Peanut Butter Stuffed Salted Brownie Cookies

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Cancelled morning lectures obviously means whining here about it being the last week of term and waxing lyrical about all things chocolate (once more). A bit on that later. If I start on chocolate now, I’ll probably forget to add other mundane details about my life, and who would want that right? The ‘first day of the last term’ is a funny thing to say; it really didn’t feel all that long ago when I was panicking to my mother about basic things I might or might not be able to do, like laundry, bedsheets and having enough Asian fare in uni to keep me sane, because the impulsive decision to buy Tesco meal deals doesn’t quite cut it most of the time. It’s all just whizzed by much too fast. The Friday flight home is both an ecstatic and nauseating thought to me.

Despite my pension for café fare, I’m embarrassed to say that not once have I had my favourite alone-time at any one café, though I’ve definitely had the chance to visit some must-see places on my list. I should do a write-up about one of them soon, before I forget and the tides of life push me far ahead, me in blissful oblivion, once more.

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The other day I bought the loveliest little tub of peanut-speckles cashew butter, and just knew I had to use it another mind get-up. It’s practically peanut butter because of all those peanut bits, and since not everyone likes cashew butter and peanut butter is easier to find in stores, I decided to put peanut butter in the recipe title instead of what it really is. It’s not even the processed sort, which some recipes insist on for better results, but really you get a perfect peanut-buttery flavour upon first bite even with the natural unprocessed stuff.

The densest, fudgiest brownie cookie with white chocolate and dark chocolate bits, filled with peanut butter (and in this case, for the sake of aesthetic and flavourful pleasure, salted caramel spread on top). 

I like food hybrids like cruffins and cronuts and whathaveyous. Brownie cookies are on the list. The shape and form resembles that of a cookie, but the texture is all of what you want in a good fudgy brownie– this is not quite the chewy sort, but more dense and fudge-like. Definitely more than what you would guess the texture is akin to in the first picture above. The middle is soft, the edges still squishable. Best part? Adjacency of salt and sweet. Nothing beats it. Yes, my description vocabulary needs a bit of a boost, but squishable is still a word. And an accurate one here, at that.

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Peanut Butter Stuffed Salted Brownie Cookies (makes 18-20 medium-sized cookies)

Ingredients

125g (half cup) creamy/chunky peanut butter (natural or processed; either works fine)

30g (1/4 cup) powdered sugar (doesn’t need sifting)

large pinch salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

210g (slightly less than 1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour

35g (1/2 cup+couple of tablespoons) cocoa powder, doesn’t need sifting (I suggest Green and Black’s here)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

115g (1/2 cup or 1 stick) salted butter (unsalted works too, but flavour is enhanced with salted)

230g (1 packed cup) dark brown sugar

60g (a heaping 1/3 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

110g (one heaping half cup) of dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

*optional: an extra handful of white chocolate chunks/chips (30g) and one heaping tablespoon of salted caramel sauce

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and grease (line if you want) 2 baking trays. In a medium bowl, mix together the first 4 ingredients to make the peanut butter filling. Roll into small balls; you should have around 20 balls, if not more or less. Place the balls on a small baking tray and place in the freezer while you work on the brownie cookies.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, chopped chocolate (both white and dark) and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, two sugars and vanilla extract (add the heaping tablespoon of salted caramel here, if you wish!). Pour the dry mix into the wet mix and mix until just combined. Take out the frozen balls of filling from the freezer. Scoop a heaped teaspoon of dough onto a baking tray, then place one ball of filling in the centre, press down a little, then take another teaspoonful of dough and place on top, smushing around the sides of the filling ball so it’s nicely covered. Repeat until the balls are all enclosed within the gooey chocolatey dough you made.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes– resist baking for longer even though the cookies look and feel weak to the touch after such a short baking time. If you happen to have made very large cookies, then bake for 11-12 minutes, but nothing more than 12. Leave to cool for at least half an hour before eating. These cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days, but they’re best eaten within 2 days, during which they retain the ultimate taste and texture. Eat with coarse salt sprinkled on top or more salted caramel sauce.

Pistachio Fudge Bars

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Not sure if any of you can tell, but I’ve been a bit down with the pistachio bug lately. It’s almost unhealthy. A few mornings ago, I was relishing one of my favourite, unbeatable toast combinations: homemade pistachio butter, honey and coarse sea salt. Curiosity arose from this delicious ritual, and I researched recipes with the dominant theme of pistachio (and other random facts, such as how these guys have a 14% saturated fat content, and a chemical named aflatoxin may be found in poorly harvested kernels. Did you know that the pistachio tree can survive in 50C weather? Anyways). I decided, the toast fiend that I am, to kick the current bar/brownie game up a notch.

Anything, my friend, can be turned into bars.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI can see how this recipe may come across as inaccessible. It’s true, the main component of these bars is pistachio butter, but I insist that you try making the stuff at home. It’s like bread. Make a loaf at home and you’ll never turn back to the packaged stuff. I’m lucky enough to have a supply of this divine concoction at home, since my mum occasionally makes a batch, and what you essentially do goes as follows: you roast a large batch of pistachios (around 200g is enough for this recipe, and you will have quite a bit leftover, which is perfect!), skin the babies, and grind for a good while in a food processor or other professional grinding device (cough a blender cough) with sugar and salt to taste. If any of you have experience making any sort of nut butter, then you know that the procedure is simple and completely worth it. This nut butter will make all your mornings golden and glimmering. It makes Skippy cower in fear.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The little air bubbles you see are thanks to a bout of carelessness; I recommend dropping the pan containing the batter before actually baking it, in order to rid your batter of excess air bubbles. Yes, mistakes are abound in this one woman kitchen.

This is a pistachio fudge bar. ‘Fudge’ because of its texture and prominent pistachio flavour. Dense, squidgy, with a slight chew around the edges, the pistachio offering an earthy, naturally sweet touch. I topped it with a simple dark chocolate drizzle to highlight these notes and add a chimerical flair to the otherwise plain pistachio base.

Pistachio Fudge Bars (makes 16 in an 8×8-inch pan)

70g all-purpose flour

2 eggs

113g (half a cup, or one stick) melted, unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

120g (around half a cup) pistachio butter

190g light brown sugar

half a teaspoon of salt

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F). Grease and line an 8×8-inch baking pan and set aside. In a large bowl and with a wooden spoon, mix together the pistachio butter and sugar. The mix should look clumpy, but will come together after a few seconds of mixing (see above). Add the melted butter, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. The mix should be sticky and easily drop off your spoon. Add your flour and salt, and mix until combined. That’s it! That’s all there is to it. Pour the sticky gloop into your greased and lined pan, and drop the pan onto your counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Pop it into the oven for 18-20 minutes. My batch was done after 18, so check it at this point. A wooden skewer inserted into the middle should come out dry, but the presence of little clingy crumbs at the tip are fine.

Let the pan cool on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, melt 70g of milk/dark chocolate in the microwave, using 20 seconds bursts and mixing in between, to prevent the chocolate burning and causing an unnecessary temper explosion in the kitchen. Put the melted chocolate into a small ziploc bag. Once the bars are cool, snip the tip off one of the two corners of the ziploc bag and drizzle the chocolate all over the cooled bars. Slice the batch into 16 equal pieces. These bars can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. Store remaining in the fridge and reheat whenever necessary, or store them in the fridge after the bars have cooled, if you wish.