Looking back through my archives I realized I’ve posted at least one chocolate-pumpkin dessert before Halloween for the past few years, so I figured it was past time to post a recipe like this, especially after all the apple recipes I’ve posted lately. Fruit is great, but for me at least, chocolate will always be better.
I’ve actually been working on this recipe for a while. I made some pumpkin swirl brownies last Halloween and even photographed them, but I kept deciding against posting them because they weren’t quite good enough. Something was missing. But then earlier this year I discovered Supernatural Brownies. These are hands down my favorite brownies. Ever. And I have tried lots and lots AND LOTS of brownie recipes. I’m not into cakey brownies (if I wanted cake, I’d make that instead!), I like fudgey brownies and these are moist and fudgey beyond belief.
Fast forward to this month and I decided to retry the dessert but with the Supernatural brownies as the base. I also decided that chocolate and pumpkin weren’t quite enough. I’ve done that. I wanted to make it better. So what goes good with both chocolate and pumpkin? Caramel! The result are brownies with two layers of pumpkin-cream cheese swirled into them and then drizzled with caramel on top. When you’re ready to serve, you can warm up the rest of the caramel sauce and pour on even more.
I have no qualms about posting this recipe. The perfect, fudgey brownies and caramel topping definitely fill what was missing from earlier incarnations I tried. I love everything about these brownies. Well, except that they take a little bit of patience. You’re supposed to wait until the next day before you even cut into these things. But honestly? I’ve only ever made it about 3 hours. However, I agree that the brownies taste better the next day. The flavors meld together and intensify. I felt that was definitely the case for the pumpkin, which was much more prominent on the second day than the first.
The ingredients you use are also important for making these brownies as good as possible. This recipe is very dependent on using good quality chocolate so buy the best kind you can afford. I splurged on some Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao chocolate this time, but I usually use Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate. Also, use Muscovado sugar if you can find it. It’s a more intense dark brown sugar and will add more depth of flavor to your brownies.
You can cheat and buy caramel sauce at the store, but homemade caramel is going to have much better flavor. I’m not going to tell you that caramel is easy. It only takes about 15 minutes to make, but you have to watch it very carefully. In fact, due to my old lopsided stove it took me four tries to make this caramel without burning it. Four! But honestly, that just makes it much more satisfying to eat. (And yes, it’s totally normal if you just want to eat it by the spoonful) Plus I learned some stuff about making caramel which I tried to pass on to you guys in the recipe so I think it was worth all the effort (and sugar) in the end.
This recipe is very versatile. Like I already mentioned, the brownies are great on their own. It’s my go-to recipe now. The other components are made separately, so you could just make the pumpkin OR caramel if you want to make things a bit easier. But if you really want to satisfy your brownie cravings, I don’t think the chocolate-pumpkin-caramel combo can be beat!
Caramel-Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Brownie recipe adapted from Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers
Dessert | Yield: 15 large or 24 small brownies
Prep time: 45 min | Cook time: 45 min | Total time: 1 hour 30 min
Note: To make this recipe easier you can use store-bought caramel sauce or melt 14 oz. caramel candy with 1/3 cup heavy cream but I don’t recommend it because it won’t have the depth of flavor that homemade caramel has. (I also haven’t tested it that way, so I can’t vouch it will act the same way as this caramel sauce.)
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt or course salt
- 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp. heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Filling
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 16 tbsp. (8 oz. – 2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, such as muscovado
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- First make the caramel; this can made be a day or two ahead of time if you want. Add sugar, corn syrup, water and salt to a heavy-bottomed 3 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat; stir only until sugar is dissolved, then let the mixture come to a boil. If there are any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan try to wipe them out with a wet paper towel.
- Boil mixture until it starts turning brown, about 12-15 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to cook until the mixture turns a deep golden caramel, about 2-5 minutes more. DO NOT STIR.
- Remove from heat and slowly pour the cream and vanilla down the side of the pan. Be careful, the mixture will bubble and steam. Turn heat to low and place the pot back on. Stir carefully until the caramel is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool. If making this ahead of time, store the caramel in a container in the fridge. Gently heat it up in the microwave when you make the brownies.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a 13×9-inch pan with parchment or foil and spray or butter the lining.
- Add the cream cheese to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Mix in the the pumpkin puree and egg. On the lowest speed, beat in the sugar, spices and flour. Set aside.
- Gently melt the butter and chocolate together over low heat or in the microwave. Set aside to cool a bit.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Mix in the salt, sugars and vanilla.
- Stir in the chocolate mixture. Fold in flour just until combined.
- Pour half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Gently drop about 12 spoonfuls the pumpkin batter on top. You’ll want to use about 2/3 of the pumpkin batter, it should cover most of the brownie batter.
- Pour the remaining brownie batter on top. (It doesn’t have to cover all the pumpkin batter.) Drop about 9 spoonfuls of the remaining pumpkin batter on top. (You may have some pumpkin batter left over.)
Use a spoon to drizzle about 1/3 cup of warm caramel on top (crosswise). Drag a knife lengthwise through the batter to swirl it gently. Don’t go overboard, 3-4 times is fine.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes. The brownies should look shiny on top and when you insert a toothpick, moist crumbs will stick to it. Cool in the pan on a rack.
- Do not cut the brownies until completely cool. For best flavor, bake 1 day before cutting and serving. When ready to serve, warm the remaining caramel and drizzle on top of each brownie.