For the brownies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups pecan, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
For the caramel filling:
14 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped*
1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil well with butter or cooking spray. Combine the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. (Alternatively, microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted.) Remove the bowl from the heat. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla until incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt just until combined. Spread about half of the brownie batter in the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, maintaining the oven temperature, and let cool for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the chopped pecans (if using) to a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and light golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside. To make the caramel filling, combine the caramel candies and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Stir in half of the pecans. Immediately spread the caramel mixture over the bottom brownie layer. Pour the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer, taking care to pour and spread it evenly otherwise it will be difficult to spread evenly over the caramel layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and the remaining pecans on top of the final brownie layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing and serving. (To speed cooling, chill in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.)
Lift the brownies from the pan using the edges of the foil. Remove the foil and cut the brownies into individual squares. Store in an airtight container.
*Do you have to use homemade caramels? No. Will your brownies taste way better if you do? Yes. Plus, then you’ll have left over amazing homemade caramels, so… pretty much a win-win situation.