chocolate peanut butter swirl brownies

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My friend Courtney graduated college last Saturday.  It was a big moment, naturally – we’ve been through a lot together, from cartwheeling down the halls of the English department to ditching the panels to go to the zoo for a day at last year’s conference for the International English Honor Society.*  When she, our friend Emily, and I were walking around campus together once last year, two professors stopped us and asked if the three of us were “ever not together?”

*For the record, we did all work and win awards and stuff, too.

Courtney’s big senior paper, which she started in her junior year, was about the role of “flower language” in the book The Picture of Dorian Gray, and on the day I graduated, she brought me a sunflower.  (Come to think of it, I don’t know what a sunflower signifies.  Courtney, explain yourself.)  My senior paper was about the role of food and physical size in the Don DeLillo masterpiece White Noise, and on the day Court graduated, I brought her these chocolate peanut butter swirl brownies.

Literary significance aside, these seemed to go over well.  Peanut butter is one of those things that I can just sit and eat for days, and when I was lost for ideas on what to make and my friend Dan suggested something with those new little Reese’s cups, I ran with it.*  These are easy but gratifying – the perfect thing with which to cuddle on the couch and as you wonder what you yourself have done with your life on this, the one-year anniversary of your own graduation.

*I had originally intended to mix graham cracker crumbs in with the peanut butter mixture, but I think I got distracted by the – mmmm, peanut butter.  Next time.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

8 oz. (1 stick) butter, divided

6 oz. semisweet chocolate

1 3/4 cups sugar

Heaping 1/2 tsp. salt

4 tsp. vanilla extract, divided

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Grease one 13×9-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, melt 6 oz. (3/4 stick) butter and the chocolate, either over a double-boiler or on very low power in the microwave.  Stir together until combined.  Stir in the sugar, salt, and 3 tsp. vanilla.

Beat in eggs one at a time until fully blended.  Stir in flour and cocoa.  Pour into prepared pan; set aside.

In another bowl, melt remaining butter.  Stir in peanut butter and vanilla, then powdered sugar, until combined.  Drop mixture by tablespoonsfuls on top of brownie batter, making sure to distribute evenly.  Bake 3 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, keeping oven on.  Using a knife, swirl peanut butter mixture into brownie mixture.  Bake 25-30 more minutes.  Chill before cutting, and enjoy.

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