Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies

In honor of Valentine's Day, I bring you a story of love, loss, and finding "the one."

First, the love: these chocolate peanut butter brownies with pretzels are the brownies to end all brownies.  They are rich beyond belief and have the perfect combination of sweet and salty (from the pretzels and the salt you sprinkle on top).  I had never made non-mix brownies before and I am happy to say that, not surprisingly, these were roughly a gazillion times better.  I am a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate, because I have a pulse, but I also adore the combinations of chocolate and pretzels and peanut butter and pretzels.  The combination of all three sent me into a tizzy I won't get into.  These are amazing, and I love them.  Or, loved them, until I ate all of them.

Now, for the loss.  John was at a work dinner one evening so I was whipping up these brownies...maybe for dinner...maybe just to make them.  We won't get into that.  As I was washing up my dishes and the brownies were baking away, I noticed that a hunk of my blue Le Creuset spatula was missing.  I searched in the sink and in the peanut butter, but I couldn't find the missing piece anywhere.  This got me a little paranoid that perhaps the missing piece was in the brownies.  Ruh roh.  So I decided I wouldn't be able to bring the brownies into work (or send them with John to work) for fear that baking reputation might be tarnished if someone were to say, choke, on a hunk of silicon spatula in something I made.

After two days at home with the brownies, I decided I couldn't have them around me for too much longer or I might consume the whole pan.  This wouldn't be a problem, except I am going on a Caribbean vacation in two weeks.  What are the chances that a piece of spatula actually made it into the brownies anyway?  And what are the chances I would actually bring the brownie with the spatula hunk into work?  Well, apparently the stars were aligned, because the spatula hunk did make it to work that day.  I brought six brownies to work and when only one was left I felt like it was time I had my piece.  As I bit into it I thought "man, I would feel a lot better if I would miraculously get that piece of spatula in my brownie."  As you can probably guess, a little piece of blue was peeking out of my brownie and somehow my attempts to choke a coworker were thwarted.  I felt relieved and a bit embarrassed - I almost did ruin my baking reputation, and likely would have had I not been craving a salty sweet treat at 3:00PM.

The moral of the story is that you should make these brownies, fall in love, and not share them with anyone. 

XOXO, Harper Girl

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies
Adapted from Joy the Baker

For brownies:
1 stick butter
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon instant coffee/espresso (optional)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Coarse sea salt for topping

For peanut butter swirl:
4 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

One large handful of pretzel sticks

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the upper third of the oven.  Grease an 8x8 inch baking dish, line with parchment, and grease parchment.

Bring one inch of water to a boil in a large sauce pan.  In a heatproof bowl placed over the boiling water, melt  and combine butter, chocolate, and espresso powder.  Stir continuously and when butter and chocolate are melted, remove from boiling water to allow to cool slightly.  Whisk granulated sugar into chocolate mixture until the sugar is combined.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  When the chocolate is no longer too hot, whisk in the eggs one at a time.

In a small bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.  Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until just combined.  Using heaping spoonfuls drop the batter into the prepared pan.

To prepare the peanut butter swirl whisk together peanut butter, melted butter, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla.

Pour the peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate batter and run a knife through the batter to create a swirl.  Top the batter with a few sprinkles of coarse see salt.  Lightly crush some pretzel sticks and scatter over top of the batter.  Bake at 325 degrees until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs, 35-40 minutes.

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