Last week, a few bloggers friends and I drove down to San Jose for the annual BlogHer Conference. Since most of us focus on food, Dorothy, Trish, Hayley, Karen, Ashley and I stuck together for the majority of the meals, sessions, and wandering around the Expo—our favorite part!
In the largest conference hall, over 65 brands set up booths to create the Expo. As we strolled around, every brand’s reps encouraged us to try samples, snag a reusable tote bag, and hand them our business cards. With very few food brands, we ended up with ample time to visit other stations, such as toilet paper, bleach tablets, hair care products, and the most memorable one of all…
The Mrs., a five-member band of slightly older women with little kids of their own. They came together when they realized they couldn’t relate to any of the pop songs on the radio about risqué clothes and boozy Friday night parties, so they created tunes with lyrics of their own that reflected their thoughts and lives. Before debuting their new single called “I’m Enough” at lunch on the second day, they set up a booth to give us attendees a sneak peek.
Just before Saturday’s midday meal, Ashley and I stopped by to check out their booth. A small square white structure sat in the middle of the floor, with a large gold-framed mirror on one side. The Mrs. band’s volunteers took turns handing individuals a set of white headphones for us to slip on and listen to the song.
Now, before I reveal anything else… Here is their YouTube video explaining what happens when everyone looks in that mirror. It’s short—just over 3 minutes—and it opens in a new tab so you won’t lose your spot here. Please, pretty please, watch the brief clip and tell me what you think.
Did you watch it?
Although the mirror never showed those written messages or the videos, we each heard a personal message, directed solely at us. A woman’s voice came through the headphones, saying, “Hi Amy!” or “Hi Ashley!” and interacted with us while we stood there.
She mentioned our eyes, our smiles, lots of our other positive traits, and she asked us to hold our gaze in the mirror, looking into our own eyes. As easy as it sounds in writing, that was almost impossible. I could barely stare into my own eyes for more than two seconds at a time, and I tried biting my lip to prevent myself from letting tears swell in my eyes.
The woman’s voice noticed, and she kept gently requesting that I stopped chewing on my lip and smiled instead. It was one of the hardest, yet most refreshing things I’ve done in my life, and as Ashley and I walked away, holding tissues to the corners of our eyes to dab at those tears of reassurance and relief, we could barely say anything.
So when I arrived back home on Sunday, I wanted to create a dessert that reflected those few minutes staring into the mirror: the sweet message, the salty tears, and the comforting reassurance that I am enough.
A little while later, a pan of these Fudgy Salted Caramel Brownies sat cooling on my counter. Those gooey pockets of caramel peeking out from the tops and sides of the rich chocolaty squares provided a purely comforting dessert, exactly what I needed after a long weekend away.
I started with my favorite ultimate healthy fudgy brownies. They’re almost as easy as a box mix, and you don’t need a mixer! Just add the dry ingredients to one bowl, the wet to another, and mix them together with a fork. The batter is really thick, which helps keep them fudgy instead of cakey, so put some muscle into that stirring!
I wanted to try something different, so I swapped out my usual all-purpose or whole wheat flour for my own gluten-free blend. I included all 3 options below—any of them will work! Feel free to use whatever you already have on hand.
For the caramel, I used the typical squares wrapped in plastic you find at the grocery store (such as Kraft). You want to dice those fairly small because the smaller the pieces, the greater than chance of each bite containing one! I cut each caramel square into 18 bits. First I sliced the square in half; then I diced each half into 3 horizontal and 3 vertical strips.
You’ll fold half of the caramel bits into the batter, and just before popping the pan into the oven, sprinkle the rest on top along with the coarse sea salt. Adjust the salt to suit your taste. The ¼ teaspoon I used was fairly subtle, but it’s better to add less before baking because you can always sprinkle more on top right before serving!
It’s REALLY important to let the brownies cool for a long time. I usually let mine rest overnight in the pan for the fudgiest texture. If you slice into them just a few hours after removing them from the oven, the brownies will have more of a cakey texture, but you can always pop those squares you cut into an airtight container and let them sit longer so they turn fudgier over time.
To learn the best way to slice fudgy brownies, watch my video beneath the recipe!
These healthier Fudgy Salted Caramel Brownies didn’t stand a chance against my chocoholic sweet tooth! As soon as I finished photographing them, I dove straight into the richest, sweetest, fudgiest center square, shamelessly licking my fingers before I even put away my camera. They don’t taste a bit like cardboard the way your usual low-fat or low-calorie “diet” brownies do, and with how easy they are to make, you’ll never have to skip dessert again!
Because every day deserves fudgy chocolate and gooey caramel. ♥
If you like this recipe, then be sure to follow my Healthy Cookies, Brownies & Bars board on Pinterest!