Thursday, January 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

I’ve been searching for the perfect peanut butter brownie recipe for some time. Plain brownies don’t much do it for me, but throw a little peanut butter in the mix, and you have a treat worthy of the extra time on the treadmill.

One wouldn’t think it would be hard to find a good recipe, but prior attempts failed to achieve what I’d hoped by way of flavor and texture. When I was thumbing through my Martha Stewart Cookie Magazine seeking the inspiration for the Whiskey Currant Cookies, I saw that it had been right there, waiting for me all along (well: in my house for the past three years or so). The perfect peanut butter swirl brownies were there in lovingly photographed detail.

I didn’t have any regular peanut butter on hand and used natural peanut butter. Because it has a softer consistency than Jif, I reduced the amount of butter for that layer. I also tend to keep Trader Joe’s dark chocolate on hand for baking and used that instead of fussing with both unsweetened and semi-sweet chocolate, as Martha bids one do.

My modifications were both spot on as far as flavor is concerned. And yet this recipe remains … so very close. There’s ample peanut butter, and the flavor and texture of that layer is precisely what I had in mind.

The brownie layer, on the other hand, is missing that je ne sais quo that would hurl this over the top of the decadence-meter. It’s more a cakey than a fudgy brownie, and I prefer fudgy brownies. However, a fudgy brownie might not hold up to the weight of very-ample dollops of peanut butter that my appetite requires. This presents a conundrum.

Next time, I think I’ll throw some bittersweet chocolate chips into the brownie portion of the batter. That would enhance the richness without requiring me to re-jigger the underlying ingredient ratios. I might also reduce, slightly, the amount of sugar in the peanut butter layer, as I prefer baked goods to have a sharper bite.

But these are quibbles. If you make these, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

For the Brownie Batter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 oz. dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), chopped
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the Peanut Butter filling
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used Trader Joe’s creamy salted and was somewhat generous in my interpretation of 3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment or foil. Grease lining.

Put butter and chocolates in a heatproof medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water; stir until melted, or microwave in 15 second intervals in a microwave-proof bowl until melted, stirring after each interval. Let cool slightly.

Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Add sugar to melted chocolate and butter. Add eggs and stir until smooth. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture, and stir until well incorporated.

For the peanut butter layer, stir together butter, confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.

Pour one-third of batter into the pan and spread even with a spatula.

Drop tablespoon-sized dollops of peanut butter on top of this layer, spacing about 1” apart. Drizzle remaining batter on top, and spread to fill pan. Drop remaining peanut butter mix on tip.

Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, making sure the knife hits the bottom of the pan and running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out. Let cool completely before cutting into squares, or as completely as you can bear when smelling the peanut butter and chocolate decadence that you’ve just created. Makes 9 large or 16 small brownies.

Printable recipe here.


  1. I found the smooth peanut butter part had a rather fudgy texture and compliments the brownie part nicely.Loved the color contrast too. Great job Becky!

  2. I made these before and was disappointed at the cakey texture, too. I figured next time I'd make my go-to brownies, but I wondered also if simply omitting the baking powder would make it fudgy.

  3. Possibly -- I changed this somewhat in a follow-up version, and it was slightly more fudgy -- but still cake-ish if you're really going for chewy goodness. :)

  4. I made these almost a year ago when I was looking for things to make with natural peanut butter. Can I just say I am NOT a brownie person (ducks from tomatoes) and these were wonderful! I was just searching for the recipe again to make them today and wanted to be sure to comment!