One day last week was “National Peanut Butter Lovers Day.” Really. I read it on the internet. I’ve often wondered, who makes up these things? And for what purpose? As silly as I think it is, it got me thinking about peanut butter brownies… I really like peanut butter brownies. Which is odd, because I can be kind of wishy-washy about the peanut butter-chocolate combination. I always think I don’t like it but then strangely gravitate toward it. I’m nothing if not inconsistent.
Remember the big Reese’s Pieces craze? Didn’t care for them. Something is just off with those things. I’ve never taken the time to really think about it because I’d rather just have an M&M, and so I do. When it comes to the traditional Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups I can unequivocally say that the mini cups are much better than the full size. The ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is better. However, the exception is the peanut butter eggs we’re starting to see as stores stock up for Easter. Those are just good, especially frozen. Another rule? Only Reese’s. All those other brands are not nearly as good and some are downright disgusting, though I will sometimes make an exception for the Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups. Sometimes. And especially if they’re frozen. It’s all about that combination being right. Got this straight? These peanut butter cup rules? Good, let’s talk brownies.
I wanted to make these last month, during my “Month of Chocolate” and maybe even celebrate ‘Peanut Butter Lovers Day’ but somehow I ran out of time. So let’s celebrate today. Today can be Peanut Butter Brownie Lovers Day, says me. I’m pretty sure that’s how those “holidays” happen anyway. So I’m confidant that now, just because I said it here, it’s a real thing. Done.
I happen to think these brownies are the perfect combination: fudgy, a touch creamy and with that perfect hit of saltiness that makes everything so much better. It starts ever so easily with a slight variation on the great Alice Medrich’s classic brownie recipe. Simple, nothing overly complicated, no weird ingredients – a mix by hand kind of recipe. I actually think it turns out better with regular, not fancy, chocolate too. The trick – and I do it now do for all my brownies – is to pop the whole pan in the fridge or freezer, to cool. I can’t explain exactly what happens (one day I’ll look this up) but I like to think it makes my brownies fudgier. I swear it does. When it comes to brownies, I do what Alice tells me to do.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: COMFORTINGLY HIGH. I love these. Salty, chocolatey, fudgy and just a delicious bite all around. I recommend individually wrapping these babies and storing in the freezer for a grab-n-go snack or a quick chocolate fix. Brownies make people happy. Peanut butter brownies make people delirious. Stock up kids. It’s a snow day and you need a project.
PEANUT BUTTER SWIRL BROWNIES
Make one 8”x8” pan, serves 9-16 depending on how you cut
For the brownie base:
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter (4.5 0unces)
4.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped (4 ½ squares)
4.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
for the peanut butter swirl:
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup smooth peanut butter (do not use natural-style peanut butter)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and place a rack in the lowest position. Line an 8”x8” square baking pan with a criss-cross of foil and spray with cooking spray.
- For the brownie base: In a large bowl, melt both chocolates and the butter together. You have two options: over a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Or in the microwave: 1 minute bursts at 50% power, stirring between bursts until smooth.
- Stir in sugar and salt until blended.
- Stir in eggs and vanilla until blended.
- Sift the flour over the mixture then stir until just blended.
- Pour ¾ of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.
- For the peanut butter swirl: in a medium bowl, stir together the softened butter, powdered sugar, peanut butter, salt and vanilla until smooth.
- Drop spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture randomly on the brownie base.
- Top with random spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter.
- With a butter knife, swirl the peanut butter mixture throughout the pan. Take care not to over-swirl.
- Bake until the top if firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs – about 45-50 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes the refrigerate (or freeze) for at least 2 hours.
- Turn the brownies from the pan, remove the foil and cut into squares. Wrap tightly and keep at room temperature or freeze for longer storage.