My sister and her husband came to visit a while ago, and very thoughtfully brought me a post-gestational-diabetes present – a large box of Cadbury’s chocolate bars. I believe the box held 50 assorted bars, although there was a small tear in the cellophane wrapper through which one chocolate bar had been removed and consumed by my dear brother-in-law. His logic, bless his chocolate-loving soul, was that with so many chocolate bars, I would hardly miss one. In a way, he was right. My old self, the one prior to being faced with rising blood sugar levels, would have devoured the whole 49 remaining chocolate bars within a month or so. But the new me, the one without the raging sweet tooth, can now have copious amounts of chocolate in the house without needing to eat it all in one go. In fact, shockingly, I’ve often forgotten that the box of Cadbury’s was even there!
I noticed them the other day and got to thinking about how I might incorporate them into some yummy baked good or other. Inspiration struck when I thought about the Caramilk bars and how they would be perfect they would be in brownies. For the uninitiated (i.e. most Americans), a Caramilk bar is milk chocolate with little square pockets filled with caramel. My Canadian compatriots will know the gooey, caramelly goodness of which I speak. It occured to me that these would be perfect for putting inside brownies baked in a mini-muffin pan, so that each brownie cup would hold a little bite of caramel.
I also wanted to try using some of the sugar substitute I bought, which indicated that you could use it in baking, replacing the sugar cup-for-cup. As a general rule, I am an “all natural” girl, preferring the real thing over artificial substitutes. But I’d read up on some of the new sugar alcohol-based sweeteners, and they seemed like they might be a good way for me to cut back on sugars in my diet while still enjoying baked goods. The one I have is called Ideal, and is mostly xylitol, a sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables and that is naturally-occurring in our bodies as part of the metabolic process. Reviews I found online indicated that most consumers like the product, that it sweetens well and that it works well in baking. The only possible downside is that consumption in high quantities can cause a laxative effect. Mmmm, okay. So don’t eat the whole batch of brownies in one go unless you want to be running to the toilet every few minutes. Good to know.
So I thought I would give it a try. I took a basic brownie recipe out of one of my favourite cookbooks and simply replaced the 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of Ideal granulated sweetener. I filled 20 mini-muffin cups with a layer of the brownie batter, and then put one square of Caramilk on top. I then topped this off with another layer of brownie batter, and popped them in the oven.
The Results: It was clear to me from the start that the Ideal-sweetened brownies would not be quite the same as ones made with regular sugar. The batter had a kind of jelly-like consistency and it seemed like the butter wasn’t mixing well with it. But I soldiered on because I was curious to know how they would bake. In the oven, it seemed like the butter was leaching out of the brownies and bubbling up around the sides of each mini-muffin tin. And they were done far faster than I expected. After they cooled, I broke one apart to taste. They were definitely a bit dry, but the chocolate flavour was there and the gooey caramel in each bite was a nice touch.
I can unequivocally say that Ideal sweetener does NOT bake just like sugar. If I were making these for company or to give away, I would use real sugar. I might bake with this sweetener again, but I would not use it to replace ALL of the sugar, only some. For a person who can’t tolerate the sugar, these would suffice and be a nice sweet treat. But for the rest of us, I say make ’em with sugar and just try not to eat too many!
And to my countrymen, I ask “How do they get the caramel inside the Caramilk Bar?”, or in this case, inside the Brownie Bite!
Caramilk Brownie Bites
You could use any basic brownie recipe or even a mix for these. But I will provide one of my favourites, from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
2 to 3 Caramilk bars
8 tbsp butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Break Caramilk bars into individual squares. Spray 20-24 mini-muffin tins with vegetable oil cooking spray. The number of brownie bites will depend on your sugar choice, as the batter made with sugar substitute did not seem to go as far as batter made with regular sugar would have.
Melt butter and chocolate in small saucepan over low heat, stirring often. Set aside.
Whisk together sugar/sugar substitute, eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt in a large bowl until combined. Whisk in melted chocolate mixture and stir well. Stir in flour until combined.
Fill each tin with batter so that the bottom of the tin is covered. Place a square of Caramilk in each tin and top off with batter.
Place on middle rack in pre-heated oven and bake for 12-18 minutes. Timing will depend on your sugar choice, as the batter with sugar substitute cooked more quickly than regular brownie batter.
Let cool in pan.