I’ve talked a little bit about my sister Sara before, but not much about my other sister Jean. Jean is my oldest sister; older than me by ten years, and was therefore somewhat of a
second mom hero to me growing up (I mean…what else do you call someone who fed you waffles and ice cream for breakfast on occasion?)
It is because of Jean that I rolled my jeans and curled my bangs for just a few years past those trends’ expiration dates. And when Jean decided to be a nurse, I decided to follow suit, at the tender age of seven. And I went through most of elementary and middle school assuming I’d be a nurse too…until I took chemistry and hated it…and then realized that I get completely nauseous at the sight of blood and that I panic in emergencies. #notnursingmaterial
Jean got married when I was in sixth grade and moved to upstate New York immediately after. Before the days of Skype and email, I felt as though she were moving to a different galaxy, and I pretty much sobbed for three days straight after the wedding was over. I cried so much that my poor dad even offered to pay me to come help him at one of his construction sites just to distract me….Not one to turn down an easy buck even then, I sniffled my way through a few hours of holding the end of a tape measure but certainly did not allow it to console me.
Jean eventually moved back to Wisconsin and started having babies, and being an aunt was one of the high points of my adolescence…even when her eldest (at the age of 4) almost cut off my entire pony tail while I was bent over tying my shoe.
Jean is still one of my heroes…she has endured some crazy hardships over the past few years, and her steadfast faith has been nothing short of inspiring to me. She is one of the most kind and compassionate people I know. Plus…every time I hit a milestone birthday, like this last one, I think…well, Jean’s ten years older than this, and she’s still pretty cool. So, that’s helpful.
Finally, Jean is an excellent baker. When I’m old and moneyed, I will start a soup and sandwich/coffee shop, and Jean, with the help of my friends Jen and Heidi, will head up the bakery section. She makes fudge. She makes a killer cheesecake. And she is the source of these caramel brownies.
These brownies are my go-to dessert…they are ooey-gooey and always turn out moist. The best part is, they can be made, from start to finish, in about 35 minutes, not including the time for them to cool. I always make these the day before serving them, and because of all their caramely goodness, they stay moist overnight, no problem.
I don’t usually use box mixes for things, but for these, I make an exception. The brownies are basically made of a base of German chocolate cake mix, plus melted butter, a middle melted layer of caramel and chocolate chips, plus dollops of the cake mixture on top. They are super rich and go best with a cup of coffee, glass of milk, or you know, vanilla ice cream. And don’t tell Jean, but I would give these to her kids for breakfast…because everybody knows that leftover brownies are totally the breakfast of champions.
(recipe from my sister Jean) (yields one 13x9" pan of brownies)
These caramel brownies are sweet and moist, with a gooey caramel layer in the middle. They are easy to make and can be made in about a half hour.
one (14 oz.) bag of caramels (I typically use Kraft)
one 12-13 oz. can evaporated milk, DIVIDED
1 box German chocolate cake mix (I use Pillsbury's "Moist Supreme" version)
3/4 c. butter
1 c. milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350*. Thoroughly grease and flour a 13x9" pan.
Unwrap caramels and place them in a small sauce pan with 1/2c. of the evaporated milk. Turn heat to med-low and slowly melt the caramel mixture, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium bowl. Once melted, mix the butter, cake mix, and a 1/3 c. of the evaporated milk until totally combined.
Take HALF of the cake batter mixture and press it into the bottom of the pan with your fingers and palms to form a VERY thin layer. Make sure it is spread evenly, to all the corners.
Bake this thin layer for 8 minutes.
Remove pan from oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the cake layer, then pour the melted caramel mixture over (again be sure to pour it somewhat evenly). Then, pick up small chunks (1/2-inch dollops) of the cake batter mixture with your fingers, and drop the dollops over the caramel.
Return the pan to the oven for 18 more minutes. (Note: when the time is up, the brownies will still look/feel very mushy. They will set as they cool.) Remove from oven and let cool for at least 2 hours. These can be made a day ahead of time if kept uncut and covered (at room temperature) overnight. They keep well at room temperature in an airtight container for about 2-3 days before starting to dry out.)