Pretzel panache

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels… the more butter, the better, right?

When I noticed that this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment was Whole Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels, I experienced a little bit of trepidation… much as I do whenever I come across making anything I am not even remotely familiar with making.  Sure, when I cracked into Baked’s new book, Baked Elements, this recipe in particular caught my eye and I instantly thought, “oh yum…”  I’ve always been a sucker for Auntie Anne’s pretzels at the mall (and usually the cinnamon sugar kind, too), but that’s just the thing:  a pretzel definitely seemed like one of those treats I would always have someone else bake for me – preferably someone who knew what they were doing! When I read the recipe through, I think I became even more worried… a baking soda bath?  Wha-what???

Happily, I discovered my fears were totally unneccesary.  Once I dove into making this recipe, I was pretty surprised how easy pretzels can really be – though, as Matt suggests in the recipe – with practice, they no doubt get better and better.  With that in mind, and unfortunately having very little time to make them before I had to dash off for opening night of the current show I am in, I didn’t expect picture-perfect results straight off the bat.  This is definitely a recipe to allow time and patience for, and if you like it the first time you make it, you owe it yourself to keep perfecting your craft because, well… they’re so darn good.

I should mention right away that I typically find your standard, store-bought pretzels in the bag to be one of the most boring snack foods on this planet.  I don’t mind them crushed up and used as, perhaps, a crust for a tart or dessert.  Eating them for ‘fun’ however?  No.   Just too dull.  Those big, fat, yummy pretzels you can buy at the ballpark, or at Auntie Anne’s?  Those I really enjoy treating myself too.  If you agree, good news – this particular recipe teaches you how to make those yourself.  They do provide an option for making them smaller and thinner, but in my humble opinion, why bother?  Fat and slightly chewy is the way to go!

The baking soda bath may seem a little intriguing to you, as it did to me.  You definitely do not want to skip this step, fussy as it may seem.  Boiling the unbaked pretzels first in baking soda basically prepares them for their characteristically chewy, slightly crusty, golden exterior when they bake up in the oven.  I found a blog online which describes the process in a little more detail, even comparing a baked pretzel NOT dipped in the baking soda bath to a baked pretzel that had been dipped. The result is quite drastic!  If you’re aiming for that true, crusty yet soft pretzel, this step is indeed essential.  Here’s the blog: http://www.savvyeat.com/brain-food-101-why-you-need-to-boil-your-pretzels-in-baking-soda/.

For my first venture into pretzel-making, I was very pleased with the end result!  The pretzels came out of the oven beautifully golden, crusty, and chewy, with a nice, soft interior.  They truly tasted like your typical soft pretzel, with that hint (not too cloying) of a baking soda aftertaste, and the generous slathering of butter and thick coating of cinnamon sugar was perfect for satiating my sweet and salty craving.  For cinnamon, I always recommend using a nice strong cinnamon like Vietnamese cinnamon (as opposed to cassia), though this is all a matter of your own personal taste.  I prefer using Penzey’s Vietnamese Cinnamon – I use Penzey’s for all of my baking spices, vanilla, and extracts actually.  I cannot recommend them enough!  Check them out here:  www.penzeys.com.

One last note – the pretzels were definitely best immediately after they were baked.  I stored them overnight in an airtight container, and they were a touch soggy, pathetic, and dark brown (from soaking up the butter, sugar, and cinnamon) the next day.  A good, quick zap in the microwave or brief reheat in the oven revives them a touch, but definitely – do not miss out on snacking on one or two right out of the oven, smeared in butter and tossed in cinnamon sugar.

If you’re feeling adventurous with your baking, give these pretzels from Baked a whirl… you may just be as surprised as I was with how relatively easy they were to make.  Have some patience, realize you may not get them perfect/right on the first try, and keep practicing with them… I know I plan to!  Find the recipe here: http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2012/09/25/in-the-oven-whole-wheat-cinnamon-sugar-pretzels/

The tale of the boozy pear

The pear cozies up to its new best friend, whiskey!

Once upon a time, there was a baker who actually didn’t like pears.  Seriously, he didn’t. “They’re too mealy and dull,” he protested, “Apples are sweeter and so much more flavorful.”  The delightful little pear he eschewed (yes, there is such a word) with total ignorance of all its brilliant potential.

Lonesome little pear…

As time went by, however, the baker noticed that there was an extra ‘something special’ about the humble pear that went far beyond your standard apple.  Pears introduced a nice, mellow, and yes, vaguely apple-like flavor that was simply hard to pass by – whether they’re eaten plain, tossed in a crisp salad, baked in a homey pie or tart, or folded into an autumn crumble with tart cranberries.  The baker was suddenly smitten, and wondered, “Oh pear… where have you been all my life?”  Well – okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT melodramatic, but you get the picture.  Humor me for a little while.  (He even tried slices of pear on a burger once, if you can believe that – an autumn turkey burger, I believe it was.)

The baker tried various recipes highlighting this fabulous fruit – many to great success.  Imagine his ultimate surprise when one day, he opened his cherished Baked Explorations cookbook and his eyes fell upon a gorgeous photo of a most delectable-looking pear tart – the Whiskey Pear Tart, to be exact.  He vowed to one day make this recipe – notwithstanding the fact that he wasn’t a huge fan of whiskey.  Sadly, the recipe was pushed aside and again, the pear relegated to the back regions of the baker’s mind while more decadent, rich, and usually chocolate-centric creations came proudly to the forefront.

Along came Baked Sunday Mornings, and with this advent, the pear tiptoed back to the baker the week of September 17th and said, “Ahem… remember me???”  “Why, YES!!!”, replied the baker.  “I’ve been forgotten for too long, darn it” said the pear, “and it’s time for me to come out and PARTY!!!! Lay some of that whiskey on me, baby!”

Marinated, drunken pears!

And so the baker joyfully took the pear out for a night of boozy fun by making the Whiskey Pear Tart, thanks to the guidance of the baker’s mentors, Matt and Renato.  The baker first stripped off the pear’s speckled, light green skin and plunged it into a boiling-hot bath of ‘joyful’ pinot grigio, orange juice, and orange zest (toss in a good dose of sugar – a good exfoliant).  After this comforting poaching, the pear finally stepped out, nice and tender, for its evening on the town.  A little more sugar, fragrant vanilla extract, tingly, vibrant lemon juice and – who else? – smoky, sexy Knob Creek whiskey fast became his partying companions for the night.  These luscious ingredients enjoyed an overnight party-fest together, chillin’ in the fridge the whole while.  No longer did the pear need to clamor for the baker’s attention, it HAD it, after this glorious overnight whiskey bath.

Giddy and grateful, the thoroughly boozed-up pear hoped to ward off the inevitable hangover with a nice, toasty sleep… so it bedded down in a soft, creamy bed of almond cream (once again, spiked with a whisper of whiskey – hair of the dog that bites ya, you know), cradled in a buttery crust.  The pear nestled cozy warm in this bed for almost 40 minutes before it was blanketed in a sticky-sweet pear, whiskey glaze (compliments of its partying companions, once again).  The pear finally had its rightful place in the sun, and became part of a tasty tart in the bargain (I’ll leave that for you, dear reader, to interpret however you would like!).  The baker, of course, was beyond thrilled with the success of Baked’s Whiskey Pear Tart, and felt a touch redeemed after his frustrations with the Brookster last week (see prior post)!

Deliciously boozy bite!

With one bite, it goes without saying… the pear and the baker lived happily, and lushly, ever after.

*Fairy tale aside, here are a few thoughts I had, and wanted to share, while making this delicious treat..

I had a difficult time finding the 15-ounce jarred peaches (preferably natural or organic) that Matt suggests in this recipe.  I opted instead to poach my own pears.  Look for good, almost ripe but still somewhat firm pears, and while you want a good wine to poach them in, it doesn’t need to be overly expensive.  Believe it or not, I used the “$3-Buck-Chuck” (Charles Shaw) Pinot Grigio from Trader Joe’s, and it worked beautifully.  You will have lots of poaching liquid when you’re done – possibly about 3-4 cups worth.  When making the syrup/whiskey glaze for the tart at the end, combine about 1.5-2 cups of the poaching liquid with the marinating juices, not all of your poaching liquid – otherwise, well… you’re going to be waiting a good long while for that to reduce down to 3/4 cup.

When rolling out the chilled dough, here’s a tip to prevent cracks along the edges (I use this all the time when rolling out pie crusts and tart crusts):  Take your ball of dough and gently make indentations with your knuckles along the edges of the ball.  This will allow the rolling pin to make its first point of contact/pressure with the dough in the center, pressing outward, rather than on the somewhat fragile and more-chilled edges.  You should see less cracks this way.  If your dough still cracks, gently bring the edges together with your fingers and try pressing your knuckles in again and rolling.  Be patient and gentle when rolling dough.  You’re the ‘master’ of this situation, not the dough.

The whiskey syrup/glaze you will make at the end? Divine.  It’s pretty concentrated and sweet, and it will make more than you need to glaze your tart, but if you enjoy the taste, I would suggest you save it in a glass container in your fridge and use it to drizzle on pound cake, waffles, or pancakes.  Repurpose – reuse.  It’s all delightful!

As suggested in the recipe, serve this promptly, or within the day you make it.  Sadly, tarts like this have a limited life, and they do tend to get soggy overnight.  Call a few friends over, pour some whiskey shots, and feast on this tart,  Trust me, after a hard week at work, they may just thank you a thousandfold for it.

Now… go treat yourself – and those humble pears – and make this recipe.  It’s amazing: http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2012/09/17/in-the-oven-whiskey-pear-tart

The best of both worlds ~ and, the Battle of the Brookster

Round Two of Brooksters

Are you a brownie person – or a chocolate chip cookie person?  Perhaps you’re both?  Well, good news… if you’re the latter, the Baked boys have devised the perfect treat for you:  the cleverly-named Brookster.  You probably deduced – correctly so – that the name is a combination of brownie + cookie, which is exactly what these gems are.  I initially thought they were named after Brooklyn, where Baked is located.  I suppose it could be interpreted either way, but one thing is for sure – this wonderful brain child of Matt and Renato’s has definitely become all the rage, and with good reason.  Who doesn’t want their brownie – and cookie too?

What I found personally appealing about making Brooksters is that it provided me with a little redemption.  You see, I can make a mean brownie, but chocolate chip cookies are my biggest baking nemesis.  I have yet to make a decent chocolate chip cookie.  To begin with, I should probably clarify what I consider to be a ‘decent’ or ‘awesome’ chocolate chip cookie: one that definitely holds its shape and does not spread, is not super-greasy, and bakes up golden brown and slightly crisp on the edges, but soft and chewy in the center.  It’s a quest I’ve been on for several years now, and I can usually make any kind of fancy dessert possible – but I fail hopelessly at the simple chocolate cookie.  I was reassured when Matt Lewis himself told me I’m not alone… that it takes a lot of tweaking and practice from even the most accomplished of bakers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the one and only time I was successful with a chocolate chip cookie was with Baked’s recipe.  I was baking for a cafe here in Milwaukee and decided to whip up a batch in their huge, clunky gas oven – and they came out perfect… just like the photo in the cookbook, I daresay!   The chocolate chip cookie gods finally smiled on Neufangled Desserts!  How discouraged I was to discover that that one time was a complete fluke.  Every time I made them after that, they turned out flat, greasy and lifeless – much like EVERY chocolate chip cookie I have ever attempted.  And I have attempted several recipes and several techniques – every trick you can imagine. (I tend to blame inanimate objects; in this case, my lousy apartment oven – it obviously has some kind of prejudice against chocolate chip cookies.)

Anyhow – back to my redemption.  The Brooksters provided me with an opportunity to merge a nicely chilled chocolate chip cookie dough with a delectable brownie base.  I was delighted at this notion, thinking that perhaps the brownie base might ‘cushion’ the chocolate chip cookie dough as it gently baked.  I was also excited to finally use my set of 6 mini (4-inch) pie plates that I had bought from Sur La Table a while back.

Round One Brookster – ooey, gooey, over-browned and under-baked

Sadly, when I took the Brooksters out of the oven… I realized that I was still defeated by the indomitable (DAMN) chocolate chip cookie.  The cookie part itself baked up so golden brown that you could not delineate the edges of the cookie from the brownie underneath.  It had also definitely shown some spread, as I had topped the cooled brownie batter with a nice, thick disc of cookie dough.  Ugh!  How frustrating!

Additionally, when I baked the Brooksters at the time noted in the recipe, not only was the cookie too brown on top, but when I took them out of the oven, let them cool, then tried to pop one out of the mini pie-plate, it completely fell apart on me!  The brownie center was a puddle and completely unbaked, as was the center of the chocolate chip cookie.  It was beginning to look like my battle with the chocolate chip cookie was turning into a catastrophic battle with the Brookster!  So… sacrificing 1 pathetic, sad Brookster, I wrapped the remaining 5 Brooksters in foil to prevent over-browning, and popped them back into the oven for about 20-30 minutes more.

Round One Brookster. In this light, it actually doesn’t look half-bad. Trust me, it was!

The result to all of this madness?  When I unwrapped the Brooksters from the foil, they were too brown and still terribly under-baked in the centers.  Time to try plan B.

Fortunately, the recipe provides extra chocolate chip cookie dough, so I only had to remake the brownies.  This time, I opted to use regular muffin tins for a smaller Brookster (see the recipe for Baked’s instructions). To prevent the cookie top from baking and browning too quickly, I baked the brownie layer on its own first, for about 20 minutes, before topping them with the discs of chocolate chip cookie batter.  I made sure to rotate the pans as the recipe suggested, and not to overbake the brownies too much before adding the cookie dough on top.  Once the cookie dough was added, I baked the Brooksters for about 9 minutes more, still rotating the pans.

Once out of the oven, this round of Brooksters initially looked much better, but I was quickly fooled into thinking I had success.  The chocolate chip cookies were still gooey and unbaked in the centers, and when the Brooksters had completely cooled, they were a menace to get out of the pans. Out of 18 mini-Brooksters, I could only salvage about 6 for the photo.  The rest were a crumbly disaster. ~sigh~

Round Two… the remaining survivors after the battle with the muffin tin!

Well… my grandfather always said, “It’s not how something looks, it’s how it tastes.” (sage words of advice in response to only a handful of what my grandmother thought were ‘baking disasters’, no doubt… she was a terrific baker, and I take after her in the perfectionist department).  It was time for me to sink my teeth into their double-decker goodness to hopefully erase from my mind their disappointing appearance.  They weren’t too bad, but overall, very, very sweet.  I think there is too much of a good thing.  I could definitely taste both cookie and brownie elements, but I need a tall glass of milk or a cup of coffee to wash these decadent treats down.  I’m sure they would appeal to kids, as they’re one of the more sugary of the Baked recipes; good, but a little much for me.

Needless to say, after 2 rounds and a lot of wasted ingredients, this is a recipe from Baked I will not be revisiting anytime soon – if ever.  In the battle between baker and Brookster, is seems this baker is totally undone by the Brookster.  My attempts to bake up a yummy Brookster were just as sad as my attempts to make a good chocolate chip cookie.  I wish that I could say that my first Baked Sunday Mornings entry to celebrate the new book was a good one, but alas… it was not to be.  (I will say that I have made the Pumpkin Harvest Dunking Cookies, and they were divine!)  I should have known that I would be conceding defeat to another recipe that included a chocolate chip cookie element! (insert evil laugh here)  If you crave a Brookster and had to endure the same battle as I did with making them, I’d say wait until your first visit to Baked in Brooklyn to savor how they really should look and taste!

Time for me to take off my baker’s hat this weekend and go back to memorizing lines for my current show*. Until next time, bakers…

If you’d like to attempt your own Brooksters, here is the Baked Sunday Mornings link: http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2012/09/10/in-the-oven-brooksters

* Shameless self-promotion: for you locals, come and see me and my boyfriend Jake in the musical [title of show]!  Performed by Theatrical Tendencies in the Soulstice Theatre space located at 3770 South Pennsylvania Avenue in St. Francis, Wisconsin.  Performances: September 28th through October 13th, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm!

Those darn Brooksters…

Chiffon fit for a lady

Lady Praline Chiffon Cake, from on-high!

Hello everyone!  And welcome to Neufangled Desserts’ very first Baked Sunday Mornings post!

When you think of the word “chiffon”, no doubt a fancy gown or ball dress comes to mind.  Sure, you might have heard of a chiffon being a kind of sponge cake, but it’s not too often you go to someone’s house for dinner and they gleefully announce at the end, “I’ve baked a wonderful chiffon for our dessert!”  Just doesn’t happen too much anymore.  Unless you’re visiting Brini Maxwell, that is.

Indeed, the chiffon cake – even by its very elegant name – definitely has the feel of one of those nostalgic cakes that was completely in vogue in the 1950s through 1970s.  According to that ‘trustworthy’ source, Wikipedia, a chiffon cake is “a very light cake made with vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, and flavorings. It is a combination of both batter and foam type cakes.”  As time has gone by, chiffon cakes have been abandoned for the angel food cake – or, to be specific, and for convenience sake, the angel food cake mix courtesy of Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines!

The fact that chiffon cakes have gone by the wayside is a bit of a sad thing.  As we become more ‘health-conscious’ (well, somewhat) in this day and age, eating a chiffon cake affords us the luxury  of still having an elegant dessert with a tender and moist, buttery crumb without – surprise! – a lot of excess saturated fats. It is also the perfect cake to stand up to a zesty accompaniment of fruit and berries, ice cream, whipped cream – however you want to dress it up.

Baked’s Lady Praline Chiffon Cake was a pleasant surprise to make, as it wasn’t especially difficult to whip together, and I really enjoyed the end result.  The dry ingredients and wet ingredients are put together separately, then hand-mixed together.  Don’t worry if you can’t find pecan liqueur – chances are pretty good that unless you live in the south or in a city with specialty food or liquor stores, you won’t.  I used a nice heaping tablespoon of amaretto… and even after baking the cake, I feel it could have used more (hmmm… maybe an extra drizzling of amaretto on each slice?  Why not?  It’s a tasty idea!)  It definitely would have felt more ‘southern’ to have the pecan flavor, so if you have access to it – by all means, stay true to the recipe and tell me your thoughts.

As for whipping egg whites, let me share a tip that was once taught to me, and one that I have stuck to: once you’ve started whipping those whites in the mixer, don’t walk away and check your email or start a long chat on your phone.  Keep an eye on them.  You want them to form a nice, stiff peak.  Take about a third of the whipped whites and fold them into the wet ingredients gently.  Don’t stir with a heavy hand – you want to initially ‘lighten’ the batter.  Add the remainder of the whites and keep using a gentle touch when folding them in.  Don’t worry if there are still some white lumps of whipped egg white in the batter – it’s okay!  It will all even out in the end.

Cut to show wonderful texture!

The result?  A delicate, buttery, delicious chiffon cake that is light, elegant, and slighty ethereal with a whisper of orange from the zest and a lightly sweet aftertaste of almond from the amaretto. It’s really a nice snacking cake that is easy to cut (use a good serrated knife) and eat on its own – or dress it with fruit or berries and whipped cream.  It could stand up to being the base cake for a trifle.  I may even attempt toasting it.

Like a chiffon gown, it’s extremely ladylike and fashionable – or, at least, it ought to be.  I can see fancy southern women sitting on a verandah enjoying a piece or two with some sweet tea or coffee in dainty china cups.  Maybe we can bring back the chiffon cake?  I say we give it a go.

For the recipe, visit: www.bakedsundaymornings.com/2012/08/27/in-the-oven-lady-praline-chiffon-cake

Getting Baked

My version of Baked’s Chocolate Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

As most of you know by now, I’m a bit of a baking book fanatic.  If you were to wander into my kitchen and look at my cookbook-case, you would just shake your head.  Sad, perhaps, but true: most of my collection is comprised of baking books. Definitely more sweet than savory.  I have some tried and true favorites – among them Ina Garten (love her recipes, but have gotten a little tired of her personality and show), Alice Medrich (a dessert and chocolate goddess), Martha Stewart (yes, I confess, I like Martha – she appeals to the perfectionist in me), and most importantly: Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  These two hold a pretty high place of prominence on the top shelf.

My heroes: Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito of Baked

Matt and Renato are the co-owners of a fabulous little bakery called Baked, in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.  I cannot exactly pinpoint when this dynamic duo came across my radar, but when they did – let me just say that I sensed that we were kindred spirits.  I love their pure, unadulterated love and passion for baking exploration; for turning the classic American dessert on its ear and making something super-extraordinary of it. I have yet to visit their immensely popular bakery (I believe most bakers now would call it a ‘mecca’ while visiting NYC), but my boyfriend Jake has – and he has even met Renato in person (I’m completely jealous).  I will get there eventually.  Oh yes, I will.

Fortunately for us bakers, we can still have a taste of Baked’s amazing baked goods and desserts at home.  Matt and Renato have generously shared a treasure trove of their recipes in three beautiful baking books: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, Baked Explorations: Classic Desserts Reinvented, and most recently, Baked Elements: Our Ten Favorite IngredientsIf I were to classify all of my baking books in order of importance, the Baked books would be pretty high up there – in fact, they could almost be considered among my baking bibles.  They are that good.  As Deb Perelman, creator of Smitten Kitchen, states in her back-cover blurb of Baked Elements: “Nobody, nobody has a better grasp on the kinds of recipes that make people happily gum up the pages of a book with cookie dough or retire their grandmother’s famous recipe for cinnamon rolls (because it didn’t include pumpkin) than the Baked guys.  This book is full of the stuff of American bakery-case dreams.”  I couldn’t have said it better.  The pages of my Baked Elements are ready to be gummed up.

My version of Baked’s Sweet & Salty Brownies

Through the wonders of a little thing called Facebook, I’ve had the great privilege of getting in touch with Matt and Renato.  Their support and advice to me has been tremendously invaluable.  While I would be immensely flattered if they did read my blog, I certainly don’t expect it.  I would, however, like to take a moment here to reiterate my deepest gratitude for being such huge inspirations to me.  I love, love, LOVE the books, and only hope that there is more and more to come.  I honestly don’t think Neufangled Desserts would exist without Baked.

For Neufangled Desserts fans and readers, I wanted to let you know that you, too, will find out more about Baked through my blog!  (I still strongly urge you to go to Amazon, post-haste, and order your own Baked books now, of course…direct links are below.  Go.  NOW.)  Neufangled Desserts will be joining Baked Sunday Mornings, a group of blogging bakers who bake their way through the Baked books and blog about their creations!  I’m a bit behind – they’ve already gotten through most of the second book – but starting September 16th, we will be working on recipes from Baked Elements.  The goal is for me to baked the assigned recipe (they actually have a baking calendar for all participating bloggers to follow), and post about my experiences with the recipe by Sunday at noon.  That being said – stay tuned on Sundays for my latest blog!  Please note that the actual recipe itself will not be posted, but you can look at the initial post on Baked Sunday Mornings’ website (www.bakedsundaymornings.com).

My version of Baked’s German Chocolate Cake

I’m excited about this new adventure and as always, welcome your thoughts and comments.  Try the Baked recipes yourself and tell me what you think.  I bet you will fall in love with Matt and Renato and their amazing recipes, just as I have.  How can you not adore someone who created a 3-layer, deep, dark chocolate cake with salted caramel and fleur de sel?  (The Sweet and Salty Cake from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking). Oh yeah… and believe me, it’s sinfully good.  And that’s only one recipe, folks.  There’s more to come…

“Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” – click here to order!

“Baked Explorations” – Click here to order!

“Baked Elements” – Click here to order!

The Ultimate Brownie

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies!

I think that I can safely say that – in addition to Martha Stewart’s homemade macaroni and cheese – I have made the recipe I am about to share with you so many times I could probably recite it in my sleep.  Seriously.  It’s that good.  It’s also a little bit decadent and a little bit pricey, ingredient-wise, so get ready to splurge.  That fact aside, once you make it, you will make it over and over and over again – especially if you bake to make people happy.  Very, very happy.

It should be no surprise to you that the richness and decadence that is these Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies comes from none other than Ina Garten – yes, of Barefoot Contessa fame.  The recipe for her brownies originally appears in her first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, as “the ultimate brownie”.  This name is not a misnomer – after my first attempt with this recipe, I decided they were, indeed, pretty ultimate indeed.  The only other brownies on par with this recipe would be Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s brownie recipe from Baked.  Those are pretty darn good too.

The peanut butter touch was added by Ina a little bit later in one of her shows for her Food Network TV series.  While the original, unadorned recipe is perfect in itself, since I made the peanut butter version, I’ve basically had threats that I should make this brownie NO. OTHER. WAY. EVER. AGAIN!

Give them a whirl.  I promise you that if you love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, this may just be your favorite brownie recipe.  And for you coffee naysayers out there, don’t cut out the instant coffee.  It’s really there to heighten the taste of the chocolate – seriously.  And give you perhaps even more of a buzz than all the sugar will already give you!

INA’S PEANUT BUTTER SWIRL ULTIMATE BROWNIES

  • 1 pound unsalted butter (yes, you read that right – 1 POUND)
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided (yes, you read that right again – a pound plus 12 ounces of chocolate… I know, right?)
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (and even more chocolate… how can you lose, right?)
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (Ina uses Skippy, but I say go for the better, all-natural stuff.  Make sure you stir in the oils good first before using.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan (a large jelly roll pan works terrific here).

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the prepared sheet pan. Spoon the peanut butter over the top of the chocolate mixture and using a knife, swirl it through the chocolate mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into large squares.