I’ve been waking up very early lately. And sometimes, in those anxious predawn hours, I get an overwhelming desire to creep quietly into the kitchen and bake. This week, I craved chewy, salty butterscotch brownies, the kind made with browned butter, and almost enough dark brown sugar to make your teeth ache. But not quite.
To make them, turn your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-by-9-inch pan. (A 9-by-13-inch pan works, too, though the bars will be thinner.)
In a small saucepan, melt 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), letting the butter bubble and sizzle away noisily until, all of a sudden, it gets quiet, and you notice the kitchen smells like toasted nuts. The melted butter will look golden brown, and the bottom of the pot may be flecked with darker brown bits. The brown butter is ready.
Pour it immediately into a large mixing bowl, and add an entire 1-pound box of dark brown sugar (or about 2¼ packed cups). Whisk until smooth, then let the mixture cool for a few minutes, so you don’t curdle the eggs.
Whisk in 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons vanilla extract (or a shot of bourbon or espresso) until smooth and glossy. Now add the dry ingredients, in this order, whisking between additions: ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and finally, 2 cups/255 grams all-purpose flour. At this point, you could also fold in 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup nuts (pecans are excellent), but in my sleepy, pre-caffeinated state, I didn’t bother.
Pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt if you like (I do), and bake until the top is firm, and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges without any wet batter clinging to it. (Crumbs are fine.) This will take 25 to 35 minutes in the 9-by-9-inch pan, and 20 to 30 in the 9-by-13-inch pan.
Let the butterscotch brownies cool in the pan, then cut into small bars. Dense and almost like candy, they’re probably best suited for dessert. But I ate some for breakfast, and didn’t regret it one bit.
This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.