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Brownie Peanut Butter Layer Bars

October 22, 2010

chocolate-peanut butter-chocolate cross section

My beau Quincy is not much of a cake guy. I mean, he’ll choke it down to be polite (oh boy, isn’t life tough?) but when his birthday comes around each October, he doesn’t exactly go for the double-layer-with-buttercream type of dessert. He usually prefers something ice cream oriented, a pie of sorts, or other non-quintessential birthday treat. And although I don’t come down nearly as firmly in opposition of cake (it’s a pretty wide genre, after all), it’s no surprise that the boxed ‘yellow’ or half-sheet from the supermarket don’t really light my fire. In fact, way back in the 3rd and 4th grade, during what I remember to be the heyday of Discovery Zone style birthday parties, I leaned more toward the pizza and Hoodsie cups than those frosting-intensive, Cinderella/Power Ranger-ized confections.

Anyway, before you pronounce me a total cake snob, let me say that it’s not so much the actual cake that doesn’t appeal–I just think we paint ourselves into a corner with the whole birthday cake notion. There are a zillion desserts out there worthy of a birthday celebration, so why not pick the one most craved by the honoree? So this year, I started trolling for clues a few days prior and given how frequently Quincy and I share food-oriented conversation, it didn’t take long to catch a hint: it had to involve chocolate and peanut butter. Running with that pretty infallible flavor combination, I opted for a layered brownie of sorts, and with a little research, arrived at the treats pictured. I think the birthday boy was pleased.

brownie peanut butter layer bars

Brownie Peanut Butter Layer Bars (Or “Outrageous Birthday Brownies,” if you prefer)
These are rich, almost candy-like treats…Although you’ll be tempted to eat them in bulk, I suggest cutting 16 squares out of the 8″x8″ pan. They look awfully cute that way and you’ll have more room for the vanilla ice cream that’s an ideal accompaniment.

For the Brownie Layer (from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything):
NOTE: These are pretty dense (the lack of leavening isn’t a mistake), highly chocolate-y brownies that serve as a delicious, stable base for the layers above. If you feel like experimenting, or are just attached to your favorite brownie recipe, feel free to substitute it for this layer. Just cool it completely before applying the peanut butter layer.

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 oz. good quality unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dark or bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8″x8″ brownie pan with tin foil and grease the foil liberally. In a small saucepan, carefully melt the butter and chocolate over very low heat until the chocolate is almost melted–turn off the stove and stir until the residual heat has melted all the chocolate and you have a smooth, slightly cooled mixture. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Next, stir in the flour, salt, and finally, the chocolate chunks. Pour mixture into your prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes, erring on the side of underbaking. Cool completely before applying the peanut butter layer.

For the Peanut Butter Layer:
1 cup peanut butter
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 powdered sugar, well sifted
1/4-1/2 tsp. sea salt, depending on your taste and how salty your peanut butter was out of the jar

In a bowl, mix the butter and peanut butter until well incorporated. Add the salt, then the powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments, continuing to stir until the mixture is uniformly smooth and thick. Spread in an even layer over the fully-cooled brownies. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes before layering the ganache on top.

Chocolate Ganache Layer
1/2 cup cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Chop the chocolate (smaller pieces=easier melting), then reserve in a bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan and heat until just steaming. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted and fully integrated with the cream. Pour chocolate ganache over the peanut butter layer, tilting pan slightly from side to side to create an even, smooth layer. Refrigerate the completed bars for at least 1/2 hour, or until the ganache is completely set. Cut into portions and serve.

Storage Note: Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a day or two, but can also be wrapped and tucked into the freezer for more long-term storage. Just allow them to come to room temperature before serving.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Sally permalink
    September 4, 2011 8:30 pm

    These look delectable! I need a special occasion, so I can make these.

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