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~ Chocolate & Crunchy-Peanut-Butter Brownie Bites~

IMG_7238Things I know:  I know I will always choose a chocolate brownie over a slice of chocolate cake.  I know I will always choose chunky over smooth peanut butter too.  I like the informality of the pick-up-and-eat moist and cohesive user-friendly brownie over the refined use-a-fork-and-don't-get-any-crumbs-on-my-floor, moist and grainy cake.  As for peanut butter, I choose Jiffy over Skippy, never was a fan of Peter Pan, and I adore the flavor and texture that roasted peanuts add to it.  I know that chocolate and peanut butter is an irresistible combination.  Put peanut butter frosting on a chocolate brownie and I'll follow you anywhere -- right after I eat two or three.

The brownie is an all-American chocolate confection and the first printed recipe referencing a "brownie" to describe a mildly-chocolate cake-like dessert appeared in 1896 in Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook.  By 1910, the brownie had taken on its current form and the word "brownie" was the term used to describe a rich, chewy, fudge-esque, chocolatey dessert that is eaten out-of-hand -- a cross between a cake and a very soft cookie.

IMG_7214Unlike the American Toll House Cookie, which has a sort-of true tale to tell about its origin (Ruth Wakefield did invent it, but it wasn't an accident), no one can say with certainty that the brownie is not the happy result of a cake mistake -- like forgetting to add the baking powder or adding too few eggs.  

That said, one story about the brownie's origin is: In 1893, Bertha Palmer, a Chicago socialite whose husband owned the Palmer House Hotel, asked the pastry chef to create a cake-like confection, smaller than a piece of cake, for boxed lunches suitable for ladies attending the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.  It's said that the Palmer House Brownie (which they still serve on their menu today), a small chocolatey square containing walnuts and an apricot glaze, while well-known, was not published in any cook books or written about by any journals of the time.

Brownies fall into three categories:  fudge-y, chew-y & cake-y.  I love them all.

IMG_7260These are cake-y, but very moist, with a perfect balance of peanut-y salty & sweet too.  Tip: For chewy brownies, use 1 egg.  For cakey brownies, switch to granulated sugar.

IMG_7168For the chocolate & peanut butter brownies:

1/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature (4/ounces/1 stick)

1/4  cup cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft (2 ounces)

1/4  cup crunchy-style peanut butter (2 ounces)

1  cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup all-purpose cocoa powder, your favorite brand (Note:  My favorite all-purpose cocoa powder is Hershey's, natural, unsweetened, 100% cacao powder.)

1/4  teaspoon salt

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1  cup peanut butter chips

IMG_7223For the peanut-butter cream-cheese frosting:

1/4  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 ounces/1/2  stick)

1/2  cup cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft (4 ounces/1/2 of an 8-ounce brick)

1/2  cup creamy peanut butter (4 ounces)

1/2  cup Confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)

IMG_7173 IMG_7170~ Step 1. Spray the inside of a mini-cheesecake pan (the kind with removable bottoms) with no-stick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder.

IMG_7175 IMG_7176 IMG_7178 IMG_7180~Step 2.  In a large bowl, over medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, peanut butter and brown sugar together until thoroughly combined and uniform in color, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently with a large rubber spatula, about 1 minute.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until combined, about 30 more seconds.  

IMG_7183 IMG_7184 IMG_7189 IMG_7191~Step 3.  Lower mixer speed to low and add the flour/cocoa powder mixture, all-at-once. Continue to beat, on medium-low speed until the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the wet ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl with the spatula, about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off.  Using the rubber spatula, add and thoroughly fold in the peanut butter chips.

IMG_7194 IMG_7201 IMG_7204~ Step 4.  Spoon the brownie batter evenly into each of 12 mini-cheesecake cups, about 3 tablespoons in each cup.

IMG_7220~ Step 5.  Bake on center rack of 325 degree oven until set, about 14-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and place pan of brownies on a cooling rack to cool about 20 minutes prior to removing brownies from pan to cool completely on rack. When brownies are completely cooled, which takes about an hour, remove the round pan bottom from each one and frost tops as follows:

IMG_7228 IMG_7226~ Step 6.  To prepare the frosting, in a medium bowl, on medium-high speed of mixer, cream the butter, cream cheese and peanut butter. Add  Confectioner's sugar.

On low mixer speed at first, working your way up to high speed, until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 1- 1/2 minutes.  

Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted w/your favorite star tip & decoratively pipe the tops w/a pretty peak of frosting:

IMG_7244Three-four bite brownies are perfect for indoor or outdoor, &, casual or upscale gatherings or celebrations any time of year!

IMG_7237Chocolate & Crunchy-Peanut-Butter Brownie Bites:  Recipe yields 1 dozen brownie bites -- 3-4 bites each.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; mini-cheesecake pan w/removable bottoms or 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; wire cooling rack

IMG_9703 Ruth_Graves_Wakefield-800x0-c-defaultCook's Note: To get the full story about ~ The Original Nestle's Toll House Cookie Recipe ~, which details the facts vs. the fiction, just click into Category 7, 11 or 26.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2016)


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