Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homemade peanut butter and chocolate brownies

Before I start talking about these brownies, let me toot my own horn for a bit, because if I don’t do it, who will?? If you’re not following me on social media you probably won’t know this; I was the featured instagrammer on the first issue of National Geographic Traveller Food magazine (UK edition), with a small interview and a few of my photographs. I am so honored, thrilled and excited to be included in such an iconic publication, that I really can’t describe it with words. I should probably attach a photo of my huge smile here instead, but I won’t.

Now let’s talk brownies and the flavor combination of chocolate and peanut butter, which once upon a time I really disliked. I was never a snickers bar person, I always went for the mars, bounty or twix instead. A couple of years ago though, I made chocolate brownies with homemade peanut butter and suddenly I was hooked. I don’t know what it was. Perhaps the real flavor of the homemade peanut butter, the pure, dark chocolate, the flaked sea salt I added to them, the whole peanuts in the batter? Possibly. Or maybe it was just the fact that growing older means your tastes change and I’m good with that. Whichever was the reason I changed my mind about this combination, I’ll take it, because now I get to thoroughly enjoy one of my favorite kind of brownie.

As I have mentioned to you before, I make my own peanut butter, the recipe for which I shared with you a little while ago, hinting that I was going to share these brownies too. Well, the time is now and at the risk of sounding too confident, I have to say, they are in-cre-di-ble! These are for me the best peanut butter and chocolate brownies you can make and they are chocolaty and peanut-y in the purest sense.

There’s two mixtures in these brownies that marry wonderfully together. One is the dark chocolate brownie mixture in which I added chopped peanuts, and the other is the peanut butter mixture to which I added chopped dark chocolate.

They’re dense and fudgy, moist and a little chewy, with a crispy top and a crunchy texture coming from the chopped peanuts inside, and an intense peanut and deep chocolate flavor. They’re like the best snickers bar, but without the cloying sweetness as they’re not too sweet. When warm, they’re soft, melty and moist, and these are the only brownies I prefer eating warm rather than cold. I don’t know exactly why that is and, don’t get me wrong, I would never turn down a cold brownie, but the flavors and textures are so much better and more distinct to me when warm.

Their nuttiness, fudginess and sweetness is perfectly balanced and they are fantastic dipped into coffee or a glass of cold milk, or simply enjoyed on their own as the best cure for all sweet cravings.

Homemade peanut butter and chocolate brownies

The homemade peanut butter with the pure flavor of the nut without being too sweet or salty or having an overly oily texture, is possibly the best part of the brownie. If you don’t want to make your own peanut butter (which, incidentally, is ridiculously easy to make), make sure to use natural peanut butter, not the highly processed one. It’s not about being healthy, I’m neither a nutritionist nor a doctor and I believe that everyone is and should feel free to eat whatever they find is good for them, it’s just that the texture and flavor is different and, having tried them with the highly processed kind of peanut butter as well, the result is not what I want it to be.

Yield: 25 small brownies


for the chocolate brownie mixture
115 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
85 g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
230 g granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp sea salt flakes (I use Maldon)
85 g all-purpose flour
50 g raw, unsalted peanuts (you can toast them if you wish), roughly chopped

for the peanut butter mixture
190 g homemade peanut butter (or store-bought natural peanut butter - see note above)
130 g granulated white sugar
1 large egg
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
⅛ tsp sea salt flakes (I use Maldon)
50 g good quality dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), finely chopped

Special equipment: 20 x 20 cm baking pan, baking paper, wire whisk, stiff rubber spatula

Butter the bottom and sides of the pan and line with a piece of baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 175°C.

for the chocolate brownie mixture
Place the butter and the chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bain marie) and melt, stirring often. The bottom of the bowl must not come in contact with the simmering water. Once the mixture is smooth and melted, remove bowl from the top of the pan and set aside to cool slightly. Then add the sugar and using a wire whisk, whisk well to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition to incorporate them fully. Then add the vanilla and salt, and whisk to combine. Add the flour and stir it in with a spatula until the mixture is smooth and there are no white streaks from the flour visible. Finally, add the chopped peanuts and mix them through the batter with the spatula.

for the peanut butter mixture
Add all the ingredients for the peanut butter mixture, except for the chocolate, in a medium bowl and beat vigorously with a stiff spatula to combine. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Empty ⅓ of the chocolate brownie mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Add ½ of the peanut butter mixture on top and spread it. This mixture will be somewhat stiff so it’s okay if it doesn’t spread smoothly or evenly. Add another ⅓ of the chocolate brownie mixture on top and spread evenly. Then add the rest of the peanut butter mixture and spread. Top with the remaining chocolate brownie mixture and spread evenly.

Bake on the low rack of the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then transfer to the middle rack and bake for approximately 10 minutes more, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with crumbs attached. Be careful not to overbake as you don’t want to end up with dry brownies, but moist and fudgy. You can start checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark to be on the safe side, since not all ovens are the same.

Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then using the overhanging baking paper take the brownies out of the pan and leave on the wire rack until completely cool. (Or, if you are like me, eat while still warm). Then slice into 25 small squares using a long and thin knife.

They keep excellently for 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container, or for a week in the fridge. I prefer eating them warm. You can reheat a square in the microwave before you eat it or if you’re the cold-brownie type, keep them in the fridge.

• Adapted from smitten kitchen


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