Nutella Brownies with Caramel and Toasted Meringue

20130428-214345.jpgSometimes this world hurts. Sometimes it down right aches to live in it. To find positivity and optimism amongst tragedy upon tragedy. To stay well informed, yet not to get overwhelmed and bogged down by the sadness in it. Amidst bombings, explosions, death and neglect. It was one of the main reasons that for years I said I didn’t want children. How could I do something as selfish as have a child when the world becomes a more frightening place on a daily basis?

But I did decide to have that child and now I struggle with trying to see the good. With trying to keep the belief that humans are inherently good. When everything in the news tells me otherwise and driving down the street or listening to a conversation between teenagers in the store screams at me to take this child to the far reaches of the world and get away from society. It’s finding that balance that I struggle with. And I am forever an optimist, so I must believe that things like this won’t happen to me or my child or my family, yet I still have to be wary. Every generation says that the world is worse then when they were growing up. This may be true to some extent, however it also speaks volumes to the ability of adults to shelter those little people in our lives while they’re so young and soft and gentle.20130428-215733.jpgI hope to teach this small girl balance. To learn to love and accept everyone, yet to be cautious enough to protect herself. To be informed, but not afraid. To be strong, but not hard. I hope to teach her how to cope, when the world all seems too big and scary. I hope she knows how to shut it all out for a moment and breathe.

My moment of pause used to always come in the kitchen. It still does, but I also find it in her these days. In the softness of her cheeks, the sweet smell of her breath and the glorious sound of her giggle.

Today I found it in both. My husband will be loosing a wonderful coworker to another location this week, so of course I felt the need to bake her something. This woman was there when he was sick last year, helped plan a baby shower for us when I was pregnant, and was one of the few people he called from the hospital when our little girl was born so fragile. She’s one of the sweetest people I’ve met and so to celebrate her I made dessert. And of course brought the baby in to visit.

This was one of two desserts I brought in, the second I promise to share later this week. These brownies were a big smash bang of ideas and substitutions in my brain. Oh I’m out of chocolate? Nutella is basically like melted chocolate anyway. I reallllllly liked these brownies. You could easily keep them in the pan, slather them with caramel, cover them with meringue and then toast them up. Make it simple. Just make them. It’s oh so worth it.20130428-215746.jpgNutella Brownies with Caramel and Toasted Meringue

Inspired by Bakers Royale, brownie recipe adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook

Ingredients

For the brownies:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup(2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup Nutella
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla

For the caramel:

1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the meringue:

3 large egg white
3/4 cup sugar

Directions

1. Make the caramel: In a large heavy bottomed saucepan heat cream, sugar and corn syrup over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush any sugar crystals off sides of pan that may form. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until caramel is dark golden brown or registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to an ice bath whisking occasionally until cooled.

2. Make the brownies: Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13×9 baking dish and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Mix butter and Nutella until light and fluffy. Whisk in sugar and molasses. Whisk in eggs, yolks, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once to the chocolate mixture. Fold together with a spatula until well incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the brownie comes out clean. Cool completely.

3. Make the meringue: in a heat proof bowl whisk egg whites and sugar over a pan of simmering water until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Transfer to a stand mixer and best on high until cooled, and mixture is glossy, has doubled in volume and stiff peaks form. Transfer to a piping bag.

4. Assemble: using a ring mold or biscuit cutter, cut out brownies. Pipe rosettes of meringue around outside edge of brownies, toast meringue using a torch or under the broiler for 1 minute. Fill center with caramel.

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