It’s Saturday night in San Francisco, and while some of our friends are out pregaming before a Gold Room concert, I’m at home playing a board game. What I lack for competitive spirit on game nights I make up for in baked goods provided over the course of the evening. Sometimes I even score a come-from-behind victory by plotting my win while baking cookies. Shhh.
Tonight I’m pairing settlers of Catan with an improvised recipe for peanut butter brownies. I have yet to hear any complaints.
I’ve been looking for a low-fuss peanut butter brownie recipe but none of the ones I’ve seen lately look quite right. So I pulled a basic brownie recipe from smitten kitchen and an old stuffed peanut butter cookie filling recipe that I’ve had for a while (gotta make those again sometime).
I never have any baking chocolate on-hand. I always have cocoa powder. You can easily sub cocoa powder for baking chocolate by combining 3 tbsp cocoa powder and 1 tbsp oil (vegetable or an otherwise neutral oil) for every 1 oz of baking chocolate called for. Easy peasy. Take a moment to admire the cool-ass beads of chocolate oil that form on your cocoa mountain.
This is a pretty straightforward one bowl recipe; just go down the list mixing in 1 ingredient after the next and stirring until just combined each time.
For the flour I switched from whisk to spatula and folded it in gently (although brownie batter is pretty tough, so it doesn’t have to be handled as delicately as, say, biscuit dough). Pour it into a buttered pan and set aside. Side note: it’s going to be pretty thick, so it might not spread super easily.
Peanut Butter Topping
You know what sucks? Separated peanut butter. You know what sucks more? Costco-sized jars of separated peanut butter because oh my GOD you cannot recombine that stuff without getting awful peanut oil all over the sizes of the jar. Ugh. Now that we’ve dealt with that, the peanut butter topping is pretty simple. Mix up powdered sugar, butter, peanut butter and vanilla. Done.
Layering your peanut butter and brownie mix isn’t rocket science. The only thing you need to remember is not to overmix, which would result in a bit too much homogeneity in your brownie treat. Just run a fork through your batter like you’re the hero in a Tolstoy novel, plowing furrows in the hard Russian earth as you contemplate your own flawed human existence. Or whatever. Make patterns.
They’ll make a bit more slowly than regular brownies, since they’re insulated under a nice peanut buttery blanket of goodness. These were in the oven for about 35 minutes, then they rested for about 10 minutes before I cut them.
Pro-tip for all: a humble plastic knife is the very best tool for cutting brownies cleanly. I didn’t use one today, but my friend Christina swears by it. She really should start a lifehacking blog, but she’s too busy in med school. You know, becoming a truly productive member of society instead of just an expert brownie hacker.
Check out these wayyy expert stab marks where I tested for doneness! It was my turn, I had to go roll the dice.
Peanut Butter Brownie Recipe
Brownie base adapted from smitten kitchen’s favorite brownies
tbsp cocoa powder + 3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 1/3 cups (265 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt (about 2 grams)
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
Peanut Butter Topping
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth is better, but chunky is ok)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter an 8×8 pan.
2. Mix cocoa powder, oil and butter in a large bowl. Add remaining brownie batter ingredients in succession, stirring to combine after each addition. Fold in flour until just combined. Pour into buttered pan.
3. In clean bowl, stir peanut butter mixture until blended. Spoon/pour over brownie batter.
4. Using a clean butter knife or toothpick, swirl peanut butter mixture until it covers the brownie batter, but not so much that they mix together too much.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, checking with toothpick for doneness (will come out clean) starting at 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before munching.