The Secrets of Janelle's Peanut Butter Brownies

I've made these brownies for years. My husband loves them. My whole family loves them. They are so popular that people at my work have come to expect them anytime we have a food day. (Super Bowl, Fourth of July, Christmas Eve, etc.) People who used to work with me years ago will seek me out and pay me to make my brownies for them. Today, I'm going to teach you my secrets for these brownies that never have leftovers. 

Like always, ingredients are key. While I would usually encourage you to buy the best you can, in this case, we can go cheap. Buy the store brand of creamy peanut butter. Don't use Jiff or Skippy or any other "name brand" peanut butter. Use the crappiest, grittiest brand you can find that doesn't separate a lot of oil. Don't use chunky, but you do want it to be a little gritty. 

For the actual brownies, I go cheap with them, too. This may be shocking, coming from a culinary school graduate, but I use boxed mixes for these brownies. I prefer Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix. I use two boxes for one batch in a 13x9 pan. Or, if I'm just making a small pan for us to have at home, I use just one box in an 8x8 pan.

All be told, though, I'm usually making both at the same time. I can't make brownies for work or for a friend without also making brownies for my husband. As much as he loves my baklava (OMG he says it's better than his mother's!) my brownies are certainly his favorite homemade dessert. 

Mix the peanut butter first

Don't hate me, but I can't give you exact measurements for the filling. It's not possible. Every bag of powdered sugar is going to have a different moisture level. So will every jar of peanut butter. I can tell you to start with about two cups of powdered sugar and add one cup of peanut butter, but you'll need more of both, I promise. Don't use a whisk--you'll break it. I use a stiff rubber scraper in a stainless steel bowl.

Cut the powdered sugar into the peanut butter by scooping it over any exposed peanut butter you see. When it's uniformly mixed, it should look just a little sandy. If you grab a small handful and squeeze it, it should retain the shape of your hand without sticking to your hand. If it is sticky, you need more powdered sugar. If it won't hold its shape, it needs more peanut butter. Keep adding and mixing until you have the right consistency. Don't worry if you end up with too much--you can always freeze spare filling for later use.

Then the brownies

Start the oven first so it can preheat. Follow the directions on the box. My only alteration is that I use milk instead of water for a slightly richer flavor. I ensure an even mixing—without overmixing—by blending the wet ingredients first, then I add the mix. It will still be a little lumpy, but overmixing strengthens the gluten strands and makes for a tougher end-product. I usually do both boxes at once in my large Kitchenaide mixer. I pour half of the batter into a 13x9 glass pan that has been sprayed with oil.

Now, the fun part

Make sure your hands and nails are SUPER CLEAN or wear tight-fitting food-safe gloves. Pull out a small chunk of peanut butter filling and flatten it into a thin sheet. Cover the brownie batter with the little sheets of peanut butter. Be careful to not let it rest against the edge of the pan, or it will burn. It's also important to keep it thin. If you have thick, heavy chunks of peanut butter, they will sink in the batter and burn to the bottom.

Once you've covered the batter to your liking, carefully pour the rest of the batter over the peanut butter in long ribbons. You can't just dump it in the middle and let it spread because that will mess up the peanut butter layer. It is crucial to how it cooks to make the layers of brownie even on both sides of the center. I start at one corner and tilt the bowl for a slow pour. Without letting it pool, I move the bowl over the pan in long, slow strokes, back and forth until the peanut butter is totally covered. 

It takes about an hour to bake, but ovens vary. Don't stick it to check for doneness if it jiggles. If the center is still moving, it's not fucking done! Don't fuck it up and make it go flat by poking it before it is even set. But, if the center looks solid when you give it a little jiggle, go ahead and stick a butter knife in there. If it comes out clean, it's done. Pull it out and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack. 

When it is completely cooled, spread on some chocolate frosting. Cut yourself a big fucking piece and grab a chilled glass of milk. Enjoy!


You can skip the rest if you don't care about my personal life...

For those of you who know me or regularly read my blog, you know we've been dealing with Immigration headaches recently. My husband's green card expired, even though we'd filled out, filed, and paid for everything we were supposed to on time. His two-year conditional green card officially expired last year, but they sent him a notice saying that they were behind and they'd extended his conditional green card for another year. It expired April 24th of this year and we were getting other letters saying they wouldn't have his green card interview until January of 2019, even though it'd be long expired by then since they hadn't extended it again.

His interview for his citizenship application was at 8 in the morning on May 7th. Less than three weeks before the interview, they sent us another notice saying that his interview to remove the conditions from his green card would also be on the same day, at the same time, and I also had to attend. I gathered whatever "proof of our legitimate marriage" that I could during those three weeks and we showed up bright and early for our interview.

They kept us waiting for over an hour and a half before they finally realized his name had been removed from the list. They got an officer to take him and our interview went quite well. He passed his citizenship test with flying colors; the officer said that in all his years there, he'd never had anyone know and give all of the possible answers to each question. For example, he was asked to name a few Native American tribes, and he listed twice as many as he had to. He needed to know two cabinet positions, and he kept listing them until the guy told him to stop, that was enough. I'm so proud of him! 

As a "welcome to being a real American" present for my husband, I bought him a Super Nintendo that comes pre-loaded with 400 games. I've never let him have a gaming console before, and he's asked me for a Super NES before, so I'm hoping he'll love it. It hasn't shown up yet, but I'm not giving it to him until his oath ceremony, anyway. 

But why was he taken off the list of interviews for the day? We found out on May 8th when we got a letter from USCIS dated May 1st stating that his green card application had been transferred to a different office and they would notify him when he was to appear there. So, basically, they canceled his interview less than a week before it was supposed to happen. He was still supposed to have his citizenship interview, but when they removed his name from the list for his green card, they removed his name again for his other interview. But, we were there, and we had two papers showing we were supposed to be there, so they let us have our interview. We got lucky, despite all of the fuckery on their end. 

The delay really fucked up our whole day, though. My husband got to his grocery store late, so it opened late, and he'd also missed the delivery so the two plastic-wrapped pallets were just sitting out on the sidewalk. We weren't allowed to have phones inside of the USCIS building, so he couldn't even call the guy he works with to tell him to go and receive the pallets since we were going to be late. We also didn't get to go out to lunch to celebrate, so we went out the next day. It was awful, but that's another story.