from being a baking perfectionist.)
Pretzel Crusted Brownies
Makes: 16 brownies (so you probably will want to double this)
1 1/4 cup finely crushed honey wheat pretzels
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted vegan butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 rounded teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. (This helps when removing the baked brownies from the pan, once cooled).
In a small bowl mix the butter, pretzel, sugar and salt until the mixture begins to clump. Press the mixture to the bottom of the pan until a crust forms.
Add enough water to a medium saucepan so that it is 1 to 2 inches deep. Heat water until barely simmering. Combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder and the salt in a medium heat-safe bowl. Rest bowl over simmering water (if the bottom of the bowl touches the water, remove a little water).
Stir mixture occasionally until the butter has melted and mixture is quite warm. Don’t worry if it looks gritty, it will become smooth once you add the eggs and flour.
Remove the bowl from heat and set aside for 3 to 5 minutes until it is only warm, not hot.
Stir in vanilla with a wooden spoon or spatula. Then, add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
When the batter looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the flour and stir until fully incorporated, then beat with the wooden spoon or spatula for 40 to 50 strokes. (The batter will be quite thick). Spread evenly over the pretzel crust.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out almost clean (you want it to be a little moist with batter). Note: Some have found they need to bake an extra 10 minutes, so keep an eye on the doneness of the brownies and use the toothpick test as your guide.
Cool completely then remove from pan. For the cleanest lines when cutting, place into freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to firm up. Cut into 16 squares.