Because she’s our designated cookie baker, Santa brought Pookie The Gourmet Cookie Book for Christmas. It’s a fun book that serves as a tour of all the cookie trends over the last 60 years, and after flipping through it Pookie decided the first recipe we should try from it is Gianduja Brownies. The description in the recipe said they would be the best brownies we’ve ever eaten; considering the ingredients included Nutella that gets melted with the chocolate and butter, and ground hazelnuts that get stirred in with the flour, we thought it sounded very hopeful that they would be that good.
Alas, they weren’t that good. They were a tiny bit off texturally, and the flavor was just… not outstanding. They were okay, getting described as “like something someone else would bake — you know, when you have a friend who bakes differently than you,” and “like a cross between a high-end Tastykake and something you’d get at a hotel,” and “I guess they’re getting better the more I eat them.” When you have to psych yourself up to enjoy eating a brownie, it’s time to cut the brownie loose and move on.
So we moved on to our current favorite brownie recipe, Martha Stewart’s peanut butter swirl brownies. This is a recipe that we first tried when we discovered that Martha Stewart’s chocolate gingerbread is not good, so it’s clearly a solid backup plan. Are they the best brownies of all time? Probably not. But right now, in January 2011, they’re the ones we like best.
Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies (from Martha Stewart’s Cookies)
For the batter:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for the pan
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
for the filling:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F). Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment, allowing a 2-inch overhang. Butter lining (not overhang).
2. Make batter: Put butter and chocolates in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
3. Whisk granulated sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well combined.
4. Make filling: Stir together butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.
5. Pour one-third of batter into prepared pan; spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Drop dollops of peanut butter filling (about 1 tablespoon each) on top of batter, spacing about 1 inch apart. Drizzle remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan. Drop dollops of remaining peanut butter mixture on top. Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers.
6. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out; let cool completely ion a wire rack before cutting into squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.