Browniefest part 9: Brownies with unusual toppings by Carole Bloom and by Mindy Segal

The previous posts covered all of the “plain” brownies, some of which had nuts or chocolate chunks in them but none of which had any sort of topping applied. I did all of those brownies first before starting on the brownies with toppings, because I could be fairly sure that some of the toppings would take on undesirable textures if they were frozen — indeed, some of the recipes specifically recommend storage in the refrigerator rather than either room temperature or freezer, and I had to make enough room in the fridge to fit them all.

The first two recipes with toppings that I made were Carole Bloom’s “Caramel Swirl Brownies” (Caramel, Gibbs Smith, 2013; p. 73) and Mindy Segal’s “Barter Brownies” (Cookie Love, Ten Speed Press, 2015; p. 217). Both have toppings that are slightly unusual for brownies: Bloom’s is unusual for being swirled with the batter (most caramel brownies have it just spread on top; compare cream-cheese brownies), and Segal’s is a mixture of melted milk chocolate and cocoa-flavored puffed-rice breakfast cereal. I’ll start with Bloom’s recipe.

Mise en place (caramel ingredients on left)
Starting with the usual mise en place; the ingredients in the caramel — sugar, cream, corn syrup, and butter — are on the left, and the brownie ingredients (including light brown sugar) are on the right; vanilla is used in both. The chocolate flavor here comes from a combination of bittersweet chocolate (my notes say TCHO 66% baking discs, which is at the low end of Bloom’s suggested range, but from the photo above it appears likely that I used Callebaut 70% instead) and unsweetened chocolate (TCHO 99%). Both brown and granulated sugars are used, but no leavening. The caramel is prepared on the stovetop in the usual way, which is not very photogenic so I’m not showing it here.

Egg-sugar mixture with hand mixer
Bloom’s brownie batter is made using procedure #2 (as described in part 2 of this series); unlike most of the other recipes, she explicitly specifies use of an electric mixer for the egg-and-sugar step, so I got out my hand mixer. (Two eggs, all that this recipe calls for, is a bit too small for my large stand mixer to beat effectively.) You can see how the egg-sugar mixture lightens in color and becomes creamy after beating for five minutes. (Obviously few bakers would have the patience to do this with a hand whisk, which would probably take ten minutes or more of continuous wrist action.)

Buttered foil in baking pan
Bloom tricked me into using softened butter rather than baking spray to lubricate the pan by calling it out separately in the ingredients list, which (as a result of the way the cookbook was designed) is on a separate page from the main body of the procedure. The recipe explicitly calls for a foil sling, so that’s what I used.

Brownies cooling in pan
After the batter is added to the pan, the previously prepared caramel sauce is poured on top and swirled with the brownie layer. I didn’t do a very good job of this, so the caramel formed more of a puddle than a swirl design.

Mise en place for brownies
Segal’s “Barter Brownies” are the result of a recipe swap she did with another Chicago-area pastry chef. This recipe has a couple of fairly unusual features, aside from the odd puffed-rice topping (Segal’s own addition): it uses extra-large eggs — most baking recipes are written for large eggs — and it calls for dark brown sugar (I of course used more dark muscovado). These brownies are leavened, and actually contain a significant amount of flour; the chocolate flavor comes from a combination of bittersweet chocolate (again, TCHO 66% discs) and Dutch-process cocoa (my usual Valrhona). Construction is by procedure #1.

Brownies cooling in pan
After baking, Segal’s brownies look pretty ordinary.

Cold brownies with rice crisp on top
The puffed-rice topping is made from a combination of chocolate-flavored puffed rice (I used a weird sprouted puffed brown rice with cocoa flavor that I found at Whole Foods) and melted milk chocolate (TCHO 39% milk chocolate discs). The photo above shows the result after chilling.

Brownies portioned according to recipe suggestion
Segal suggests, rather than the usual square portions, cutting these brownies into “candy bar” shapes, 1 inch by 4½.

Evaluation results

Bloom’s “Caramel Swirl Brownies” received fairly high marks on all of the specific attributes, including “moistness/mouth feel” (4.2 on a 1–5 scale) and “topping” (4.0), but received a mediocre “overall impression” score of 3.3 (n=6), good only for 11th place. That said, this recipe did receive one “favorite”. Segal’s “Barter Brownies” were rated below average (2.8) on “chocolate flavor”, and ended up in 12th place on “overall impression” with a 3.1 (n=4). I personally didn’t much care for either recipe and would be unlikely to make either one again. (Now I have to figure out what to do with leftover goofy cocoa-flavored-puffed-sprouted-organic-brown-rice cereal!)


Both recipes qualify as “A Low Sodium Food” under FDA regulations.

Caramel Swirl Brownies

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: one 2″x2″ square (42g)
Servings per recipe: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 218 Calories from fat 117
% Daily Value
Total Fat 13g 20%
 Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 51mg 17%
Sodium 48mg 2%
Potassium 11mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 7%
 Dietary fiber 0g 0%
 Sugars 15g
Proteins 2g 4%
Vitamin A 6%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%
Iron 3%

Barter Brownies

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: one 1″x4½” bar (61g)
Servings per recipe: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 235 Calories from fat 108
% Daily Value
Total Fat 12g 18%
 Saturated Fat 7g 34%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 58mg 19%
Sodium 125mg 5%
Potassium 25mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 11%
 Dietary fiber 1g 3%
 Sugars 23g
Proteins 4g 8%
Vitamin A 5%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 6%
Iron 6%
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