Caramel Brownies with Salty Sweet Pecans

They're healthy because they use low fat condensed milk... or something like that...

Tis the season for retail… that’s right… cash register bells.  It’s my absolute least favourite thing about this time of year.

I don’t particularly enjoy shopping at the best of times – mostly because most companies make it a really painful experience.  I only bring this up because buying the ingredients for these brownies was enough to make me really grumpy early on a Saturday morning and that fact in itself makes me grumpy.

Why oh why must I stand in a lineup  of 12 people to buy 4 items?  Why, oh why, are there only 2 lanes open in the grocery store at 10am on a Saturday?  Why oh why are managers and assistant mangers standing there looking at the lineup instead of opening up a checkout?  Why oh why must I stand in a lineup for longer than 2 minutes to give somebody else my hard earned money???  I’m looking at YOU Save-On-Foods

you know you want to take your finger and swipe up that bit of chocolate...

That last one really burns me.  You want my money?  Work for it.  This is why I usually go to Safeway and use the self-serve checkouts…

Which brings me to my next point.  Retail is NOT hard.  And before anybody jumps all over me… I spent my entire high school and university life working as a cashier and a head cashier (that’s why I use the self checkouts – I’m WAY faster than most of the grumpy cashiers one has to deal with).  I spent my first years out of school working as a cosmetician, a cosmetics buyer, a store manager, a store buyer and then I spent 10 years working in the head office for a national retail chain.  I have paid my retail dues.  I am allowed to complain.

It just steams me when I’m looking for help or waiting in a lineup and there’s staff – especially management – standing around watching… ooops sorry, I mean “assessing things” with fingers up their noses.

Ok, end of rant.  I did make it out with my stuff and the end result made up for the wait.

It makes lots - you can eat a few an nobody will know...

New topic: A very cool iPad app for cooks.

I overheard two of my favourite ladies on Twitter, Tricia at @everynothing and Kathya at @chocoKat718 (Tricia writes an excellent blog and Kathya takes some of my favourite food photographs – she does her own thing, that one.) talking about the new Donna Hay iPad app a while back…

Not wanting to spend any money, I was going to resist until Tricia told me the app was free AND so was the first iPad friendly issue of the magazine… uhhhh… ok… sold!  The first issue was absolutely gorgeous and it’s definitely one of the better cooking apps I’ve come across – very friendly to use when you’re in the kitchen up to your elbows in butter and sugar.  They did a great job – I recommend checking it out.

You'll have a lot of caramel left over too - just be careful before you dip your fingers in - it's hot!

I have to confess, I adore Donna Hay cookbooks just for the photographs.  I could drool over them all day – the books are works of art.  But I’ve never had great success with a Donna Hay recipe.  I’m not sure why – maybe because the ingredients are all in metric, which is one place Canadians haven’t really metric-ized.   Or maybe it’s because the instructions aren’t detailed enough for me?  I’m not really sure.

But I couldn’t resist these brownies.  So I gave them a whirl and… well… I had some issues.  The end product was soooo tasty but I don’t think it was exactly what was supposed to happen.  Toffeeing the pecans didn’t go so well.  The sugar salt mixture didn’t dissolve properly, despite adding a little more water.  It made waaaaaaaaay more sugar mix than was needed for the amount of pecans called for (seriously you can easily double it to 2 cups of pecans and make some for snacking nuts).  I also didn’t chop the pecans fine enough – to clumpy.

easier to chop if you take the whole thing out of the pan

But I looooooved the caramel.  This was a different way for me to make it and it was so good.  It firms up very quickly and quite hard so it’s not a good pouring caramel sauce but it’s great for candies.

In fact, for those of you in western Canada (and Ontario now too!), who know of Purdy’s chocolates and their famous Sweet Georgia Browns, these are Sweet Georgia Browns in brownie form.  YUM-MEE!

Sweet Georgia Brown Brownies Recipe

This is the recipe how I made it – a little different from the Donna Hay recipe, which you can find in their first iPad issue.  A trick for getting the metric ingredient amounts: buy what you can in bulk and weigh it on the scale in the store – they’re very accurate.

Caramel Brownies with Salty Sweet Pecans
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 1 cup sugar (recipe calls for caster or berry sugar but I used regular)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup pecans (could easily do two cups and save leftovers)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 450g dark chocolate pieces (coarsely chopped)
  • 140g butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cups flour
  • 220g butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 390g can of sweetened condensed milk (I used low fat with no problems)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp cocoa, sifted
  1. combine 1 cup of sugar and 2 tbsp water in a large, non-stick frying pan on medium heat for 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved (my sugar never totally dissolved, despite adding more water)
  2. stir in pecans and salt and stir for another 2-3 minutes or until golden (just did not happen - but still tasted good!)
  3. pour pecan mixture into a lined baking tray and allow to cool before roughly chopping
  4. preheat oven to 325F
  5. melt chocolate pieces and 140g of butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until melted and smooth
  6. remove from heat.
  7. combine 2 cups of brown sugar, flour and eggs in a bowl with the chocolate mixture
  8. mix to combine and pour into a lightly greased and parchment 9x2x13 pan
  9. bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested
  10. while brownie cools melt 220g butter over low heat in a saucepan
  11. gradually whisk in 1 cup brown sugar until well combined
  12. add corn syrup, condensed milk and salt and turn heat up to high
  13. cook for 15 minutes, stirring continuously or until thickened - BE CAREFUL - it will start to bubble and splatter a lot and hot caramel leaves nasty burns - I speak from experience.
  14. once thickened, stir in cocoa and pour over brownie (you will have a lot of sauce left over with this recipe)
  15. spread evenly and then sprinkle with the sugared pecans
  16. cool in the fridge for two hours to set. Slice and serve. (if you pull the brownie out of the pan by the parchment paper and then slice, it will be easier.
the recipe says it serves 12 but I easily got twice that many brownies out of this - they are very rich. I also had a lot of pecans and caramel sauce left over and as you can see from the photos, I didn't skimp on either.

Food Photography Tips

I shot these over two days.  The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th photos were taken while I was making the brownies between 11 and noon when I had some good light.  The rest were shot during the same time frame but the next day.  They are all pretty much straight out of the camera – all I added was contrast, sharpening and I manually tweaked the white balance on a few.  I didn’t even use a reflector on the first day (I did on the second).

The caramel photo was shot on top of my stove (you can see my burners!) where I don’t normally photograph.  But the light was kind of cool coming in through the window so I played around with it a bit.  Didn’t really turn out as I’d hoped.

Image 1: 100mm, f/5.0, 1/50th, ISO1000, no exposure compensation

Image 2:  100mm, f/5.0, 1/160th, ISO400, no exposure compensation

Image 3: 100mm, f/4.0, 1/250th, ISO400, no exposure compensation

Image 4: 100mm, f/4.0, 1/320th, ISO400, no exposure compensation

Image 5: 50mm, f/5.0, 1/60th, ISO1000, no exposure compensation

Image 6: 100mm, f/3.5, 1/50th, ISO 1000, no exposure compensation


  1. says

    Wow! These might not have turned out exactly like they were supposed to, but they look fantastic! I think they may have turned out better! Your photos are lovely Melissa, I really like he 4th one. Love that you give photography tips too!

    • Melissa says

      thanks silvia – I have to stop by and visit your blog! It’s just been so busy. But I loved your wine glass photo today. it was perfect!

  2. Laura says

    I think you need to rename these “How to blow your pre-holiday diet squares” YUM! By the way, Save-On-Foods in Kelowna has self-check outs … there is hope for your location yet!

    • Melissa says

      ahhh you! always makes my day when you surface and comment :). I think everyone has them but that Save On. I may have to switch locations!

  3. says

    You’ve pretty much shot my diet plans to hell. I LOVE the second photo, there’s something about those Kilner jars that make them so attractive in food pictures. I have a few, but haven’t got round to using them in pictures yet, have to do so now that you’ve inspired me.

    And I have never been able to eat one Sweet Georgia Brown either… I love those. My favourite joke in Purdy’s is when they give you the reciept, and tell you that if you change your mind you need the reciept to return the chocolate… really? I wonder how many returns they’ve had.

    I have to try out this recipe now… I have a feeling it might give Purdy’s a run for their money!

    • Melissa says

      I love those jars – Ikea is a great place to get them really cheap in all different sizes and widths. they’re so perfect for photos!

      yeah, Sweet Georgia Browns are my kryptonite. Every year I buy them for stocking stuffers and every year I have to make a second trip because i’ve eaten them all. I can’t say no at one!

    • Melissa says

      isn’t it awesome! I was so proud of it – I don’t usually do well with caramel but this will be my new go to recipe for it!

  4. Cat says

    Mmmmm those look yummy. But I have to ask, what is corn syrup? Do we have an equivalent over here in the UK. I want to try making these but best make sure I can get all the ingredients first.

    • Melissa says

      Hi Cat! It’s a very thick sweet syrup made out of corn – similar texture and consistency to golden syrup or molasses. You’ll probably have to look in a specialty shop if you want actual corn syrup but you might be able to sub golden syrup – I’m not too sure how it works in what’s essentially a candy making scenario though. Do NOT sub molasses – will change the whole taste. Golden syrup should be ok.

  5. says

    Wow what a recipe, I think they all look amazing! I could not tell you had any difficulty. Best purchase I made was a digital scale for the kitchen…that has ounces and grams. Usually metric recipes are more accurate on a technical level. I hear you about retail customer service.

  6. says

    Oh I feel your pain when it comes to shopping. People in my neck of the woods are hardly ever friend in retail, leftover from communism. Everything you’ve described add 50%, just sucks. But it seems like some retailers and restaurants have caught on that a friendly staff is a good thing.
    The brownies look to die for! Screw my diet I want a batch :)

    • Melissa says

      I’ve frozen them and the caramel is so thick and rock hard when it’s frozen that I’m forced to avoid nicking one out of the freezer every now and then to save my teeth – they are NOT diet friendly!

  7. says

    First time visiting your site and love your photography tips at the end of your post! That really adds something extra in addition to the recipe and pretty photos we all come to expect from most food blogs.The Donna Hay candied nuts direction probably can be clearer to make your experience a little easier. Novice confectioners usually find the transformation of sugar daunting and a bit like alchemy. :) I’m quite intrigued by the caramel recipe because of the condensed milk. I see that it sets up solid from the clean cut of your brownies. I think I may try using it to make turtles. Fun!

    • Melissa says

      It would probably work well for turtles – it was nice because it cut so cleanly. It wouldn’t work for every recipe but it did well here. Yeah, I’ve never done well with sugared nuts. More practice required! They still tasted good though :)

  8. says

    Wow those look tasty!

    I feel your pain with the stupid line ups and short-staffing at food places. I work out of town in a smaller nearby town and I always do my grocery shopping there before I go home: no line ups ever! The most is two people. When I actually have to pick up something in Calgary I hate the crowds and the massive lines.

  9. Cassie says

    These didn’t work at all. 15 min for caramel is way too long. It was hard as rock. Also way too much sugar on the pecans. Way much work for a poor result. So sad. I will not serve them they are so bad.

    • Melissa says

      yes, as I mentioned in the post, there was waaaaaaaay too much topping for the nuts and that you could easily cut it in half. As for the caramel, I also mentioned that it’s a very firm caramel better used for candies but it was certainly edible. Sorry you didn’t have good luck with it. I always struggle with Donna Hay recipes – I’m not sure if it’s because the amounts are in metric or if the ingredients like the amount of fat in the cream are slightly different in Australia or not.

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