And yet. I have such a soft spot for the Letters section of Gourmet Magazine, and in this month’s a reader requests the peanut butter brownie recipe from one Butterwood Desserts in West Falls, New York. Trying to fight off the craving, I immediately picked it apart. First of all, most peanut butter cakes and such are lackluster; the flavor is always too subtle for me and I question why we need to add flour, butter and sugar to something so perfect unadorned on a spoon. Second, when it comes to frosting brownies, I am staunchly “anti.” A great brownie shouldn’t need an extra slick of chocolate on top to make it work, and too often these frostings are cloyingly sweet and used to hide a quite average brownie underneath. My brownie recipes require no such pimping out.
But there I was, just a couple hours later, declaring that this brownie had both a pronounced peanut butter flavor and that the ganache coating made the whole thing disarmingly yummy, and since then, nearly every event of the weekend has been rewarded with one, from applaud-able “two hour walk in Prospect Park” to the much-less-so “I’m hungry and not in the mood to make dinner.” Before things got any uglier, I tried to fob them off on not one but two pregnant friends, but alas, no dice. What is wrong with this world when one cannot count on third-trimester women to eat chocolate and peanut butter together! for you?
A cruel one, it seems; that demands sit-ups, many of them. I hope you’re happy now.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, a question: What is the one food that you simply cannot be trusted around? I think we already know mine.
One year ago: Flower Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Peanut Butter Brownies
Adapted from Butterwood Desserts, West Falls, New York via Gourmet, October 2007
Makes 32 brownies, more or less, depending on how you cut them
These “brownies” are more blondie than cakey, with an excellent peanut butter-chocolate contrasts and fantastic edges, for those of you into that sort of thing. Have a glass of milk handy.
2 sticks (1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar
1 cup (255 grams) creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces or 255 grams) semisweet chocolate chips **
1/2 teaspoon table salt, see note**
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces or 255 grams) semisweet chocolate chips**
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, softened
Make brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan, then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and butter parchment.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined.
Mix in chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)
Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
Make ganache: Put chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) in a heatproof bowl.
Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute.
Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms.
Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.
Brownies keep in one layer in an airtight container three days, and we hope much longer if hidden waaay in the back of the freezer.
* I swapped bittersweet chips for the semisweet by accident, but really liked that bitter, grown-up kick.
** Our store only sells some all natural hipppy-dippy peanut butter. It worked fine but I couldn’t help but feel this recipe needed a bit of salt. It could be that, uh, it needs some salt, or that traditional peanut butter (IstillheartyouSkippy!) has more salt in it. I’d suggest you try the dough/batter (because you’re going to anyway) before you bake it and judge for yourself whether it needs a little more flavor balance.