We Tried the Pioneer Woman’s Famous Caramel Brownies
Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, is well-liked for her charming personality, cowboy-approved recipes and meal planning tips, plus beyond-dreamy desserts that’ll get you invited back to any potluck (here are Ree’s favorite potluck dishes). We tried one of her 5-star desserts to see if it lives up to the hype.
Taste of Home / Facebook/The Pioneer Woman - Ree Drummond
While browsing the Pioneer Woman’s recipes one day, I ran across her Knock You Naked Brownies. With a name like that, I had to know if they’d knock off more than my socks. These gooey, layered caramel brownies look absolutely divine and with 5 stars and 250+ reviews, they are clearly loved by many. As a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I couldn’t wait to try them for myself.
Ree Drummond’s Knock You Naked Brownies
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1/3 plus 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- One box German chocolate cake mix
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans
- 60 caramels
- 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
Looking at the ingredients, I could tell these were 2.0 brownies. I love how she turned a box of cake mix into a gooey, decadent brownie filled with creamy layers of caramel and chocolate. You can’t go wrong with a classic brownie, but dressed-up ones are irresistible.
First things first, I greased and floured an 8×8 pan. Her recipe called for 9×9, but I didn’t have one. This worked fine; you may just need to increase the baking time a little bit. I mixed the cake mix, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, melted butter and pecans. The batter was thick, so splitting it in half was easy! Using my fingers, I pressed half of the batter into the pan. Then, into the oven it went for 8-10 minutes at 350°F.
While that baked, I started on the caramel sauce. I recommend starting this as soon as you put the brownies in the oven because the caramels take awhile to melt. Using a double boiler, melt the caramels and ½ cup evaporated milk, stirring occasionally. Make sure you don’t accidentally use sweetened condensed milk—there’s a difference!
When the caramel has melted into liquid gold, pour it over the first layer of brownies. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Ree suggested 1/3 cup, but I added a few more chocolate chips to cover it entirely.
Then comes the hard-ish part. Since you can’t spread the remaining dough on the caramel layer, you’ll need to make a free-form dough square on a sheet of wax paper and transfer it to the pan of brownies. I recommend forming the square right before you top the brownies, otherwise it may stick to the wax paper. This happened to me, but it wasn’t a huge problem. I simply moved it over piece by piece. That second layer of brownie looked like chocolate icebergs floating on a sea of caramel. Wowza!
The Big Reveal
After 25 minutes, the brownies came out of the oven looking spectacular and smelling amazing. They were a little jiggly, but a toothpick came out clean, so I knew they were done. I was not looking forward to waiting for them to come to room temperature and then chill for a few hours in the fridge until they were set. But wait I did…and I’m glad because these puppies were well worth the wait!
Cold brownie + gooey caramel = perfection. This is NOT for people who don’t have a sweet tooth. These are very sweet brownies, so be warned. I don’t know why Ree cut them into six extra-large pieces—I cut mine into 16, and friends said even those were a little too big. A little square is all you need to experience dessert bliss.
The Unexpected Twist
Not surprisingly, I LOVED Ree’s over-the-top brownies. But wait! I’ve had these before. Us Midwesterners call these Illini Bars, so named because people bring them tailgating at U of I football games. On her cooking show, Ree mentions that she received some “killer brownies” from a friend of hers, and this was a re-creation of the recipe. I bet she received a big ol’ batch of Illini Bars!