Comfort Food Week: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

I just couldn’t do a comfort food week without mentioning brownies; they are my favourite sweet treat and over the years have sort of become my trademark cake. I made a brownie tower as my wedding cake, and bake them for most occasions. I find them one of the best things to serve at a barbecue as dessert (apart from Eton Mess, obviously), as they’re one of the few cakes that are dense and squidgy enough to pass as a dessert. They are also amazingly low effort; no icing to fiddle around with, less washing up, easy to double up into larger quantities – they really have their advantages. Their gooey richness makes them so comforting to eat; you can’t help but feel a bit better after eating a good brownie.

So after years of making the same (admittedly, delicious) brownies (my favourites are Nigella’s brownies from How to be a Domestic Goddess), I felt it was time to branch out into something slightly different. As I’ve recently discovered the kilogram jars of Skippy peanut butter at Costco it seemed logical to try and incorporate peanut butter into the brownies. So I found a recipe from BBC Good Food and, once I’d tried it, I wondered what I’d been doing all these years making plain brownies. These are a-m-a-z-i-n-g, not only are they squidgy and sticky and rich, but they have that delicious sweet/salty thing going on which is my favourite flavour combo. Also, as the peanut butter replaces regular butter in the recipe I can only assume that they are healthier and that by making them I have, therefore, done myself and everyone else who eats them, a huge favour.

So without further ado, the recipe:

Chocolate peanut butter brownies

I would say how many this makes but it entirely depends on how big you cut them! It’s about 16 squares.

225g crunchy peanut butter

200g dark chocolate

280g soft light brown sugar

3 medium eggs (I generally use 2 large)

100g self-raising flour

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a square or rectangular baking tin roughly 20cm long with greaseproof paper/parchment. Melt 175g of the peanut butter, 150g of the chocolate and the sugar in a pan and melt gently until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is liquid.

Take the pan off the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the flour and pour into the tin.

Melt the leftover peanut butter in the microwave or in a pan until it’s runny and drizzle it over the top of the brownie mixture.

Bake for around 35-40 minutes until it’s cracking on top but the middle is still squidgy.

Melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the top. Leave everything to cool, cut into squares and enjoy! Once you’ve gone peanut butter you’ll never go back…

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Sticky peanut butter cake

There aren’t many times when I wouldn’t rather eat a slice of cake than a bar of chocolate. Although obviously making a cake takes considerably more effort than buying a bar of chocolate, so I really only tend to bake cakes for occasions now. I would rather have a slice of cake than a cupcake any day, with cupcakes (especially the kind that are everywhere these days) there is just too much frosting for the amount of cake, and I find them way too sickly. I do LOVE cupcakes made with water icing though, though that is a story for another day!

Yesterday I was in one of those moods where I couldn’t be bothered to do ANYTHING, but then I had a nap and suddenly I sprang into life and proceeded to spend the next 3 hours in the kitchen, cooking dinner and this cake. I looked through all of my failsafe recipe books for chocolate cake recipes (i.e. all Nigella books) but her chocolate cakes all use sour cream which I didn’t have enough of in the house. So I looked through the Divine Heavenly Chocolate Recipes book I was given as a gift one year, and came across this chocolate peanut butter cake. I was sold pretty much immediately, especially when I realised I had all the ingredients. It was dead easy to mix everything up in the processor, although it wouldn’t exactly be a stretch by hand, and the cake was dense and springy and the icing SO rich and fudgy.

The only things I did differently is that I used 4 medium eggs instead of 3 large, and I only had crunchy peanut butter, so after debating whether I should just use the crunchy I figured it would spoil it if the icing weren’t silky smooth, so I just pushed it through a sieve. I also used all dark chocolate for the icing cause it’s all I had – it did make the icing much darker (i.e. you wouldn’t know it was peanutty until you ate it) and I had to put quite a bit of icing sugar in to make it sweet enough, but it made it really rich and delicious.

This would make a really good birthday cake, and it’s so quick and easy, especially since the icing requires almost no effort at all!

Sticky peanut butter cake
Makes one ~20cm cake
Sponge
175g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
25g light muscovado sugar
3 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour
30g good cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk

Icing
45g milk chocolate
45g dark chocolate
125g smooth peanut butter
25g soft butter
Icing sugar/cocoa powder as needed

You also need two cake tins around 20cm in diameter, greased and the bottoms lined with parchment

Preheat the oven to 180C. Make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature (the butter needs to be REALLY soft if you’re doing it by hand, and if you keep your eggs in the fridge then take them out to warm up).

In a processor/freestanding mixer (or by hand), beat the butter until soft and creamy. Beat in the sugars until really fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after you’ve added each one. By now the mixture should look really smooth and light. Beat in the vanilla.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder and add to the mixture, along with the milk, and mix gently until everything is combined (in the processor I just added the flour in two stages and poured the milk down the funnel). The mixture should be a smooth, pale, dropping consistency.

Spread the mixture into the two tins, making a little depression in the centre so that when it rises in the oven it stays flat. Put the tins in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is springy to the touch and it’s coming away slightly from the sides of the tin. If in doubt poke a skewer or a piece of uncooked spaghetti into the centre; if it comes out clean it’s done.

Run a knife around the edges of the tins and turn out onto a wire rack and leave them to cool completely. Don’t be tempted to ice the cake before it’s cool otherwise the icing will melt and run off!

While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan on a very low heat (don’t let it burn otherwise it will seize up and be useless). Once it’s melted, leave it to cool a bit for a couple of minutes, then stir in the butter and the peanut butter which will melt into the warm chocolate. Taste the icing and add icing sugar or cocoa powder until it’s as sweet as you like. I put the saucepan in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the icing. It needs to be solid enough to not run off the cake, but you need to be able to spread it easily across the cake.

Once the cake is cool, sandwich it with the icing and spread another layer on top. Enjoy!