I grew up in what at the time was a fairly rural area (now it is apparently what's called an "exurb"). As a result, there was not much to do on weekends. I think the cool kids drank and hung out in the grocery store parking lot, but not being cool, my friends and I baked lots of sweet treats and then read books or watched a movie. I thought this was fairly normal, until I went to my elite preppy undergrad and discovered that my ability to make baked goods from scratch made me rather eccentric (in addition to many other things, but that's another post).
While I quickly learned not to respond to the introductory question of what do you like to do on weekends with "reading and baking cookies," I continued to actually enjoy baking, and my friends enjoyed the results.
In grad school, I met a friend who enjoyed baking as much as I do (and could even quilt while I was knitting, bonus!). She gave me an awesome recipe for chocolaty, fudgy brownies with a layer of creamy caramel in the middle. This has become one of my most-requested baked goods, to the point that whenever I have friends visiting me in baladelba7th, I request that they bring me ingredients that are hard to find here (specifically unsweetened baking chocolate. There is cooking chocolate here, but it is foul beyond all imagination. Think condensed oil laced with the faintest bit of chocolate flavoring). I made these last week for some of my participants, and am currently making them for a holiday party. The kitchen smells delightful. A particular bonus of these brownies is that between the caramel and gooey chocolate, they are a bit messy, which means lots of snacking on the crumbs as you cut them up. Yummy.
Now, I realize that having described all this yumminess, I should post the recipe. I'm sure my friend originally got it from some cookbook, but I don't know which one, so my apologies, cookbook writer.
6 squares Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
1 1/8 cups butter or margarine
3 cups granulated sugar
1.5 cups flour
1 (14 ounce) package caramels, unwrapped (the unwrapping part is painful. Highly useful to employ a husband and/or friends eagerly awaiting the final project)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups pecans or walnut halves, divided (I am a no nuts in my brownies type of baker. But if you like nuts in brownies, this is probably tasty.
1 (12 ounce) package Baker's Real Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a foil-lined 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
Microwave chocolate squares and butter in microwave-safe bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir sugar into chocolate until well blended. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour. Spread 1/2 of batter in prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until batter is firm to the touch.
Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream in microwave-safe bowl on HIGH 3 minutes or until caramels begin to melt. Whisk until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of nuts. Gently spread caramel mixture over brownie batter in pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, if desired. Pour remaining unbaked brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture; sprinkle with remaining nuts. (Some caramel mixture may peek through.) Bake additional 30 minutes.
Cool in pan. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen brownies from sides. Lift from pan using foil as handles.
Cut into 24 fudgy brownies.