Recipe from The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes From the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery & Café (co-written with Alison Oresman and published by Ten Speed Press)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (14 ounces) individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast until a rich brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Coarsely chop nuts and set aside. Line bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving several inches hanging over short ends of pan. Grease foil with butter or cooking spray; be sure to coat sides thoroughly or caramel will stick.
Put butter and chocolate in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. (Watch carefully so it does not burn.) Transfer chocolate to a large bowl, add sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and mix until thick and glossy. (This takes 1 to 2 minutes using a wire whisk or about 1 minute using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed.) Whisk or stir in flour and salt. Transfer half of batter (about 2 1/2 cups) to baking pan and spread evenly; bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes.
Put caramels and cream in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in half of pecans. Immediately spread caramel mixture over baked brownies (if you let it sit, it will harden). Pour remaining brownie batter evenly over caramel mixture and spread gently to cover (do not pour either the caramel or the brownie batter all in one place or it will be difficult to spread without messing up the layers). Sprinkle chocolate chips and remaining pecans on top and bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan (for quicker cooling, put pan in the freezer for 30 minutes).
To remove from pan, grasp overhanging foil and lift up. Cut brownies into squares. Individually wrapped in plastic, they will keep for 1 week unrefrigerated or for 1 month in the freezer. Makes 2 dozen bars.