I have been enthralled of late with reworking desserts that do not turn out as I hoped. They may have been baked too long, failed to deliver the recipe’s promised taste sensation, or were disappointing. I fear I have become my own worst enemy in this area. I am sadly a dessert snob.
I remember one of our daughters, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, saying to me several years ago, “Mom, just because it is brown, and square doesn’t make it a brownie.” She suggested that I close my eyes and take a bite. What flavor did I taste first? Sugar or chocolate? That experience set me on a brand-new trajectory. I was already hard to please, and now I am worse. I craved a burst of chocolate and what I received was lots of sugar. This has led me to tweak more recipes or completely rework others. Most importantly, I do not waste my time on illusions that look very tempting but fail to deliver.
Tasting along the way as you make the recipe is essential. If a recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar, your immediate reaction should not be to follow it. Yikes! I will typically start with two-thirds of the sugar called for first. Taste and add a bit more as needed. Always take notes on your recipes to avoid wasting time on ones you do not like. Ingredients that add an additional layer of flavor can also make a huge difference. Zest is the outside of a piece of citrus, without the white pith included. Grating a little zest can add a surprising and unexpected layer. You want the zest to compliment what you make, not fight with it. Spices are good too in careful quantities. Taste, taste, taste.
Eating my way through Paris, I learned a little piece of something spectacular made with the perfect ingredients is all you need to satisfy. Sadly, we think bigger is better in America, and mountains of sugar and icing make for a satisfying dessert.
Here is an excellent recipe to start with. Every American who craves the combination of chocolate and peanut butter will come away satisfied. It is straightforward and delivers what you are looking for. I found it in an old copy of Women’s Day magazine over twenty years ago. It’s fast, easy, and wow! It is one of the rare times I will use a mix. It has been incredibly sought after from the first time I brought it to a party. I joked with a young bride that if she wanted to make fast friends, start taking this to parties. Years later, she told me I was absolutely right. She continues to get requests for the recipe every time someone tastes it. Let me know what you think and how it works for you. I am all about sharing recipes. Every time I make one that someone has given me, I have nothing but fond memories of them. Recipes are too essential to keep to yourself. Many have gone to the grave in selfishness. “You can’t take it with you,” in the end, your recipe dies with you, and all the joy that would have been shared through the decades in your name is gone.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
1 Box (18oz) Triple or Double Chocolate Brownie Mix
Peanut Butter Filling
¾ C creamy peanut butter 1 C marshmallow cream
1/2 stick unsalted Butter, softened 1/4 C confectioners’ sugar
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips 5 T unsalted Butter 1 T light corn syrup
Heat oven to 350 F. Line mini cupcake pan with paper cups. Prepare brownie mix as package directs for fudgy brownies. Using a small scoop or tablespoon fill the cups halfway. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Check them at 15 min and remove if toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Filling: Beat Peanut Butter and butter in a medium bowl with mixer or by hand until well blended. Stir in marshmallow cream. Stir in confectioners’ sugar until blended. Fill a piping bag using a large round tip or opening in the bag. When brownie is cooled. Pipe a blob of marshmallow cream on each brownie. With water on your finger, form an well in the marshmallow which will be filled with the chocolate glaze.
Glaze: Microwave chocolate (50% power) and butter, stirring at 30-second intervals, until melted and smooth. Cool slightly; stir in corn syrup. Using a teaspoon fill the well of each brownie. It is ok if it spills over some. Refrigerate 1 hour until filling is firm and glaze sets. Remove from pan and keep in sealed container for up to a week