02 December 2011

peanut butter topped brownie smackdown

Last weekend, I got an email from my friend Cathy describing a recipe she tried for peanut butter cookie dough brownies. It turned into an email conversation that went a little like this:

Cathy: I tried this recipe for peanut butter cookie dough brownies.
Me: Yum! 
Cathy: Eh, it was ok. Could use some improvement. I bet you could do it better. Maybe with your peanut butter balls mixture?
Me: Duh. Everything is better with my peanut butter balls mixture. This sounds like a peanut butter chocolate challenge.
Cathy: I double dog dare you to make a better peanut butter brownie.
Me: You're on!

I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. How could I resist a challenge involving peanut butter and chocolate?

I began with a pan of brownies, divided into four because I had four recipes in my plan to try.

First, I had to make the recipe Cathy tried. You can find it here. For smackdown purposes, we're going to call it “Recipe #1.” It tasted fine, but Cathy was right—it needed a little something. I noticed that the person who posted it adapted it from another recipe, so I clicked over there for research. That recipe, hereby known as “Recipe Zero,” contained twice the amount of butter and it was salted butter.

That's what is missing! The salt!

So I made Recipe Zero and added it to the pan. I didn't have any salted butter, so I added 1/4 teaspoon of salt to my half recipe. (That would mean you'd need to add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the original recipe if you're not using salted butter.)

Then I gave Little Mister a bag of pretzels to smash and dug out my peanut butter bar recipe, upon which the peanut butter balls recipe is based.

I whipped that up (see below for recipe), added the chocolate chips and divided it in half. I placed half in the pan (labeled “MakeHappy”). I mixed the pretzel pieces into the other half, and found that I needed some extra melted butter to hold it all together. That one went onto the last quarter of brownies and received the “MakeHappy w/ pretzels” label.

This was super duper fun for me. Can you tell? I even made washi tape flags.

When Sweetpea came home from school, I cut tiny pieces of each section for all of us and we had a taste test.

I have to say, the kids liked all of them. They couldn't tell the difference. Peanut butter? Good. Chocolate? Good. I'm a little more discriminating. . . 

I liked my peanut butter topping best, but this is no surprise. I'm such a fan of the gritty sweetness provided by the brown sugar in that peanut butter mixture, I'd eat it on top of anything. Probably even sardines. I liked the pretzel version the very bestest.

But my peanut butter topping is not very cookie dough-like. If you want cookie dough, definitely go for the salt + butter version (or salted butter version, whichever you prefer.)

So for me:
Winner—my recipe (below) with pretzels
Runner Up—my recipe without pretzels
Cookie dough winner—either of the originating recipes, using salted butter or unsalted butter + salt

Oh, and I couldn't find mini M&Ms anywhere (called for in Recipe Zero). Do they still make those? I substituted mini chocolate chips for now, but I'm on the lookout for mini M&Ms. They're great for baking.

Peanut Butter (Pretzel?) Topped Brownies (printable version)
1 8x8 pan of your favorite brownies
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Jif)
1 1/8 cup brown sugar
1 1/8 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 tsp salt

optional: 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

optional: 1 cup mini pretzels, crushed into tiny pieces + 1-2 Tbsp extra melted butter, as needed to hold everything together
  • Combine peanut butter, brown sugar, powdered sugar, melted butter and salt in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. 
  • If desired, stir in chocolate chips. 
  • If desired, stir in crushed pretzels and extra melted butter. Press together with your hands, if necessary to form one solid mass of peanut butter topping.
  • Spread on top of brownies.
If you add the pretzels, they'll bulk up the peanut butter mixture quite a bit. This will either give you a thicker layer of peanut butter goodness on top of your brownies, or some leftovers. You could use the leftovers to make some peanut butter chocolate pretzel balls, or flatten the balls and make homemade peanut butter cups. Or you could just eat it. I won't tell.