You finish dinner one night and you begin to crave something sweet. A dessert of some sort. Sure, you’ve just finished a nice supper. One that would make even Julia Child proud. But you need something small and chocolatey to finish it off right. As you search your pantry you look around and see nothing that piques your interest. No goodies hiding away. Nothing that is ready. No treats calling out your name. No cookies, cakes, or pie. How do you even continue? Where do you go from here? You grab a few ingredients here and there. All the usual suspects are gathered around in the matter of minutes; flour, sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Some not so usual guests are also invited to the party. Peanut butter and bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate are thrown into the mix. In staring at all your ingredients, intently and without blinking, the idea comes to you like a speeding bullet. Why hadn’t you thought of making this before? It’s so easy.
There’s a popular saying out there that instructs us to make brownies when life hands us chocolate. Did I get that right? I’m sure I’ve read that countless of times on mugs, t-shirts and aprons. Someone once told me something around those lines however-If I recall correctly-it was something about lemons and lemonade. I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention or listening. I dozed off, but I know I must’ve heard them wrong. I’m sure they meant chocolate. When I don’t like or agree with something that someone has said to me, I find it rather therapeutic to replace it with chocolate. Try it, it works every time. But that’s beside the point. I digress. The truth of the matter is when life does hand you chocolate, there is only one option-well maybe a few in the form of cakes and cookies-but for the sake of this post, let’s just say there is only one option. That option is to make brownies. Everyone likes brownies. They make people happy. Have you ever given anyone a box of brownies and seen them react so incredibly insane over them? Has your little box of chocolate treats ever affected someone so much, they had to stop everything and do a happy dance and sing? No? Well, I have. It’s a weekly occurrence with me. “Thank you for my delicious brownies. They made my day,” people tell me. “They were so tasty that I’m going to name my next child after you! If I have one. If I don’t, then I’ll change the name of the one I already have,” I’m always told. If you see any little tots named Jonathan or Jon out there, now you know why.
What can I say? These peanut butter caramel brownies have that affect on people. I guess, it is my responsibility to state that disclaimer. To inform people of their magical powers. To warn future makers and eaters: Devouring these brownies will make you have babies and name them after me. Don’t say you’ve never been warned.
We start by making the caramel. Which happens to be a peanut butter caramel.
In a medium sauce pot, pour in the heavy cream.
Heat through on low-medium heat, until it begins to slightly simmer.
We’re just trying to warm it up, not boil it. So watch it.
In another pot, pour the sugar and water.
Let the sugar dissolve into the water.
Cook over medium heat until it begins to boil, bubble, and brown.
This is essentially a simple syrup.
Once the simple syrup has bubbled and begun to brown, slowly and carefully, stream in the warmed heavy cream.
When you add the heavy cream, the mixture will bubble and boil somewhat rapidly, but rest assured it is okay.
As you slowly stream in the cream, whisk the mixture together.
Allow it to thicken for a minute, and remove from the heat.
Now it’s time to finish up the peanut butter caramel sauce, by adding the rest of the ingredients.
Of course, we need peanut butter.
Make sure it’s smooth peanut butter. This isn’t the place for the chunky kind. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to pb&j sandwiches or spoonfuls of peanut butter…I’m a chunky man all the way through and through-but for this let’s keep it smooth.
Corn Syrup (Just a wee little bit) It’s okay shhhhhh…our little secret.
A dash of salt.
Whisk everything together.
Stir until the caramel is completely smooth and thick.
Pour the peanut butter caramel sauce into a bowl, and allow it to cool down completely to room temperature.
Just try to forget about it, I know it’ll be hard.
Now that the peanut butter caramel sauce is done, let’s get started on the actual brownie batter.
Here’s what you’ll need.
It wouldn’t be brownies without chocolate.
Unsweetened and bittersweet.
Reserve about four ounces of bittersweet chocolate, for later. You’ll thank me for it.
Give the chocolate a rough chop. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just cut it into small pieces and pour it into a heat-proof bowl.
Throw in a bit of espresso powder.
Why am I adding espresso powder to the chocolate? That’s a good question, thanks for asking.
Coffee enhances the chocolate flavor. I always add it whenever I’m making things with chocolate.
Trust me, it’s good. But you can definitely leave it out if you’d like.
We have to melt the chocolate, and to do so we’re going to use the “double boiler” method. (But feel free to nuke it in the microwave if you’d like. Just zap it in 25 sec intervals and stir after each time until the chocolate has melted smooth)
But if you’re using a double boiler, place the chocolate on top of a pot with simmering water.
Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water. Direct contact with the water can ruin your chocolate.
Stir the chocolate frequently and allow it to melt thoroughly.
Continue to stir the chocolate until there are no lumps and it is fully melted.
Next step is to dice the butter and add it to the melted chocolate.
I could pretend that you add the butter after the chocolate has melted.
But I can’t lie to you guys. If I’m being honest, I actually forgot to add the butter along with the chocolate to melt them at the same time.
It doesn’t really matter, but it will save you a step. So let’s just pretend you’re supposed to add the butter after. No one needs to know.
Mix the chocolate and butter until the butter has completely melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.
Once the mixture is smooth, remove the bowl from the double boiler and allow to cool down slightly, on the counter.
Okay, next step.
Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl.
You can most definitely do this by hand. I don’t feel like stirring forever, so I’m using my mixer.
To the eggs, add:
Brown Sugar Granulated Sugar
Salt Vanilla Extract
Start the mixer on low.
It’s better to start on low so that everything doesn’t go flying out of the mixer, and land on the counter making a big mess.
After a bit, raise the speed.
Continue to mix the batter on medium-high, until it is pale in color.
Pour in the melted chocolate mixture from earlier, it should be cool enough by now.
Mix the batter and chocolate together until there is no more “white” showing.
When ready, it will look like this.
Add the flour to the chocolatey batter.
Gently, and slowly, mix in the flour until just combined.
Try not to over mix at this stage. You don’t want dry brownies, and if you over mix it…well Hello Dry Brownies!
You worked hard to make these taste good, so let’s make sure they do.
Remember that reserved bittersweet chocolate?
The time has come to use it.
Give it a rough chop chop.
You could also use chocolate chips instead if you’d like, or if you have some on hand to spare.
Add it to the brownie batter.
Give it one final mix.
A quick second. There, you’re done.
Resist the urge to dig in. Must wait until they are baked. Must wait until they are baked.
Okay, I’m back.
Prepare a baking dish.
A 9×13 rectangle baking pan to be exact. Or two 8-inch squares.
Line with foil and top with a layer of parchment paper, like so…
Pour in half of the batter and spread it evenly.
Smooth it out with a spatula.
Quick! Grab the peanut butter caramel sauce!
I say quick because by now you must be dying to try these brownies. Trust me I know. I’ve been there, I’ve done that.
Make about five mounds of peanut butter caramel, using only half of the sauce, onto the brownie batter.
Using a wooden skewer or pointy knife swirl the caramel into the chocolate batter, making a swirled pattern.
Top with the remaining brownie batter.
Spread it out evenly as well.
Repeat the swirling steps with the rest of the caramel.
Bake the brownies in a preheated 325° oven for about 23-25 minutes.
Rotate the pan, halfway through baking.
When you insert a toothpick in the middle, you want it to still be gooey. Slightly under baked brownies are the way to go.
Again, you don’t want dry hard brownies so remember to slightly under bake them.
Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan, on a wire rack.
When the brownies have cooled, it is essential to place the dish in the fridge and chill for at least 20 minutes.
This will make cutting the brownies a lot easier.
Best trick ever, don’t skip it.
When the brownies have chilled and are cold to the touch, remove from the pan by grabbing the sides of the parchment and foil.
Place on a cutting board.
Remove the foil and parchment paper from the bottom of the brownies.
Follow these steps, below, to get perfect even slices. This way no one is fighting for the bigger piece.
You can always just save yourself the biggest piece, that’ll work too.
Make an even slice down the middle.
Then make two even slices on each half, so you end up with 6 rows of chocolatey bliss.
Finally, cut each row into 4 even pieces.
You’ll end up with 24 squares.
If you want smaller, bite-sized, brownies, cut each square in half.
I like bigger squares.
Now you’re finally done.
You can eat them at this point but I-for some crazy unexplainable reason-love cold brownies. I know I know. So I pop them back in the fridge for a bit.
But please feel free to devour them now. You worked hard for this moment.
These are probably, possibly (at the moment) my favorite brownies. Ever.
You can’t go wrong when you mix chocolate and peanut butter and caramel together.
Its a win-win-win.
Make them right now. Like right this instant. Follow the pictures. You can do it.
You know you want to. Can you hear them calling?
“Eat me. I’m deliciously decadent. Don’t feel bad for me. I’m a brownie. I’m meant to be eaten. Bite into my layers of smooth chocolate and creamy peanut butter.”
Woah…looks like now you have to make them.
Peanut Butter Caramel Brownies
Taken and adapted from Bobby Flay.
Yield: 24 squares
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 6 ounces high-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, plus 4 ounces
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Bring the cream to a simmer over low heat in a small saucepan. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat and cook, without stirring until amber brown. Slowly whisk in the warm cream until smooth and let cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let cool until thickened at room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with foil and a sheet of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the narrow ends.
Combine the butter, unsweetened chocolate, 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate and espresso powder in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Let the chocolate melt over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, both sugars, vanilla and salt until smooth. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the flour in 2 additions (the batter will be thick). Stir in the remaining 4 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate.
Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of half of the peanut butter caramel every 2 inches over the top of the batter. Carefully add the remaining batter and smooth over the caramel. Smooth the top and dollop the remaining caramel over the top. Use a butter knife to swirl through the batter to get a marbleized effect.
Bake until the top is set but still soft and the edges are puffed and just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 23 to 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out still gooey (The perfect gooey brownie is one that is slightly under baked). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make cutting easier, refrigerate the pan for about 20 minutes before cutting the brownies. Using the foil and parchment paper, lift the brownie slab out of the pan. Carefully peel off the foil and paper and put the brownie on a large cutting board. With a large sharp knife, cut the brownies into 24 squares or 48 mini squares. The brownies can be stored in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 3 days; they can also be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy.