I am sad to report that my KitchenAid stand mixer is still broken.
[Update: I am happy to report that I got a new one for Christmas 2018!!! However, I am sad to report that this post has no photos. I’m publishing it anyway.]
Depending on when I actually come around to publishing this post (which, let’s be honest, could be half a year after I write it at the pace I’m going) […yep], that means I have been several months without my trusty mixer. Considering how much I love to bake, that is a big deal.
But the good stand mixers aren’t cheap (I need the high quality ones to handle my bread baking needs!), and between general life expenses and preparing for a baby (who, weird to think, might be born by the time I post this) [… yep], a new mixer isn’t in the cards for the time being.
While that may have slowed my meringue and macaron production, it hasn’t stopped my baking altogether. I’ve just started looking for recipes that require little to no mixing – anything I can do by hand is fair game. After all, isn’t that what our grandmas did?
The Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies recipe from my Dorie’s Cookies cookbook didn’t seem to require too much mixing, and best yet, it reminded me of another recipe that I LOVE: the No-Bake Almond Butter Cup Bars from Minimalist Baker.
I can’t remember how I found that recipe but it is definitely is not my usual way of doing things. I almost NEVER use online recipes for baking (there is too much junk out there), and this is one of those “healthier” recipes that uses crunchier ingredients (think dates and maple syrup instead of regular white sugar, and a ganache made with coconut milk and coconut oil). However, it is super easy to make (hence the no bake) and easily accommodates the gluten-free folks in my life, so I have made it quite a few times and I LOVE it. It packs SUCH a punch. (Note that I use peanut butter instead of almond butter – and I make my own).
I figured that the Dorie’s Cookies recipe would be at least as good as the Minimalist Baker one – if not better, because it uses more decadent ingredients. As it turns out – I actually didn’t like it quite as much. It seemed a little less flavourful than the Minimalist Baker one – each layer was a little more subdued. But it was still a very delicious recipe (I mean, peanut butter + chocolate = how can you go wrong), so it’s worth discussing anyways.
This recipe has three components:
- The brownies
- The peanut butter frosting
- The chocolate glaze
First up, the brownie base. It all starts with a little saucepan action, where you mix butter and melted chocolate over a low heat til it slowly becomes melty and delicious. Off the heat, you whisk in white sugar, vanilla, and salt by hand – no stand mixer needed (woohoo!).
Next, four eggs get added to the mix one at a time. Again, whisking by hand is the way to do it. This recipe advises to use cold eggs, which is noteworthy because I feel like room temperature eggs is the usual baking norm – cold is fine by me because half the time I forget to take the eggs out of the fridge anyways.
Once the eggs are mixed in, you gently fold in some flour with a spatula. You know what you can’t use to gently fold in flour? That’s right – a stand mixer! The final step – and, in my opinion, a very important one – is to fold in some chopped peanuts. I know not everyone loves nuts in their brownies, but I think the texture it adds is well worth it. Plus, the peanuts tie in nicely with the peanut butter frosting. Don’t skip this step.
So making the brownies is pretty easy and straightforward. The batter gets baked for about half an hour at 325 degrees. Don’t even think about adding the frosting before the brownies cool, or else it’ll turn into a melty, soaked up mess – delicious, surely, but not as pretty.
The Peanut Butter Frosting
The peanut butter frosting is what elevates this dessert from regular old brownies to something a little more special. Now, this section of the recipe begins with, “Working in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment” – discouraging! – BUT it then says “or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer” – better!
You know what’s even better than a hand mixer? A HAND! I used my brute strength and a mix of a whisk and a flexible spatula to “beat” a mixture of peanut butter (homemade) and room temperature butter, When it looked incorporated and smooth (probably not as pro as a stand mixer, but hey – I got a bicep workout), I mixed in icing sugar, a wee bit of sea salt, some nutmeg (which I’m not sure I would add in again – I didn’t love this flavour in the frosting), some milk, and some vanilla. Boom – icing complete.
If your brownies are fully cooled (no cheating!), it is now time to spread the peanut buttery frosting over the brownies.
I think that the frosting layer is the “weak” point of this recipe compared to the Minimalist Baker one. This layer of the MB recipe almond butter (peanut, in my case), a bit of maple syrup, and a bit of sea salt. It is ultra flavourful and nutty and delicious, whereas this frosting almost gets diluted by the icing sugar and butter.
The Chocolate Glaze
Because we can all agree that all baked goods are made better when coated in a layer of glossy chocolate, the final step to this recipe is adding a delicious layer of decadent chocolatey goodness.
The glaze is easy to prepare: butter + chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, similar to the first step in making the brownies. The whole thing gets poured and spread over the frosted brownies, then you have to let it sit in the fridge for a tantalizing hour and half before you can dig in.
I pretty much made these brownies for no real good reason – it wasn’t anyone’s birthday or anything, I just wanted to have something on hand for when I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth. I cut them into small squares and wrapped most of them in tin foil, then put them in a plastic bag and froze them. This made it easy to pop them into lunches or the like.
I actually enjoyed them more out of the freezer (and thawed) than fresh out of the oven – I think it gave the flavours a chance to settle in more or something.
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed overall at these brownies because I couldn’t help but compare them to my beloved Minimalist Baker recipe. However, those who tried them who HADN’T had the MB recipe seemed to really enjoy them. They certainly weren’t a bust or anything, I just don’t know that I will be quick to make them again.