Dark Chocolate Brownies With Peanut Butter Frosting

Out of all the hundreds of flavor combinations that exist in this world, I would have to say peanut butter and dark chocolate is one of my very favorites. I'm always a sucker for the sweet and salty combo, especially when it's rich and requires a large glass of milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream to round it out.

Back when I first moved to New York and was subletting a room in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I would walk down 7th Avenue to this adorable coffee shop called the Cocoa Bar. It had an ivy-covered patio where I loved to sit and write, and even better still, they served a decadent, chocolate peanut butter cake that almost defied words. These brownies are the closest I have come to finding any dessert that rivals it.

The recipe is simple, both in terms of preparation and ingredients; yet, the intensity of flavor is like a chocolate lover's dream. I cut out one of the eggs from the original recipe to make the brownies extra fudgey, and I also adapted the frosting by omitting the butter and instead using culinary coconut milk (otherwise known as coconut cream at Trader Joe's). If you only do one thing this week, run to the store, grab a few ingredients, and make these brownies. You'll thank me later.

Dark Chocolate Brownies With Peanut Butter Frosting
(adapted from Ashley Rodriguez's recipe for "Bittersweet Brownies With Salted Peanut Butter Frosting" in the Date Night In cookbook)

3/4 cup unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened baker's chocolate ground in the food processor
1/2 tsp. instant coffee powder
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line an 8" x 8" baking dish with parchment paper. (If using a large roll of parchment, I like to cut it in half length wise and use the two pieces to create a cross shape that is easy to remove from the pan and doesn't buckle in the corners.)

Place the butter in a medium sauce pan and melt over medium-high heat. Once it has completely melted, turn off the heat and add the unsweetened chocolate that has already been ground up in the food processor, like this:

The butter should be so warm, that it will just melt the chocolate and then you can whisk them together. Next, stir in the espresso powder and vanilla extract. Finally, add the sugar until evenly combined.

Get out a large bowl and beat the eggs with a fork. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled a bit, add a large spoonful of the chocolate batter to the eggs, and whisk it together. This is called tempering your eggs, and it will help raise their temperature so that they won't scramble when you add the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Get out a third bowl and combine the flour, cocoa powder, and kosher salt. Then combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, and pour them into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle pulls out clean. Let cool to room temperature before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

6 Tbsp. culinary coconut milk (or coconut cream)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt for finishing (see this post for a guide to different salts)

Combine the culinary coconut milk, peanut butter, and powdered sugar in a small bowl and whip with an electric mixer until everything is well combined and the frosting has lightened in color.

Wait until the brownies have fully cooled, and then frost them and top with a few pinches of flaked sea salt.