fudgy brownies with graham cracker crust and peanut butter truffles

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Hey guys, remember when I had a baking blog?

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Me neither.  Life, amiright?  But I’ve gotten a few requests to share this recipe (most of which I made up and did not diligently record, so apologies in advance if your brownies fail), and I thought this old thing would be a good place to do it.  This recipe is a classic example of the Stoner Food by Non-Stoners phenomenon—what can I say, I just like putting all the good things into a bowl and baking them into a pan of delicious.  Stone-cold sober.

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These are also the latest effort in my quest to convert all of my friends who don’t think they’re Sweets People—and thankfully, there are few—into Sweets People.  And if that means whipping out the brown sugar, dark chocolate, and peanut butter-flavored big guns, so be it.

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Fudgy Brownies with Graham Cracker Crust and Peanut Butter Truffles
Brownies adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home To Yours.

Ingredients

For crust:
2 packages graham crackers, pulsed into crumbs (from one box; each box usually has three packages)
1 cup flour
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 sticks butter, melted
1 egg (optional)

For truffles:
½ jar creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup flour

For brownies:
10 tablespoons butter, cut into 10 pieces
12 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
⅔ cup all-purpose flour

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 13×9″ pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Stir together graham crackers, flour, and sugar.  Drizzle in melted butter and stir well (I find my KitchenAid is best for this, but you can definitely do it by hand).  Crumbs should stick together solidly when pressed.  If they’re not sticking, stir in one egg.

Press crumb mixture into pan.  Bake 15 minutes or until just starting to brown.  Remove to cool for about 10 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 325 degrees F.

While crust is baking, make the truffles (I don’t really know what else to call these—they’re basically just nuggets of peanut butter goodness).  Mix together peanut butter, sugar, and flour until it forms a thick dough.  (You should be able to roll it into balls easily.)  Add more flour if it is too thin.  Set aside.

Next, make the brownie batter.  Melt chocolate and butter gently in a double boiler (you can do this in the microwave, too, but be REALLY careful!  I usually put it in for 30 seconds at first, give it a good stir, and then stir at 10-second intervals until it’s just barely melted).  Stir in the sugar.  Add the eggs one by one, mixing throughly after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla, then gently stir in the salt and flour.

Pinch off ½- to 1-inch bits of the peanut butter “dough” and sprinkle them across the crust (feel free to actually roll them into balls if you want to be fancier than I was).  Pour brownie batter over the crust and peanut butter, then sprinkle with more peanut butter dough.  Bake 30-35 minutes.

Chill completely, then sprinkle (or coat, as I did) with powdered sugar.  Cut into squares.  Receive accolades.

oatmeal cookie bars with almond graham cracker crust

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You know what’s a bad combination?  Big life decisions and a nascent iced coffee addiction.  As if I wasn’t already vibrating out of my chair here at my desk trying to soothe the hordes of what might as well be gerbils who’ve gone off their Ritalin squirming up my shoulders from the regular iced decaf – yes, DECAF – I sucked down earlier.  I’m a wuss at the mercy of a completely indifferent universe that is in no way plotting against me, but just has really bad timing.

I need more coffee.

That’s a lie.  I don’t need more coffee.  What I need is to be a grown-up, to be patient, to make a possibly tough choice, and to trust that I’ll be able to make everything okay, regardless of whether things turn out the way that’s easiest for me.  And, like, believe in myself, or some crap.  It’s not that hot, and I’m wearing a cute shirt.  Things can’t turn out too badly!

While I’m tizzying away over here, I’ve left you a recipe.  Remember when I told you about my sort of unsettling lack of restraint when it comes to combining lots of good things into one?  That may or may not be what happened here.  My favorite twin sister, thoughtfully acknowledging my current dearth of funds, requested “something with oatmeal and maybe almonds or hazelnuts and not that much chocolate” for her/our birthday; I went for all of the above plus more.  So while I stew in my own anxiety, please enjoy.

Oatmeal Cookie Bars with Almond Graham Cracker Crust

For bars:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups oats

3 cups almonds, chopped

1 recipe graham cracker crust

 

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease a 13×9 inch pan.  Pat graham cracker crust into pan; bake 15 minutes.  Remove from oven; set aside.

While crust is baking, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.  Cream butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Gradually stir in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in oats.

Evenly sprinkle chopped almonds over baked crust.  Drop batter by tablespoonfuls over, then smooth to an even layer.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until edges are golden.  Cool completely before cutting.

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.

dark chocolate brownies with graham cracker-pretzel crust

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I really try to provide interesting content on this blog in addition to decent-quality photos and recipes that aren’t too intimidating, but I may have to sacrifice that piece for today.  Apparently CNN’s Los Angeles bureau is clamoring for this recipe, and who am I to deny the employees of my favorite news station?

start here - butter, pretzel and graham cracker crumbs, sugar, flour

looks like cat food; tastes amazing

So I’ll be brief.  This is another manifestation of the “why not?” culinary mentality, where my mind suggests both a pretzel and a graham cracker crust to stabilize a rich dark chocolate brownie and I can’t say no to either.  Beware the gooiness of the brownie layer – I’ve adjusted the recipe below to include a bit more flour to the original – but go to town.

while the crust bakes, mix up the brownie layer

in the end, it should look something like this

Dark Chocolate Brownies with Graham Cracker-Pretzel Crust

For crust:

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, melted

2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs

2/3 cup finely crushed pretzels

2/3 cup flour

For brownies:

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 sticks butter

2 1/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a 13×9″ pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 1″ overhang.  Spray foil with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugars and salt into melted butter until smooth.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir in graham cracker and pretzel crumbs, then flour.  Press into bottom pan.  Bake 10 minutes; set aside.

Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.)  Gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition; whisk in vanilla.  Gradually stir in flour mixture..

Pour batter on top of crust.  Using a spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool completely, then chill before cutting.

white chocolate raspberry macadamia nut blondies

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Now I get why people are afraid of cooking.

Nine out of ten times I make something, it goes just fine.  Everything rises, whips, caramelizes as it’s supposed to; if it doesn’t look pretty, I drizzle chocolate or sprinkle powdered sugar on top; and everyone’s happy.  And if some freak accident does swoop down on my kitchen, it’s with something I don’t make too often – like this damned pudding, to which a cheap Target bowl was tragically sacrificed.  It doesn’t hurt too badly when it’s predictable.

However, when a pan of blondies – blondies – fails, that stings a little.  Today, a week after making these white chocolate raspberry macadamia nut blondies to send up to some friends in Davis (maybe they collapsed under the weight of the name), I still can’t figure out why, after baking for well over the time called for, the middle of one of the pans was still a gooey mess.  A delicious gooey mess, mind you, but tragically unshippable but for the edge pieces.

It occurs to me, of course, that you may not be terribly excited for the recipe I’ve posted below, but I suggest you try it anyway.  The salvageable pieces garnered raves from my coworkers; and if nothing else, just take a spoon to it.

White Chocolate Raspberry Macadamia Nut Blondies

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 370 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan.

In a bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, sugars, and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Gradually add dry ingredients, stirring until barely combined.  Stir in chips and nuts.  Spread evenly in pan.

Dot batter with jam.  Bake three minutes and remove from oven.  Using a knife, swirl jam into batter to make a marble pattern.  Return to oven; bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  When cooled, cut into bars.

lemon bars redux

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I don’t know what it is with me, but I never seem to bake with fruit unless it’s specifically requested by someone else.  Case in point:  I’ve made these lemon bars three times, all for birthdays, and honestly, you’d think I’d wise up and do this sort of thing more often.  I mean, if nothing else, I’ve found that the addition of fruit often makes people more inclined to eat whatever sugar-laden concoction I’ve brought in, even the health nuts I work with.  Since I’ve posted this recipe before, I’ll be brief and let you enjoy the food porn…and your weekend.

cream together butter and sugar for the dough (the recipe calls for white; I used brown)

pat the dough into the pan

bake until golden (and ignore my spatula marks)

pour in some lemon, sugar, butter, eggs

careful not to spill!

they don't look like much from up top...

...but powdered sugar cures all ills.