During this quarantine time I have gotten very acquainted with my kitchen. Honestly, I always found cooking to be a little stressful. I grew up baking, so the thought of casually changing recipes based on taste and getting the timing of multiple items spaced out so that everything was hot and ready at the same time kind of gave me anxiety. With all of this time at home, though, it has given me the opportunity to try new recipes, practice new techniques, and generally get comfortable cooking consistently because I have the time and energy to do so (commuting is a real time suck!).
Though I’ve spent more time cooking, and I am really loving it, I always come back to baking. It is hard because it is just the two of us here at home, so I can’t be making a huge cake for 12, but once in a while I just get that craving for a late night brownie. I found this recipe in a cookbook that had been living on my shelf for almost a year untouched, and I just had to try it. Chocolate and peanut butter are my weakness! I took a look at the ingredients, and I realized we didn’t necessarily have everything it required… insert new Julia with cooking gumption who is happy to try a substitution!
Substituting things in cooking is pretty natural, as so many things work just fine as a sub. In our house, we are always substituting non-dairy alternatives for milk, and in our attempts to avoid the grocery store as much as possible it has made us incredibly creative. In baking, substitutions are usually a no-no. It can mess with the chemistry of the recipe, but if you are smart there are plenty of ways you can make it work and no one will ever know.
This recipe originally called for unsweetened chocolate, which I didn’t have. What I did have was some bars of 70% espresso dark chocolate. Seeing as the recipe called for espresso powder already, I figured the coffee flavor could really work well here. I swapped out 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and 1 1/2 cups of sugar for 3 ounces of this espresso dark chocolate and 1 1/4 cups of sugar, and the result was heavenly. The deep, bitter coffee flavor mixed with the cocoa was like having an intensely rich mocha. And then comes the peanut butter frosting. There are no words. I ate so much of it that I struggled to get enough out of the bowl to frost the brownies… but I was eating them all anyways so I guess it wasn’t really a huge deal.
Mocha Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting
Brownies: 3/4 cup Butter 3 ounces 70% or darker Chocolate with Espresso or Coffee flavor, chopped 1 1/4 cups Sugar 1 Tbs. Vanilla 3 Eggs 3/4 tsp. Salt 1/2 tsp. Espresso Powder 1/2 cup Cocoa Powder 1/2 cup Flour Salted Peanut Butter Frosting: 6 Tbs. Butter 3/4 cup Peanut Butter 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar A few pinches of Flaked Salt 1. Preheat the oven to 325 deg F. Spray a 9″x9″ baking pan with cooking oil. 2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the butter until it begins to smell nutty and turn brown in color, stirring continuously as the butter begins to brown. Remove the pan from heat and pour the butter into a medium bowl. 3. Add the chopped chocolate to the bowl with the butter and stir to melt. Add in the sugar and vanilla while the butter is still warm and stir vigorously to combine. 4. Add in the eggs, salt, and espresso powder and stir to combine. Add the cocoa powder and flour into the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined. 5. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. 6. While the brownies are cooling, make your salted peanut butter frosting. Warm the butter to room temperature and whip it until smooth and light. Add in the peanut butter and powdered sugar, and whip until combined. 7. Frost your brownies once they have cooled and sprinkle with flaked salt.