On Football & Brownies
August 28, 2008
What is it about brownies and football that seem to go together? They’re both quintessentially American? They’re both often consumed in excess? People go downright mad for both of them? Sure, there are these commonalities. But I think there was something else that had me in the mood to make brownies to bring to a fantasy football draft last night.
For me, football season ushers in a spike in my weekend cooking and baking. As Kevin arms himself with the remote control, his Bears jersey (cough, Rex Grossman jersey, cough) and his laptop computer (to check his stats for the aforementioned fantasy football league and the several other leagues he’s in; again, cough), I happily head into the kitchen. The length of a football game affords me a window of time ripe for making a slowly-simmered chicken stock or a freezer-bound pan of lasagna. Or a baked good that promises to flood our house with dreamy scents, which is where the brownies come in.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
Okay. I know this is an eye-rolling, slightly nauseating vision of gender-divided married life: grunting husband hunkered in his easy chair; little wife pattering around the kitchen. But, you know what? These Sundays (and Saturdays, when you throw in college games, and Mondays, for Monday Night Football, and then aren’t there even Thursday games too? Yeesh.) are the best. We both get to do something we love and it’s nice to be doing them within a first down of each other. (Um, I’m pretty sure that’s by far the best football reference I’ve ever made. I should hang it up for the season, which hasn’t even begun yet.)
Speaking of things that pair well (I mean football and brownies, not Kevin and me, though we’re pretty great together too—and here’s hoping we’ll be good together as co-owners, which is what we are for the fantasy team we drafted last night), these brownies are a showcase of perhaps one of the happiest marriages in all of American baking: chocolate and peanut butter. [Pause for mmmmm-ing, drooling and grumbling stomachs.]
These brownies are decidedly not the plain Jane variety (though, if you’re looking for a classic brownie, I highly recommend these). But they’re not quite as complicated as another peanut butter-chocolate combination I’ve baked. Today’s brownies are essentially this: a simple brownie base, spun through with a ribbon of enriched (and quite rich) peanut butter filling. The marbling is created by plopping mounds of a peanut butter filling on top of the brownie base and then gently sweeping a butter knife or bamboo skewer through the whole thing, blazing a swirly trail of peanut butter though the brownies.
The result is a bar that alternates between tender, rich brownie and patches of decadent, creamy peanut butter filling. Cut into small squares, they made a perfect football draft treat: there was just enough time between rounds to get in a bite or two.
Peanut Butter-Swirled Brownies
Yield: 16 small brownies
FOR THE BATTER:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for pan
2 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
FOR THE FILLING:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inches to hang over sides. Butter lining (excluding overhang); set pan aside.
Make batter: Put butter and chocolates in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted. Let cool slightly.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, and set aside.
Whisk granulated sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well incorporated.
Make filling: Stir together butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.
Pour one-third of batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Place dollops of filling (about 1 tablespoon each) about 1 inch apart on top of batter. Drizzle remaining batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan. Place dollops of remaining filling on top.
With a butter knife [note: I used a bamboo skewer], gently swirl filling into batter, running knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers. Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15minutes. Lift out brownies; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.