Monday, June 24, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies: Laura-Kate Rurka

I always love when my chocolate and mystery worlds collide. I met Laura-Kate Rurka, an aspiring Bay Area writer who loves both chocolate and mysteries a few years ago at Left Coast Crime: Booked in LA. Both she and I are glad we met because since that time she has shared both delicious treats and great stories at the literary salons at my home in Berkeley. 

At the latest literary salon for Scottish Mystery Author Catriona McPherson (who brought CAKE), Laura-Kate brought awesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies. What a wealth of sweet riches. I had to have the recipe, so I asked Laura-Kate to share with DyingforChocolate readers. Here's the tale and recipe!

LAURA-KATE RURKA: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone with this recipe. I've tried both with the salted peanuts and without and prefer without. The peanuts disrupt the glorious texture.

Also, I just realized in making them this time that I put a full stick of butter in the peanut butter ganache layer instead of the half a stick that it calls for–cardiologists stand by your beepers! (Do they even have those anymore?)

The bars are best served cold, though I find it better to let take them out of the fridge about 15-20 mins before I cut them into bars, otherwise the layers separate. They're not bad warm, just not quite as good.

They need to be made a day ahead. I usually prepare them through the peanut butter layer, put them in the fridge overnight, and then make the topping the next morning. This keeps the chocolate from melting into the peanut butter ganache. 

Here is the original recipe from Anne Thornton on Food Network, if you want to be a purist, but read Laura-Kate's notes and adaptations above for an even more fabulous Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Bar!



Decadent Brownies:
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, plus more, softened, for pan
1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Buttercream Layer:
1 cup creamy peanut butter (don't use old-fashioned or natural)
1/2 stick sweet butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups salted cocktail peanuts

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
7 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
For your brownie batter: Melt your butter in a medium (or large) heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.
While the butter is melting, whisk the cocoa powder, sea salt and sugar in a separate bowl. (The sugar and salt will work as abrasive agents to get any lumps out of the cocoa.) Whisk the cocoa/sugar/salt combo into the melted butter until the sugar has dissolved fully. The mixture should look like fudge and pull away from the bowl into a ball. Take off the stove and set the pan on a dishtowel on your counter. Allow the fudgy mixture to cool down until it's warm, but not hot anymore.
While that is cooling, line the bottom and sides of your 9 by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil. You want to leave about 4 inches of overhang on the 2 opposite sides. These serve as your handles to remove the brownies from the pan in 1 piece, so make sure that there is enough of the overhang for you to have a solid grip. Grease the parchment or foil well.
Stir in the vanilla into the cooled fudge mixture to loosen it up. Add the eggs into the mixture 1 at a time, adding the second egg after the first egg is fully incorporated. The batter should look shiny and well blended. Add in your flour and stir it until it's fully incorporated. Once it looks fully blended, beat the batter vigorously for at least 45 strokes. This'll not only get out any pent up stress, but it will make the brownies chewy. Fold in your chocolate chips. Spread the very thick and fudgy brownie batter evenly in the lined pan with an offset spatula or your greased hands.
Pop the brownies in the oven and bake until they get a nice crust and your house smells like brownies, 30 to 35 minutes. Let them cool completely on a rack or a dishtowel on your counter.
While the brownies are cooling make the buttercream and ganache.

For the buttercream:
Mix your peanut butter and butter together in a stand mixer until they are totally blended. Turn your mixer down and slowly add your powdered sugar and fine sea salt. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn your mixer back to medium, add your milk and vanilla and keep mixing until it's fully blended. Dollop the peanut butter buttercream in heaping spoonfuls on top of the cooled brownies. Evenly spread it with the back of a butter knife the over the surface. Scatter the peanuts evenly over the buttercream, pressing into the buttercream so that the ganache has something to hold on to and the peanuts are all covered.

For the ganache:
Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Allow the ganache to cool down slightly for 10 minutes or so, then pour it evenly over the peanut butter buttercream layer. Smooth the ganache out with the back of a butter knife, making sure to cover the buttercream and peanuts completely. Chill the brownies in the refrigerator until the toppings are set, 1 1/2 hours or so.

Remove these delicious guys from the refrigerator. Lift up the ends of the foil liner and place the Fudgy Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies on a cutting board. Cut into squares.


Libby Dodd said...

Why can't you use natural peanut butter? The other has a lot of junk in it.

Janet Rudolph said...

Libby, I'll see what I can find out about that..

Laura-Kate Rurka said...

Hi Libby, I've never tried it with natural peanut butter. My guess is that the texture wouldn't be right, but you could always give it a try!