Brownie Sundae Bars with Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce

September 5, 2011
13 Comments

I recently returned from our annual summer trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of my favorite places in the world.   Although most people who have been to this area tend to love it as much as I do, many people who have never visited ask me what’s so special about it.  I mean, it is Wyoming, after all.  We’re not talking about a Villa on Lake Como, Italy or some luxury residence on a secluded island in the Caribbean owned by Bono, both of which have obvious attributes that require no explanation.

Well, for starters, there’s this:

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Breathtaking mountains, serene lakes, crystal-clear blue skies — I never sleep better or feel healthier than I do when I am in Jackson.  And the wildlife is everywhere: herds of buffalo hanging out alongside the road, moose showing up in your backyard, and yes, even the occasional bear sighting on a hiking trail. Eric saw one this time around, but I didn’t stick around to verify.  I was too busy running……which apparently is the number one thing that you are not supposed to do when you see a bear.

The stress just kind of lifts off of my shoulders the moment that I get off the plane at the cute little Jackson Hole airport, an airport that really throws you for a loop because everyone there is so darn happy and friendly.  At an airport!  But then I realize, “Oh, right.  You’re happy because you get to live here.”  Makes perfect sense.

So, to recap, we’ve got the scenery, wildlife, stress relief, outdoor activities, friendly people, fresh air.  Good start, right?  Then there’s the fact that I have a super-easy time finding clothing and souvenirs with my initials on them whenever I visit:

JH Julie Hession — Jackson Hole.  See how convenient that is?  True, this might not seem like a benefit to you, unless you are Jennifer Hudson or Jack Hanna (both of whom I’m certain read this blog), but it’s one of my reasons.

Now let’s talk food.  C’mon, you knew that I would get there eventually.  I mean, a vacation is not a vacation unless there is fantastic food involved, am I right?  I know that I’m not the only one who researches, scours foodie message boards (love Chowhound.com!), and plans almost every vacation meal prior to departure.  Admit it.  Yes, it’s obsessive, but my husband has never eaten so well on vacation as he has since he’s known me.  So there.

You might be surprised to learn that, for a relatively small western town, Jackson has some downright amazing dining options, and they’re adding more every year.  As a tradition, we always like to have dinner at the Snake River Grill during our first evening in town.  This is one of the higher-end “reservations strongly recommended” places in Jackson, with consistently scrumptious food, but it still has a very comfy, unpretentious, and laid-back atmosphere.

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I was particularly excited and geeking out foodie-style during this visit because Chef Hubert Keller (of “Top Chef” and Fleur de Lys fame) was dining at the next table with his family, all of whom looked like they had come straight from a Vogue photo shoot.  I happened to be facing him, and as much as I tried to not look his way, I couldn’t help it (I was trying to figure out what he had ordered off the menu.)  So from his perspective, I was a crazy lady who stared at him throughout his entire meal.  But, to my point about the caliber of dining establishments in J.H., if they’re good enough for a Top Chef……

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One of the menu items for which the Snake River Grill is famous is their “SRG Eskimo Bars”, described as “Chocolate Dipped Brownies and Vanilla Ice Cream, served with Caramel Dipping Sauce.”  I’ve mentioned in the past that Eric and I aren’t really dessert people when we dine out, so we might have passed these up if our friend, who is from the area, hadn’t convinced us to give them a try.  I only took one {very big} bite, but that was all that I needed to know that I would figure out a way to recreate this dessert after I arrived back home.  Bittersweet chocolate coating enrobed layers of fudgy chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream, all of which was then submerged in a gooey warm caramel sauce.  TO. DIE. FOR.  Obviously, it was extremely rich and decadent — eating the entire dessert would most definitely put you into a food coma — but it was also so creative and fun.  Plus, as someone who has always played with my food, I just love the “interactive dessert” factor with the dipping sauce.

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The hard part was figuring out how to make this dessert come together without ending up with a big pile of melted ice cream when I attempt to coat the bars in melted chocolate.  The ice cream and brownie layered base was pretty easy to create, and the salted caramel sauce turned out better than I had anticipated (Seriously, you might want to make a double batch of this stuff.  I couldn’t stop taking samples.)  After some extensive research via my cookbooks and web sites, I determined that “tempering” the chocolate was the best route to take.

I had never tempered chocolate before, at least not that I could recall.  According to several sources, tempering chocolate is “a method of heating and cooling chocolate in order to use it for coating or dipping.”  Properly tempered chocolate has a nice glossy finish after coating as opposed to lines or striations. Directions for tempering are included below.

Personally, I think that the name was derived from the fact that one might lose one’s temper while going through the process — it takes a bit of extra time and effort.  That said, the end results were totally worth it, and I was pretty darn proud of myself and my glossy-chocolate-covered-unmelted-ice cream-brownie bars.  Hubert Keller would’ve been proud of me too.

Oh, and if the tempering had been a disaster, my back-up plan was to resort to Magic Shell.

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 For this recipe, I decided to use a variation of my “super-secret-World’s-Best-rich-and-fudgy-brownie-recipe” as the base layer.  The variation is that I cut all of the ingredients by 1/3, so that the brownie layer wouldn’t be quite as tall as it usually is when I just make brownies.  If you would like to make the brownies, increase all of the ingredients by 1.5 (6 eggs, 3 cups sugar, etc.)  Also, be sure the chill the brownies for at least 2 hours after they cool to room temperature.  These are really fudgy brownies, and they can be kind of messy if not chilled.  Oh, and be sure to run a few miles after eating one.

  • There are MANY steps to this recipe, and it should ideally be started the day before serving.  To make the recipe easier, you can:  Use a boxed brownie mix or even store-bought brownies, use pre-made caramel sauce and add sea salt, use “Magic Shell” to cover the bars as opposed to tempering the chocolate.
  • The salted caramel sauce will keep for up to two weeks, tightly covered and refrigerated.  Rewarm prior to serving.
  • You can use low-fat ice cream for the bars…….but really, what’s the point?  You’ve already got the decadent brownies, chocolate shell, and caramel sauce.  You might as well go for it, right?
  • For the tempered chocolate, you can use chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate — they will work just as well.
  • After the brownie bars have been frozen, they can be individually wrapped in plastic and kept for up to 2 weeks.

Brownie Sundae Bars with Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce

Printable Recipe

Makes 15 bars

Bittersweet Chocolate Brownie Layer

7 ounces (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 large eggs

1 cup cake flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1/2 gallon good quality vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream, softened to a spreadable consistency

 

Tempered Chocolate

24 ounces milk chocolate or bittersweet chocolate (or a combination of the two), coarsely chopped

Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

2 ounces butter, cubed

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon course sea salt or flaked sea salt

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Prepare the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  Line a 9X13 inch baking pan with enough foil so that there is a 1-inch overhang on all sides.  Butter the foil.  In a heavy large saucepan, melt the butter with the chocolate over medium heat, stirring frequently until smooth.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Whisk in eggs, one at a time.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder.  Add this mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring until well incorporated.  Stir in the sugar and the salt until thoroughly combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.

Bake the brownies until the top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges with a few moist crumbs adhering, 25-30 minutes.  Cool to room temperature before proceeding.

When the brownies have cooled, spread the softened vanilla ice cream in an even layer over the top.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze until solid, at least 3 hours.

Line a baking sheet (size that will fit into your freezer) with parchment paper or waxed paper.  When the ice cream has frozen, remove the pan from the freezer.  Grasping the foil overhang, pull the brownies/ice cream block out of the pan and place it on a work surface.  Working quickly with a very sharp knife, cut the block into 15 bars (you can do more or less, depending on the size that you want to serve.)  Transfer the bars to the prepared baking sheet, spacing apart, and freeze until solid, at least 2 hours.

Temper the chocolate (you will need a candy thermometer for this part!):  Fill a large bowl with a few inches of ice water and set aside.  Bring a heavy medium saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a low simmer.  Place the chocolate in a large, dry, heatproof bowl, and set the bowl over the simmering water.  Stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and smooth, and the temperature reaches  118F degrees.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set it over the reserved ice-water bath.  Stir the chocolate constantly until the temperature has decreased to 80F degrees.

Return the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water and stir the chocolate until the temperature has increased to 87F degrees, and then immediately remove the bowl.  Throughout the next steps, check the temperature of the chocolate occasionally.  It should stay between 86-89 degrees.  Keep the saucepan of water simmering in the event that you will need to reheat the chocolate.

Cover the ice cream brownie bars:  Have a fork and an off-set spatula handy.  Remove the baking sheet holding the frozen bars from the freezer.  Working as quickly as you can, lower one bar into the chocolate using the off-set spatula, and then flip the bar over using the fork, making sure that all of the surfaces are coated with chocolate.  Carefully lift the bar out of the chocolate with the fork, tapping the fork a few times on the bowl to even out the chocolate.  Return the coated bar to the baking sheet and repeat the process with the remaining bars.  If the ice cream starts to get too soft, return the baking sheet to the freezer until it firms up.

Freeze the coated brownie bars for at least 2 hours.

Prepare the caramel dipping sauce:  In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and the water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly until the sugar has dissolved.  Continue to boil the mixture without stirring over medium-high heat until it turns dark amber in color, 5-6 minutes.  Turn off the heat and carefully stir in the butter, cream, and salt (the mixture will bubble up vigorously at first.)  Return the heat to low, and cook the mixture, whisking, for 2-3 minutes more, until smooth and slightly thickened.  Allow the caramel to cool to a moderately warm temperature before serving.

Serve the brownie bars alongside the warmed caramel dipping sauce.

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13 Responses to Brownie Sundae Bars with Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce
  1. Hello!

    I am one of those lucky people that live in Jackson Hole and the SRG Eskimo Bars are my all-time favorite dessert EVER!!!! I am a pastry chef at a guest ranch here, (Red Rock Ranch) and I made them for our guests after eating them for dessert one evening. They are simply amazing! Thanks for writing about them!

  2. Hi Addie!  Thanks so much for your comment — so nice to hear from someone from Jackson.  Im sure that the guests at the ranch were VERY appreciative of you efforts :)

  3. I love this post, Julie! I think Kevin would pack his bags tomorrow and move to Jackson Hole–so gorgeous! So glad you had such a wonderful time. And good heavens, these looks so yummy. Miss you! Hope all is well in the world of granola :)

  4. These look so awesome and so decadent, I can’t wait to try them (although I must admit, I am a little intimidated to try)!

  5. Thanks, Patty!  Dont be intimidated — the steps are really not that difficult, just a bit time consuming.  The results are totally worth it though!!

  6. You’re so funny. I really, really want to to go to Jackson Hole now.

    Wow! I can’t believe you saw Hubert Keller! That is CRAZY.

    I want one of these brownie sundae bars. Someday I’ll make them.

  7. Thanks, Emily!  I know — and I was the only person at my table who cared that he was sitting next to us.  I was like No, really everyone.  Hes a famous chef.  Isnt that cool?  Nobody cared.

  8. you have gotta be kidding me– this looks like the best dessert ever! i have a few bronies sitting in my freezer right now…

  9. Thanks, Steph!  I know — I think that its that caramel dipping sauce that really takes this dessert over the edge.  Enjoy :)

  10. Wow! I bookmarked this recipe and cannot wait to give it a try. Loved your description on tempering chocolate and I would’ve stared at Mr. Keller just as bad or worse if I had been in your position so don’t feel bad, I’m sure he’s used to it by now! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe, I look forward to giving it a shot. Love the site! =]

  11. Thanks so much for your comments, and Im so glad that you enjoyed the recipe.  Its nice to know that others would have been star-struck by Chef Keller as well!

  12. Just wanted to say thank you for the inspiration, I used left over strawberry cupcake batter and dulce de leche ice cream to re-create this bar with a twist, even placed a link back to this post so that others may see where the inspiration came from. Have a great day!
    link to freespiriteater.com

  13. Love, love, LOVE them!  Your twist on the bars looks incredible!  Thanks so much for the shout-out too.  I loved your comment about Come Together too :)


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