Every time I made these brownies, pretty much everyone who saw them immediately had to reach for them, even if they swore they were full or they didn’t want a brownie. “No, no, I’m fine. I don’t think I want a brownie…Holy cow! I’m so taking one of those” is the usual reaction.
And let me tell you, the brownies live up to the way they look. Rich, dense and fudgy intense, these brownies marry all the best flavors of peanut butter, chocolate and caramel. A friend of mine shoved one in his mouth and then proclaimed that he was SO glad I didn’t live anywhere near him, as he would be over all the time eating my baked goods, and would be as large as a house. He then proceeded to take another one.
The recipe calls for making a caramel sauce, which isn’t as hard as it sounds, and then a brownie batter and a peanut butter batter. Though it sounds time consuming, the final product is definitely worth the bother. You and your friends will thank you for it. Make a batch or two to celebrate (or is to mourn) the end of summer!
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Yield: 16 brownies
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup full fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 ounces (or about 2/3 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup salted butter
2 tablespoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1¼ cup white sugar
1½ cups all purpose flour
¼ cup natural cocoa powder (not dutch-processed)
Peanut Butter Batter
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted
½ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
¾ cup Crunch Time peanut butter
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Lightly coat a 9” x 9” square baking pan with cooking spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper, with the paper sticking up by 2” on two sides (the cooking spray will help the parchment paper stick to the pan and let you pull the brownies up from the pan without having to dig into the pan and scratching it).
2. Make the caramel sauce by first mixing the heavy cream, sour cream and vanilla extract in a small bowl together until smooth. Then place the sugar and the corn syrup in a heavy bottomed large pan on the stove (if you’ve never made caramel before, try to use a regular, not nonstick, pan because you can tell the color of the caramel on the silver bottom better than you can on a black nonstick surface).
3. Turn the heat onto medium, and slowly melt the sugar and syrup until it starts to brown. As the sugar starts to caramelize and turn brown, stir the sugar with a heat proof spoon or spatula. Make sure all the granulated sugar melts and the caramel is not cloudy. I will occasionally turn the heat off and stir the sugar, just letting the residual heat of the pan cook the caramel. You can’t go backwards with caramel, so better to turn the heat off and then turn it back on, or turn the heat down to low than burn the sugar.
4. Once the caramel had turned a medium golden brown (if you are adept at making caramel, by all means bring the caramel as dark as you want it) remove from heat and let it cool for a minute (the caramel will continue to darken). Once you hit dark golden brown add the cream mixture, keeping in mind that the caramel will sputter and bubble up (be careful of any steam, you don’t want to burn yourself). Whisk the caramel together to dissolve the hard bits. If there is still some hard caramel, feel free to put the caramel back on the stove on low and stir to melt the caramel into a sauce. Once completely melted, remove from heat and let cool while you make the brownie and peanut butter batter.
5. Make the brownie batter by melting the chopped chocolate and butter by placing them in a large microwave safe bowl and turn the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir the chocolate and turn the microwave on for another 30 seconds. Stir until smooth (depending on your microwave you may need to turn it on for another 15 seconds). You can also melt the chocolate on the stove in a small pan over low heat.
6. Add the vanilla and instant coffee to the chocolate and beat with a hand mixer until incorporated. Add the sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat between additions until incorporated. Add the flour and cocoa and beat again until incorporated, scraping down the sides and bottom to make sure there are no dry patches.
7. Spoon a little less than 1/2 the batter into the prepared baking pan and spread the batter to the edges of the pan (I found a small offset spatula did the trick, but you can use the back of a spoon or a butter knife). Bake in the oven for 18 minutes.
8. While the first layer of brownie is baking, make the peanut butter batter by mixing the butter, confectioners’ sugar and peanut butter together until incorporated and smooth (well as smooth as Crunch Time peanut butter is).
9. Once the first layer of brownie is done baking, pull out of the oven and drizzle about 3/4 cup of the cooled caramel sauce onto the brownie layer (reserving the remaining caramel sauce for another use – I like to spoon it over ice cream). Spread the caramel evenly over the layer and then sprinkle the sea salt over the caramel evenly.
10. Then spoon the remaining brownie batter and the peanut butter batter on top of the caramel, alternating spoonfuls of each. Don’t worry if the batter is thick and chunky, just make sure there the batter alternates between each other. Then take butter knife and pull the batter over any empty spaces while swirling the batter together in a marbled way. Don’t worry if some of the caramel starts to pool to the top or if the batter isn’t smooth (it’ll smooth out when you bake it). Once the entire top is covered, put the pan back in the oven for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
11. Let the brownie cool in the pan completely and then remove by pulling the parchment paper straight up from the pan and placing the brownies on a cutting board to be divided.