Soar, salty bittersweet: salted peanut brownies

Salted peanut browniesOnce again in the midst of a dreary Gourmandistan winter, Michelle decided she had to have something sweet. Steve tried to tempt her with a crispy Gold Rush apple, as he has found a local grocery still stocking the locally-grown fruit (though they may not last long now that Steve knows about them). While Michelle did momentarily consider tarte tatin, it wasn’t what she really wanted. A can of salted Virginia peanuts some friends brought over during the holidays gave her an idea, however—and salty peanut brownies with peanut butter icing and bittersweet chocolate ganache were born. Well, not exactly “born,” because a quick Internet search revealed that Dorie Greenspan had the same idea in the January 2007 edition of Bon Appétit Magazine.

Salted peanut brownies

Michelle started her version with a brownie recipe she, like her mother, has been making since the 1970s (if not the 1960s) from a Nashville Junior League cookbook. Nearly a half-century of experience (ouch!) has taught that the tasteful Southern ladies’ brownies are a bit too dry and caky when plain, but delicious when iced. Taking things a couple of steps further (par for the course in most things Gourmandistan), Michelle mixed extra-oily Virginia peanuts into the batter, prepared both peanut butter icing and a bittersweet chocolate ganache, and topped it all off with more chopped nuts.

Salted peanut brownies

The brownies turned out beautifully, with bold flavors and textures battling for control. The sturdy cake of the brownie, the creamy sweet peanut butter icing, the crack of bittersweet ganache, and of course those salty, salty, salty peanuts. A combination so tasty it made Steve turn away from his apple hoard and overindulge on brownies instead. For Michelle, that simply means that, after the brownies, more apples will be available for tarte tatin when the urge for sweetness strikes again.


  • Servings: one 9 x 9-inch pan
  • Print

(brownies adapted from Nashville Seasons/icing and ganache adapted from Dorie Greenspan on Epicurious.com)


  • 1 stick (8 TB) butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. roughly chopped roasted, salted peanuts (preferably Virginia peanuts)

Preheat oven to 325° F with rack in center of oven.

Line a 9″ square pan (bottom and sides) with 2 sheets of aluminum foil, leaving enough foil to fold over the sides of the pan to pull brownies out once done.

Melt butter, sugar and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the same pan.  Add eggs and vanilla. Blend with a wooden spoon or spatula (working quickly so that eggs incorporate into batter rather than cook). Then, stir in nuts.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan and smooth with a spatula.  Bake at 325° for 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Peanut Butter Icing:

  • 1 c. peanut butter
  • 4 TB butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar (sifted if clumpy)
  • 1 TB milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat peanut butter and butter in medium bowl with an electric mixer. Beat in powdered sugar, then milk and vanilla. If the icing is too dry, add a touch more milk. Spread frosting over brownies. Refrigerate.

Ganache & topping:

  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 TB butter
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped roasted, salted peanuts

Melt chocolate and butter in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until melted and fully incorporated. Pour over brownies and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before removing brownies from pan and cutting into small squares.


  1. These are beautiful! I actually (shame on me) have never made brownies but I think I’ll a challenge on myself and make these as not only do they look so artistic, the salty peanut layer must give them a twist. Have a great week!

  2. Decadent. It looks like you cut them into the perfect-sized portions—though I can’t say I wouldn’t go back for a second one. You’ve been making good use of holiday presents :).

  3. Yum. Sometimes it’s the chocolate peanut butter combo that really tempts you. I’ve been meaning to make a tarte tatin for so long. But this…..THIS! yum. Great photos!

    • I was thinking today, good lord, we have a lot of peanut butter recipes on here. I know it confounds some Europeans who don’t share our love for it. But, to me, it’s one of the best things in the world!

  4. Love salty-sweet … and I especially love Virginia peanuts! Your photographs make me want to reach through the screen to grab a brownie right now … and it’s sunrise down here in the tropics. Wonderful post!

  5. Those brownies would definitely fill a different need than tarte tatin! When I think about how simple it is to make ganache, I wonder why I don’t slather it on everything–thanks for the reminder!

  6. OMYGOD. these look so good. there’s an ice cream i always get right before I start a diet (which makes perfect sense) and it’s chocolate-peanut. And it’s to die for. Your brownies look so fun with the layers and topping!

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