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~ Triple Chocolate & Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies ~

IMG_5057In a nutshell, the problem with loving the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is you can't eat Reese's peanut butter cups with your morning coffee -- well, you can, you just can't admit to it. These brownies, inspired by a version my mom used to make using a Duncan Hines brownie mix, are a pitch-perfect reason to skip waffles and pancakes and start the day with a brownie.  Back in the days when no one ever heard of a peanut allergy, they made great lunch box treats too.

A rich triple-chocolate layer, &, a thin salty peanut-butter layer sandwiched between dreamy peanut-butter cream-cheese frosting.

IMG_5053Things 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 one, 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, dense, chewy, fudge-esque, chocolatey dessert that is eaten out-of-hand -- a sort of cross between a small cake and a very soft cookie. 

IMG_4934For the dry ingredients:

3/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour (12 tablespoons)

3/4  cup unsweetened cocoa powder (12 tablespoons)

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

For the wet ingredients:

2  extra-large eggs

3/4  cup light-brown sugar

1/4  cup granulated sugar

2  teaspoons pure chocolate extract

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate add-ins and salty peanut butter layer:

8  tablespoons salted butter (1 stick)

6  ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels (about 1 cup)

3/4  cup crunchy peanut butter

IMG_5017For the crunchy peanut-butter cream-cheese frosting layer:

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1  stick)

1  cup cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft (1, 8 ounce brick)

1  cup crunchy peanut butter (4 ounces)

1  cup Confectioners' sugar 

IMG_4938 IMG_4940Step 1.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut an 8"-square of parchment.  Spray the inside of an 8" x 8" x 2" square baking pan with no-stick cooking spray, place the parchment in the bottom, spray the top of the parchment and set aside.  

IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951~Step 2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients:  the eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar and both extracts.  In a double-boiler with 1"-1 1/2" of water in the bottom, placed on the stovetop over medium heat, melt the butter and chocolate, whisking throughout the process until both are thoroughly combined.

IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, add and fold all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until moistened.  Add the melted chocolate and continue to fold until thoroughly combined and a thick batter has formed.  In microwave, heat the peanut butter to a drizzly consistency, about 30-40 seconds.

IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990~Step 4.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and use the spatula to spread it evenly across bottom and into sides.  Drizzle the peanut butter over the top. Using the tip of a paring knife and a light touch, create some swirls across the top, to spread it evenly across the top of the batter and into the corners.  Bake brownies on center rack of 350º oven, 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into center.  Place on a wire rack to cool, about 1 hour, prior to removing bottom from pan and cooling completely.

IMG_5021 IMG_5026 IMG_5026 IMG_5026~Step 5.  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 and working your way up to high, beat until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  

IMG_5036~ Step 6.  Transfer frosting to top center of brownie.  Using a butter knife, working from the center out, spread frosting evenly toward the edges. Technically brownie is ready to slice and serve.  That said, I put it in the refrigerator to chill for several hours, to firm the frosting up. This makes for clean cuts and a pretty presentation.  Serve cut brownies at room temp.

Store in refrigerator.  Serve at room temperature.

IMG_5060Chocolate & Crunchy Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies:  Recipe yields 16, 2"-square brownies.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen shears; parchment paper; 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan, preferably with removable bottom; whisk; large rubber spatula; sharp paring knife; cake tester; wire cooling rack. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c93bc544970bCook's Note:  As a chocolate and peanut butter lover, if you prefer cookies to brownies, allow me to suggest you try my ~ Over-the-Top Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies ~.  They don't imitate the taste of Reese's peanut butter cups, they're topped with Reese's cups.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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