Once 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.
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.
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.
Brownies: 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: 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: 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.
SALTED PEANUT BROWNIES
Preheat oven to 325° F with rack in center of oven.
Peanut Butter Icing:
Ganache & topping:
Refrigerate for at least an hour before removing brownies from pan and cutting into small squares.