Can we talk?
Specifically, can we talk about “brownie” recipes that call for things like black beans and applesauce and sugar substitutes, instead of gobs of chocolate and eggs and wonderful, wonderful, butter?
Specifically-er, can we talk about how those things may be made by health-conscious, well-intentioned people, and some folks might enjoy them, and they may even get high praise like “I didn’t want to throw up after eating it,” but they will never, nay never, taste like an actual brownie?
Do what you want! Put beets in your pudding and kale in your cookies for all I care. Just please, don’t pretend that it tastes “just like the real thing” and look at me like I’m the crazy one when I beg to differ. Because I have known brownies. I have tasted brownies. I have loved brownies. And those Splenda/applesauce/bean concoctions, sir, are not brownies.
Now that we’ve established what a brownie is not, let’s talk about what these brownies are. They’re an easy one-bowl recipe, with my ideal balance of fudgy center and chewy, crackly crust. I’ve added big handfuls of chopped peanut butter cups and chunks of milk chocolate to the batter, and then topped them with a swirl of sweet and salty peanut butter frosting and half of a peanut butter cup.
My favorite peanut butter cup to cook with comes from Trader Joe’s, because (I think) they’re slightly taller than Reese’s and have a bigger proportion of filling, so you get these big, gorgeous pockets of melted peanut butter throughout the brownies. Honestly though, any pb cups will do, and if you’re really in a pinch, peanut butter chips can be substituted as well. Just please, whatever you do, hold the beans.
Question for you: Bean-based brownies: yea or nay? Am I right to mock, or am I a jealous hater who wouldn’t know a good brownie if it bit her in the face? Do tell.
Peanut Butter Cup Brownies
yield: 9×13 pan brownies
For the brownies:
8 ounces butter, cubed
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (good-quality chips can be substituted)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely chopped peanut butter cups
1 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chunks (I like using milk chocolate)
For the peanut butter frosting:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 ounces (5 tbsp) butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Additional peanut butter cups, to decorate (optional)
To make the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 13×9 baking pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chocolate, then melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring constantly while they melt to prevent them from overheating. Once the chocolate and butter are melted, remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the cocoa powder, then stir in the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. The mixture will be grainy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. As you add the eggs, the batter will gradually smooth out and lose the grainy texture. After the last egg has been fully incorporated, the batter should be shiny and smooth. Add the flour and stir it in with a spatula until no dry streaks remain. Finally, stir in the chopped peanut butter cups and chocolate chunks.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the frosting and finish the brownies:
Combine the peanut butter and the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip them together with the paddle attachment until well-combined. Turn the mixer off, add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt and turn it on low speed until they’re incorporated. Finally, stream in the cream, and then increase the mixer speed to high, beating until the frosting is beautifully light and smooth.
When the brownies are completely cool, cut them into small squares. (They slice most neatly if they have been chilled first.) You can either spread the frosting in a thin layer on top of the brownies, or put it into a piping bag fitted with a wide star tip, and pipe individual stars or rosettes on top of each square. Garnish with additional peanut butter cups, if desired.
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