Sugar-Crusted Brownies w/Vanilla-Bean, Walnut Caramel

Decadent brownies baked in a USA Pans Mini-Cake pan, this is truly a dessert to share.  You could easily make these in a muffin pan for a scaled-down version as well.  Butter and sugaring the wells of the pan create an unexpected crunch to the brownie.  The flour in this recipe is also scaled back to create a flourless-type version which makes these slightly fudge-like.

Butter and Sugar 1 6-well USA Pans Mini-Cake Pans or 1 12-well USA Pans Standard Muffin Pans - tapping sugar out and set aside.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla-bean paste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

In a saucepan, melt butter, sugar and chocolate until smooth.  While chocolate mixture is melting, place eggs and vanilla-bean paste into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment and beat well.  Once chocolate is fully melted, then turn mixer on low and slowly pour in melted chocolate.  Turn mixer off and add flour, baking powder and salt - return mixer to low speed and mix to combine, using a spatula to scrape bowl sides and bottom to ensure ingredients are well incorporated.

Divide batter evenly between wells and bake in a 350 degree-preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.   Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan - carefully remove using a plastic knife inserted into pan to help lift out each brownie.

Vanilla-Bean, Whiskey-Walnut Caramel
2 cups sugar
1 cup brandy or whisky
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup whiskey or cognac
1 tbsp. vanilla-bean paste
1 cup chopped walnuts

Place sugar, brandy and lemon juice into large saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar melts and begins to turn color.  Once it becomes medium-amber in color, remove from heat and pour in the cream and whiskey stirring with a whisk to combine.  If mixture separates and syrup crystallizes do not worry, just place back onto stove over medium heat and continue to whisk frequently until sugar melts and combines with cream.   Then add vanilla-bean paste and walnuts.  Allow to cool completely and pour into wells of each brownie.  Enjoy!

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