Lately, all my online food haunts seem to be inundated with big, brown, fudgy squares, beckoning at every click. Overdosing on all the brownie porn induced a chronic craving within me. I needed an urgent brownie fix. I even dreamed of brownies – plain, marbled, glazed, layered, filled with nuts….. But waiting, shopping for ingredients, delaying was not an option. A new jar of peanut butter in my kitchen cupboard caught my eye. Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies it would be. Chocolate and peanut butter – sweet and savoury – gooey and crunchy, nothing wrong with that. I got to work. They could be in my mouth in 30 minutes. No time to waste.
To pair brownies with a glaze or topping, it’s important to have a go-to brownie recipe that you can to build on. Mine is Alice Medrich’s cocoa brownie. It turns out perfect little, fudgy squares every time, and since it calls for cocoa rather than chocolate, so I can bake a batch at a moment’s notice – natural cocoa is a kitchen staple but not chocolate. Ever since I found this recipe, I’ve used it as a base, for all manner of brownie-related experiments.
The original recipe calls for AP flour but I chose to go gluten-free and subbed the white flour for finger or red millet (ragi) flour. I imagine other kinds of gluten-free flours would work equally well. If you find the batter is too thick because gluten-free flours absorb more liquid, just add a couple of tablespoons of whole milk to loosen the mixture. I didn’t have to. I also cut down the sugar from 250 g to 190 g and slightly increased the quantity of cocoa in the recipe.
As is evident from its name, this version uses crunchy peanut butter to provide that all-important bite to the fudgy, chocolaty texture of the brownie. Little nuggets of peanuts and sugar embedded in the cushiony chocolate have the power to reduce me to a sticky-fingered kindergartener. These bad babies are the perfect guilty pleasure. Share them and spread the joy, or, enjoy them alone…slowly, with a cup of coffee, or hastily, stealing them from the fridge when no one’s looking.
Crunchy peanut butter is thick, so I mixed it with a beaten egg and some sugar to render it into a rough, crumbly dough. Once I poured the brownie batter into the pan, all I had to do was pinch small chunks of the peanut butter dough and push them gently into the silky, molten tar of the brownie batter. There they stay without sinking, and turn crunchy and lightly toasty while baking. If you prefer creamy peanut butter, I suggest you add a little cream or milk with the eggs and sugar, make it batter-like and swirl it into the brownie mix. I just think the crunch gives it more character. I think almond butter with a fistful of chopped, toasted almond thrown in, would work beautifully as well. Tahini, cream cheese, strawberry preserve….experiments await!
- 140 g butter
- 65 g finger millet (ragi) flour
- 2 cold eggs
- ¼ tsp salt
- 190 g sugar
- 100 g cocoa
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 200 g crunchy peanut butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 100 g sugar
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- A pinch of salt
- Preheat your oven to 160℃, line an 8-inch square cake pan with parchment and grease lightly with baking spray or butter.
- Gently heat butter, cocoa, salt and sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (double boiler) until the butter has melted and combines with the cocoa, salt and sugar to form a glossy mixture.
- Set the mixture aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix the peanut butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla in another bowl. You’ll have a thick, sticky doughy mixture.
- When it is barely warm, beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla till they are well incorporated.
- Now add the flour and Alice recommends 40 vigorous strokes to get a shiny, lump-free, smooth batter.
- Pour it into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Pinch little nuggets of the peanut butter dough and gently push into the brownie batter.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes and turn off the oven while a few crumbs still cling to a skewer inserted into the brownie (very important to get a gooey texture).
- Remove from the oven and let it sit in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Gently ease out the brownies, and cool on a wire rack before cutting and storing in an airtight tin.