Some of my closest friends are avid fans of peanut butter! Are you one of them? I didn’t grow up with peanut butter. Growing up in Buenos Aires, my only notion of a burnished-colored spread were the jars of decadent dulce de leche, a South American confection made with milk and sugar that tastes somewhat similar to caramel, but is infinitely better. I still remember the first time I ever tried peanut butter. My grandpa had come back from one of his trips to the United States bringing lots of gifts, one of which was a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter. Anything from the United States was considered a luxury, because there was no importation of goods back in those days. I found this peanut butter jar in my grandma’s pantry. As a child, I had a habit of getting into pantries and inspecting them for their contents, hoping to find all manner of sweets and treats and new delights. I don’t know how my grandma put up with this, haha! But that is love I guess! Anyway, when I found the Peter Pan peanut butter jar, I had never seen anything like it. The jar was closed, the red lid firmly clamped on, the aluminum seal unbroken. I decided to open it and try it. I was familiar with eating peanuts on their own, or in garrapiñada, or chopping them up and putting them in brownies, but I had never known you could make a spread with them, and needless to say, my first taste of the nutty spread was a disappointment, because while the color looked similar to dulce de leche, the taste was completely different. It taught me an important lesson: looks can be deceiving. Dulce de leche is rich, decadently sweet, like a milky, creamy caramel, but with a thicker, spreadable consistency. The peanut butter was salty, nutty, and creamy, but missing all of the caramel sweet notes that I was used to tasting in bronze-colored treats. It took me a few years to be able to separate my visual expectations of peanut butter from the profile taste of dulce de leche. I had to accept peanut butter on its own merits and understand that it was a completely different type of spread, with just as many virtues as dulce de leche, even if they were not the same. Once I started pairing peanut butter with semi-sweet chocolate, it dawned on me what the fascination was all about and the first recipe I ever baked with it was a fudge brownie swirled with peanut butter recipe I made for my friends after band practice when I was 17.
Peanut butter is a truly North American thing. The first person to popularize peanut butter was John Harvey Kellogg. In the early 1890s, he invented a way to crush the nuts to make a nut butter that could substitute for animal-based products, since he was vegetarian. He decided to use it to complement the diet of patients who needed a protein substitute, couldn’t eat animal proteins, or couldn’t chew meat. It was originally administered to patients in Battle Creek, Michigan and introduced to the general public at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Back then, it was considered an elegant ingredient. It quickly began being used in peanut butter sandwiches, which are popular to this day. Funnily enough, peanut butter may be North American, but peanuts are South American, and they originate in Bolivia. I would never have guessed it! They were also found in Peru, Brazil, and the Caribbean, and they spread to Europe, Asia, and Africa from the New World. So, in a way, dulce de leche and peanut butter are not totally unrelated: they both originate in the Americas, although that’s kind of where the similarities end. I’ve never understood why peanut butter isn’t a worldwide staple. France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece, Japan, Chile, Ecuador, and Israel lack peanut butter in their stores, and it’s not widely available in South America either. It usually takes a lot of searching and finding an imported goods store. Peanut butter-filled candies like Bonobon were available in Argentina long before you could buy a jar of peanut butter. Bonobon later introduced peanut butter jars by marketing them as the filling of their bonbons, but for some reason peanut butter never really caught on as its own item. To me, it will always be a mystery. I think in Argentina, dulce de leche is just so established that it eclipses everything else, displacing even jellies and condensed milk. It reigns mighty and supreme and will likely be the subject of many other recipes on this blog, but not today! Today, is peanut butter’s day in the sun.
I have long been a converted peanut butter fan. I would never dare to compare it to dulce de leche. Both spreads can take up equal space in my heart and reflect two different culinary heritages I have been exposed to, Argentine and American. If you love peanut butter as much as I do, you will find these peanut butter brownies are perfect for you! They are chocolatey, fudgy, and sweet, and the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter makes them stand apart from your typical brownie. They are also really quick to put together and super simple,
My friends in Argentina still remember the many pans of brownies we used to consume on weekends, and I recently shared the recipe in Spanish on Instagram, so that regardless of the language, anyone can try this recipe. These brownies are everything that kids or grownups could ever ask for: nostalgic and decadent, with a crunchy layer of chopped peanuts and mini chocolate chips swirled in with a peanut butter batter into a chocolate base, they are an instant trip back to childhood, when life was simple and sweet and full of old reliables like peanut butter and chocolate, and when everything else is going crazy in the world, it’s kind of reassuring that chocolate and peanut butter always get along, and at least that hasn’t changed.
Peanut Butter Brownies
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
- ½ cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 1/3 cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ¼ cup honey roasted peanuts, chopped
- In a saucepan, heat the butter until melted.
- Remove from the heat and add the sugar and eggs.
- Stir in the all-purpose flour.
- Remove ¾ cup of the batter and place in a small bowl; set aside.
- Melt the unsweetened chocolate and add it into the remaining batter in the saucepan. Melting the chocolate is best done in a double boiler.
- Add the peanut butter to the ¾ cup batter you set aside in the small bowl.
- Butter the sides and bottom of an 8x8x2 inch baking pan and spread the chocolate batter into it.
- Place spoonfuls of the peanut butter batter on top of the chocolate batter. Swirl the batter with a knife.
- Sprinkle with ¼ cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and ¼ cup chopped honey roasted peanuts.
- Bake in a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. Cut into squares. Serve with a glass of milk.
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