I got the inspiration for this brownie from another blogger (click on link above for Susanna's Kitchen) but her recipe lists a box brownie mix. I think I'm physiologically incapable of making brownies from a box mix. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. But whenever I need a foolproof brownie recipe (from scratch!), I turn to Lisa Yockelson's baking books. I still haven't really been playing with her latest book, Baking Style, until my baking challenge is complete but since she's such a good source for excellent brownie recipes, I couldn't resist cracking it open again.
I found this one and almost didn't make it because I didn't have black cocoa powder and I didn't know if all that corn syrup would make the brownies too sweet. Ha, should've known her recipe wouldn't let me down. I substituted Pernigotti cocoa for the black cocoa and this brownie was fabulous. Considering how jaded my brownie taste buds are, it's saying something when this meets my picky palate. It helps that the Pernigotti cocoa is such a dark cocoa so I think that offset the sweetness of the corn syrup and sugar nicely. This did make a lot of batter though and because I was using it as a base instead of a standalone brownie, I didn't want it that thick. So instead of a 9 x 13 pan, I divided the batter between a 8 x 8" pan, a 9 x 9" pan and 4 of my dessert shell cups (what I did with those dessert shell cups to be posted later). You can still make the brownies as directed in the original recipe below and they will still be fantastic "plain".
However, for that extra bit of decadence, I highly recommend making these as Susanna's Kitchen did. Remember how I'm indifferent to peanut butter and don't really like cheesecake? As standalone treats, that's still true. But put all those components together in this brownie and you have pure delicious decadence. One of those "it's worth the calories and I'll run more miles this week" kind of brownies. The brownies are moist and fudgy, the peanut butter cheesecake layer complements rather than overwhelms the fudgy brownie layer and the milk chocolate ganache on top adds to the texture and flavor. Plus, really, you can't go wrong with Snickers on top. I opted to use Snickers rather than peanut butter cups because I had more Snickers than Reese's on hand. Go with your favorite. Then run like the wind.
Make the brownie batter as directed below. For a 9 x 13 pan, you might want to make only 2/3 of the recipe. Or else plan to bake the brownies in 2 9 x 9 pans. Spread the brownie batter evenly in the pan(s).
Make the peanut butter layer per the link below and divide evenly between the pans, spreading smoothly over the brownie layer. Bake 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Do not overbake. Let cool completely.
Make the ganache by melting the milk chocolate chips and heavy cream together and whisking smooth. Pour over the cooled brownies and spread in an even layer. Top with chopped Snickers or Reese's peanut butter cups (or both) and press slightly to adhere in the ganache. Chill until set; cut and serve. These brownies can also be frozen, well wrapped in plastic and stored in freezer bags.
Peanut Butter Layer and Topping
1 ½ cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder (I use Pernigotti)
¼ cup unsweetened alkalized black cocoa powder (can substitute unsweetened cocoa powder)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound plus 4 tablespoons (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa powders, baking powder and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper.
3. Melt the butter and chocolates together in the top half of a double boiler over hot, not simmering, water. Whisk to blend and let cool to tepid.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs just to mix. Add the sugar and beat for 1 minute, using a whisk. Add the light brown sugar and beat for 1 minute to combine. Blend in the melted butter-chocolate mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Blend in the corn syrup and vanilla extract. Resift the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Whisk slowly to form a batter, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even-textured.
5. Pour and scrape into prepared pan. Smooth the top and bake for 35-40 minutes or until just set and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool for 2 hours or refrigerate until firm enough to cut. Cut into squares and serve.