I know what you are thinking. “What the hell is going on?”, “Where is she?” “Did she forget about her blog?”. The truth is, I haven’t felt the urge to blog or write in general about anything these past weeks. Which, ironically, is when I should be writing because that is when feelings/emotions get all pent up. But just because I haven’t been here doesn’t mean I haven’t been active. I twitter, I flickr, I follow other favorite blogs. But coming here and writing down what I’ve been thinking about seemed like such a chore. Actually, leaving my house at all seemed like such a chore!
Finally, this morning I woke up and realized that it was time to shake off this sad cloud and live life with an open door, welcoming all and any challenges. It’s April, the sun is shining, and you have no excuse for hiding out in your house. I strapped on my running shoes which had been idle for a week, felt my heart race and the sweat drip down my face. It’s hard to put in to words what I felt, but it was a great moment.
Another great moment was finally feeling the urge to get back in the kitchen. This whole living-your-own transition is ten times harder than I thought. I never thought that growing up was so hard but that final clean break is killer. No wonder I’ve felt out of it! Learning to take care if yourself both physically and mentally are skills you can only gain through experience and I am getting better at it everyday.
You know what helps with this transition? Peanut butter brownies. Yup, how could I stay away from the allure of peanut butter. It was fate, destined to be.
If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone out there who feels like they are alone or are going through hard times, it would be to never stop trying to be happy. I know that sounds ridiculous, but the minute you settle, the minute you toss the towel in, that’s the minute that you give up on your life. I know it’s hard, especially now, but keep going. One day, you will look back, and realize that all the tears and fears made you a better person. More importantly, those tears and fears pushed you out of your comfort zone and showed you what you COULD be if you just tried.
They were delicious. Utterly addicting. I kept coming back in to the kitchen and would slice off a piece here and there. Which meant that by 9 p.m., I had almost eaten four squares. Oops.
But. You knew it was coming, didn’t you. But. They were a tad dry. Even wrapped well under layers of plastic wrapped and stored in a ziplock bag, they dried out way to quickly. I know what you are thinking. Why didn’t you make the chocolate ganache topping? Three words, folks. Bathing suit season. I think I just broke out in to hives. The mere thought of donning my bathing suit sends me in to compulsive shivers. So you can understand my restraint but I think that this brownie recipe needs the ganache topping. Without it, the brownies lack that special punch to the gut, that kick in the crotch (pardon me). They stand fine on their own, but the ganache brings it to a whole different level. Plus, the ganache masks the brownies dryness, and gives them a silky deep bite. I’ve had a similar dryness problem when I baked up Dorie Greenspan’s Peanuttiest Blondies. It must be an epidemic (or I need to check my oven’s temperature).
If I could do a couple of things different, here’s what I’d do.
1. Add 1/4 tsp of salt. It really needs some kind of flavor, especially if you are going the ganache-less route. I used Trader Joes Organic Creamy Peanut Butter, which is just peanuts and oil so I should’ve added in some salt. If you use Skippy or Jif, you can probably disregard this tip.
2. Use finely chopped bittersweet chocolate. As a fan of deep, rich chocolate, I prefer bittersweet to semisweet. If I am going to eat chocolate, then it better be the richest, deepest chocolate created. Also, if you leave the chunks too big, like I did, then you will have a really hard time cutting these squares up nicely. The chunks are too chunky (ha, sorry) and you will have several misshaped squares… which are good for sample-tasting.
I brought these brownies to a work party and amidst the sea of storebought crap, my brownies were the only ones that had the homemade glow to them. I graciously said no to the gross storebought stuff and made a beeline for my stuff, where I preceded to sink my teeth in to a big piece while trying to avoid the awkward networking opportunities. What can I say? I’m shameless. Talk to you very soon. I promise.
Peanut Butter Brownies
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen, via Butterwood Desserts, West Falls, New York via Gourmet, October 2007
Yield: Makes 32 brownies
● For brownies
● 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
● 1 3/4 cups sugar
● 1 cup creamy peanut butter
● 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
● 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
● 2 cups all-purpose flour
● 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)**
● 1/2 tsp. salt, see note**
● For ganache
● 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)**
● 1/2 cup heavy cream
● 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan, then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and butter parchment.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined. Do not overmix or else you will get dry brownies.
Mix in chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)
Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
Put chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) in a heatproof bowl.
Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute. Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms. Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.
Wrapped well and stored in an airtight container, the brownies can be kept up to three days.