Recipe Review

I Tried Dominique Ansel’s Go-To Brownie Recipe and Did Not Expect These Results

published May 22, 2020
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Credit: Sheela Prakash

You likely know Dominque Ansel as the man behind the Cronut — the croissant-donut hybrid that took the world by storm seven years ago. But that’s certainly not all the pastry chef has accomplished. Since then, Ansel has won a James Beard award, published two cookbooks, and continues to crank out sweets in his NYC-based bakery.

I’d never attempted one of his desserts at home until recently, when a brownie recipe from his latest cookbook, Everyone Can Bake, caught my eye. I’m a total sucker for brownies, and I was intrigued to see how a French pastry chef would approach the homey dessert. Once I learned that they were studded with chocolate chips and laced with salted caramel, I couldn’t resist trying them out.

Get the recipe: Dominque Ansel’s Go-To Chocolate Brownies

Credit: Sheela Prakash

How to Make Dominique Ansel’s Go-To Chocolate Brownies

At first glance the recipe seemed easy enough, but I quickly realized that tucked inside the recipe was another recipe for the soft caramel topping. Suddenly, I was in for quite a project — but I carried on in the name of chocolate.

I began by tackling the caramel. I whisked together heavy cream, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a saucepan and brought the mixture to a boil. I removed it from the heat and heated another saucepan. Once that was hot, I added sugar and cooked it until it became toasty-brown and caramelized. I (carefully) whisked in the hot cream mixture and cooked it until the caramel sauce reached 221°F. Then I put it aside, whisked in some flaky sea salt, and turned my attention to the brownie batter.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

For the brownies, I began by melting butter and sugar in another saucepan, then whisked together eggs and more sugar in a large bowl. I added the butter mixture to the egg mixture, followed by cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and flour, then stirred in chocolate chips. I then poured the batter into a buttered and cocoa-dusted square pan and baked it at 350°F. The recipe says the brownies will take 30 to 35 minutes — a toothpick inserted in the center of mine came out clean with a few moist crumbs at 35 minutes.

The brownies came out of the oven with a candy-like, crackled top, which I was sad to cover up, but after giving the brownies 15 minutes to cool, I used an offset spatula to slather on the caramel. (Well, I did the best I could — it was difficult due to the uneven surface of the brownies and a slightly sunken center). Despite wanting to try one right away, I had visions of cleanly-cut brownie squares, so I waited a few hours for the brownies to cool completely and the caramel to set before attempting to slice them. But even after three hours, the caramel was too soft and gooey. I threw the pan into the freezer for 20 minutes, which helped a little, but when I finally gave up and sliced them, I didn’t get the perfect squares depicted in the book.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

My Honest Review of Dominique Ansel’s Brownies

Everything about this recipe was promising — the double dose of chocolate, the thick layer of caramel on top, and the showering of flaky salt — but ultimately I was disappointed. I liked their moist and chewy texture, but they were tooth-achingly sweet — I expected deep, dark chocolate flavor that would be balanced by the caramel, but instead all I tasted was sugar.

Beyond this, I dirtied three saucepans, a couple of bowls, and multiple whisks, and I wasn’t thrilled to have to contend with a very-full sink after I got the brownies in the oven. While I wasn’t surprised that this was a high-effort recipe, I was expecting the results to be show-stopping because of it. Instead, they were messy and not something I’d make again.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

Some Tips for Making Dominque Ansel’s Brownies at Home

While these brownies weren’t for me, they very well might be for you — particularly if you love milk chocolate and caramel-filled candy bars, since they’re extra-sweet and chewy. If you bake them, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. Whisk the caramel as it cools. The caramel will harden on the surface as it cools, so you’ll want to whisk it occasionally to ensure it stays smooth.
  2. Consider skipping the caramel completely. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’d actually prefer these brownies without the soft caramel. They had a lovely candy-like top before I poured the caramel over them, and I think the crunch would have been welcomed.
  3. Sprinkle flaky salt on top. The original picture of the recipe shows flaky salt sprinkled on top of each square, but the recipe doesn’t instruct you to do this. I gave them a light sprinkle after pouring the caramel on top and I actually wish I had sprinkled a bit more on.
  4. Chill them before cutting. If you want perfectly clean-cut squares, l’d recommend transferring them to the refrigerator or freezer after they cool to room temperature to allow the caramel to firm up enough so that it won’t drip down the sides of the cut brownies.

Your turn: Have you tried making Dominique Ansel’s Brownies at home? Let us know in the comments!