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.

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chocolate chip oreo graham cracker brownie bars

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I owe you an apology.

All I’ve done the last few weeks is load you down with everything that’s rich and chocolatey, right smack in the middle of the kind of 90-degree weather that makes our cats flop over on the carpet in fuzzy black mirror images of one another.  It’s high time I gave you a nice, light fruit dessert.

What did I give you?  Four cookies in one.  Yes.  Four.

Because as hot as it is outside (and inside, especially since I chose to make tomato sauce and these insane sugar bombs on the same day), I couldn’t resist these.  If one cookie is good, four are better, right?  So I suggest you brave the heat.  Will you have to cook in shorts and not much else?  Possibly.  But it’s a small sacrifice to make for something as beautifully white-trash as these.

 

Chocolate Chip Oreo Graham Cracker Brownie Bars

Adapted slightly from Peabody

For the cookie layer:

1 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

For brownies:

6 ounces chocolate chips

1/2 stick butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

3/4 cup flour

Oreos and/or graham crackers

Line a 9-inch square pan baking pan with wax paper, then spray with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit.

For cookie layer:  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Beat in eggs, then slowly stir in flour, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in chocolate chips, then pat dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Layer Oreos and/or graham crackers on top of cookie layer.  Set aside.

For brownie layer: Melt chocolate gently with butter.  Beat in egg.  Stir in salt, cocoa powder, and flour.  Spread evenly over Oreos or graham crackers.

Bake 30 minutes.  Remove from oven; cool completely before cutting.

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.

cookie dough blondies

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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it’s summer.  It’s very much summer.  And here in Southern California, that means stifling heat.  Although anything over 85 degrees makes me considerably more grumpy, it’s the unseasonal and decidedly unwelcome humidity that’s been nagging like a pesky little brother at my clammy soul of late.  I’m not sure who signed off on that, but they are not getting any of the delicious cookie dough blondies I’m about to share with you.

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However, what summer weather doesn’t do for me, it does for the amazing summer fruit that’s been showing up everywhere from supermarkets to parking lots, and I took this opportunity the other day to stock up on a whole bunch of plums and nectarines.  Now, here’s the thing about nectarines.  When they’re good, they’re heavenly.  But when they’re not, they’re mealy balls of tasteless, teasing, would-be fruit.  Adam Carolla sometimes rants about things that do more harm than good – birthday party clowns, water beds, etc. – and I’d like to add stone fruit to that list.  As much as I try to be egalitarian about it, I still approach the fruit bins at Trader Joe’s with trepidation and have vowed to only purchase summer fruits from the poor sweaty souls at the farmer’s market.

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Know what doesn’t carry that risk?  Butter.  And sugar.  Say what you will about that whole clogging arteries thing, but regardless of season, harvest, temperature, or other added ingredients, these two won’t let you down.  I know; you thought this was going to be some nice, fresh, healthy dessert, didn’t you?  I’m sneaky.

I’ve been making this recipe for years – it’s my go-to “need a quick dessert that will knock everyone’s socks off” recipe, and now I’m sharing it with you so you too can look awesome at parties and around Christmastime.  If you can bear to turn on the oven, I highly recommend churning out a batch of these ASAP.

Cookie Dough Blondies

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375* Fahrenheit.  Grease a 13×9 inch pan; set aside.

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

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter with sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  With mixer on low speed, gradually stir in dry ingredients until just combined.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top.  Bake 3-4 minutes, until chips are soft.  Remove from oven.  With a knife, swirl chocolate in a decorative pattern, being careful not to overdo it (it’ll start looking ugly and muddy).  Bake 25 more minutes, or until edges are golden.  Cool completely in pan 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.

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.