Salted Caramel Brownies

Cotton seersucker napkins, pink-printed melamine plate, melamine plates,  stainless steel and rubber flatware, leather-covered cooler, wooden pie box, and natural resin pie server

Photo: Tyllie Barbosa; Food Styling: Carol Smoler; Styling: Barri Leiner Grant

GET THE LOOK Clockwise from top: Cotton seersucker napkins, $16 each, and pink-printed melamine plate, $11, Elements. Melamine plates, $4.95 (dinner) and $3.95 (salad), and stainless steel and rubber flatware, $1.95 each, Crate & Barrel. Leather-covered cooler, $1,495, Jayson Home. Wooden pie box, $25, Bang Bang Pie Shop, 2051 N. California Ave. Natural resin pie server, $18, Tabula Tua.

Gale Gand, founding executive pastry chef/partner
Tru, 676 N. St. Clair St., 312-202-0001

“These brownies stack and pack easily since they get their moistness from having caramel chunks throughout instead of frosting,” says Gale Gand, baker extraordinaire, cookbook author, James Beard award winner, artisanal root beer maker, and cooking school owner and teacher (at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest). This indulgent yet simple recipe is a riff on a salted caramel sauce she demos in her classes.

Makes 24 to 30 squares (depending on how you cut them)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Special supply: Parchment paper

4 oz. high-quality unsweetened chocolate
12 Tbsp. butter
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher salt plus ¼ tsp. to sprinkle over batter
1 cup (7 oz.) Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels, cut into small pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a 9 x 13–inch baking pan with parchment paper.

2. In a microwave-proof bowl, melt the chocolate and butter together. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir slowly to combine.

3. Stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir. Then add the flour and ½ tsp. salt; stir until combined.

4. Fold in the caramel pieces.

5. Pour the batter into the pan and spread with knife to level it. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ tsp. salt over the surface.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

7. Let cool on the counter overnight. Cut into squares.

Tips and Tricks:
Use a sharp scissors to cut the caramels.

Measure the parchment paper to neatly fit the bottom of the pan and then cut 3 inches wider on all sides. Notch the corners for a squared-off finish.

Grasp the exposed parchment paper, lift the cooled brownies out in one piece, and cut into squares.

Layer the brownies with waxed paper in a cookie tin and chill before transporting. They will warm up in the picnic basket and become nice and chewy.

Stock up on boxes of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix ($2.99 a box at Jewel). Easier still, order from Floriole Cafe & Bakery (1220 W. Webster Ave., 773-883-1313)—pricey ($4.25 each), but gigantic and superchocolaty.

NEXT: Icebox Lemon Cream Pie recipe »


Icebox Lemon Cream Pie

Megan Miller, pasty chef/partner
Bang Bang Pie Shop, 2051 N. California Ave., 773-276-8888

Miller has always been obsessed with baking. During a brief fling with a pie truck, she had a DNA moment when she learned her great-great-grandparents had run a pie shop in Athens, Illinois. So she and her husband, David, teamed up with pie entrepreneur Michael Ciapciak to open a café of their own. Of all the pies Miller bakes at Bang Bang, why this one for a picnic? “It’s so simple, anyone can make it,” says her husband. “Even me.”

Makes 8 to 10 slices
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

1¼ cup graham cracker crumbs (such as Keebler)
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup margarine or butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Follow directions on graham cracker crumb box to bake crust. Bake and set aside.

Pie filling
5 egg yolks
20 oz. sweetened condensed milk
5 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 tsp. lemon zest

1. Beat yolks together until smooth. Add condensed milk and blend.

2. Slowly incorporate juice and zest into mixture. Mix until smooth.

3. Pour into cooled crust.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until sides of custard turn slightly brown and center is not liquid but jiggles when shaken.

5. Let cool to room temperature, cover tightly with foil, and freeze for 4 or more hours. Leave in freezer until you’re ready to go.

Tip and tricks:
To skip baking the crust, pick up a house-made graham crust ($25) from Bang Bang Pie Shop.

Swing by Bang Bang, which sells the whole pie ($30), or Fish Bar (2956 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-687-8177), which offers Mindy Segal’s strikingly similar Key lime pie ($25).


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More picnic goodies:
Starters: Wine & Cheese | The Main Event: Fried Chicken & Picnic Punch | The Side Show: Salads | Sweet Endings: Brownies & Lemon Cream Pie