Elisa Strauss' Bourbon Salted Caramel Brownies

Chef Elisa's Bourbon Brownie Recipe

ICE Chef-Instructor Elisa Strauss shares three pro tricks for perfect brownies.

In this episode of Epicurious' 4 Levels videos, ICE alum and The Art of Cake Decorating chef-instructor Elisa Strauss (Pastry, '00) combines bourbon salted caramel and homemade whipped cream to enhance the brownie recipe she's been perfecting since pastry school.

Chef Elisa emphasizes ingredient choice, precision and texture to perfect this dessert. She chooses pure, organic butter free of additives, dark brown sugar for an extra rich flavor, and bourbon for complexity and nuttiness. Always weigh your ingredients for consistency.

Chef Elisa recommends three pro techniques: make your own chocolate syrup with pistoles and small chunks of butter instead of using granular cocoa powder; use your mixer's paddle attachment rather than a whisk to mix your batter without adding extra air; and use a butter knife to swirl the caramel into the brownie batter.

What doesn't take a pro to pull off: "Homemade whipped cream is one of the easiest things you can make," Chef Elisa says. "It has three ingredients: heavy cream, confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract." Whip it in a chilled bowl to top your brownies before serving.

Watch the video for a brief demo and see the full recipe below.


Bourbon Salted Caramel Brownies

Yields one 13-by-9-inch pan of brownies


For the caramel:

  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces of unsalted butter, cut into quarter-inch squares (Plugr√° or Kerrygold)
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (Fleur de Sel)
  • 6 ounces heavy cream
  • 4 ounces good-quality bourbon

For the brownie:

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I prefer pistoles or discs, but good-quality chocolate chips are fine)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 ounce vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour
  • Cooking spray (or can use extra butter)


For the caramel:

  1. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with parchment paper, lightly buttered.
  2. In a medium saucepan (make sure it is completely dry) over medium-high heat, melt the sugar. Use a spatula to break up any large chunks of sugar, then stop stirring and let the sugar melt on its own, undisturbed, for about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Once all the sugar is melted and it has reached a deep amber color, remove from the heat.
  4. Gradually whisk in the butter until it is dissolved.
  5. Stir in the cream, bourbon and salt. Return the pan to the stove to incorporate all of the ingredients at a low simmer to make sure all the sugar crystals have dissolved completely. Once the caramel bubbles slightly and reaches a dark amber color, remove from the stove.
  6. Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined sheet tray and transfer the tray into a freezer. Freeze for at least one hour. Depending on the humidity in your freezer, you may need more or less time for the caramel to solidify.

For the brownies:

  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan with two pieces of overlapping parchment paper. Make sure the parchment continues up the sides of the pan. Butter the parchment (you can use non-stick spray if easier).
  3. Bring a saucepan of water to boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set over the pan of water, stirring occasionally until completely melted. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
  4. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the sugar, brown sugar and salt. Gradually add the eggs, scraping the sides after each addition. Add the vanilla.
  5. Stir in chocolate butter mixture until combined.
  6. Add in flour, be careful not to over-mix.
  7. Pour 3/4 of the batter into prepared pan.
  8. Pull tray of caramel from the freezer and either cut into 1-inch squares or if caramel is still soft, use a 1-inch ball scooper and scoop balls of caramel onto a tray.
  9. Drop 3/4 of the caramel throughout the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the caramel. Scatter some caramel on top.
  10. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 45 minutes.

To serve: Put brownies in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm. This will allow you to cut the brownies into perfect squares. Add ice cream or whipped cream for a delicious and cool topping to the warm brownie, drizzle with extra caramel.

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