When I was a teenager, one of the most cliche things I ever did was make brownies from a box with a bunch of friends and then eat the entire pan in one sitting. But it’s a cliche for a reason! Because there is nothing quite as satisfying late at night than a rich, chocolatey brownie (or two or three). These days I try to limit myself to one piece at a time, but a brownie is still one of my favorite late night dessert indulgences. Sometimes I want a brownie that’s dark and rich and gooey in the center. Sometimes I want one swirled with peanut butter. And sometimes I want one with crunchy pieces of nuts inside. And so last week I thought, why not have it all? And I made a pan of peanut butter pretzel cashew brownies packed with chocolatey flavor.
I started with a Mark Bittman recipe as my base (you can find the original recipe here), because it’s simple and classic and perfect for adapting to your own whims. I swapped out a third of the sugar for brown sugar to get a richer taste, and skipped the vanilla since I knew I was going to add other flavors. Then I added lightly toasted cashews and chopped pretzels for crunch, and swirled the finished batter with a peanut butter-sugar-butter concoction. The result was a brownie that had it all. It had a rich chocolate base, the bright taste of peanut butter, and the crunch of cashews and pretzels. I even thought about calling them kitchen sink brownies since there’s so much packed into every bite. These are the brownies to make when you are craving a bunch of things all at once and can’t decide which direction to go. When that happens, just throw it all together and treat yourself.
Before you start mixing ingredients, set yourself up for success by lining your baking pan with two pieces of parchment paper, with the ends overhanging in both directions. This will make sure you can get the finished brownies out of the pan and enjoy all of those crispy edges. After that, melt the chocolate and butter together in small bursts in the microwave, stirring between each burst until it’s all melted and smooth. Whisk in the sugars, then the eggs. Switch to a spatula and stir in the flour and salt until the batter is smooth, then gently mix in the cashews and chopped pretzels.
Now it’s on to the peanut butter. In a separate bowl, melt two tablespoons of butter, then whisk in the peanut butter and sugar until it’s smooth. And here you have a choice. For distinctly layered brownies, pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan first, followed by the peanut butter (smoothing it out with a spatula), and then the rest of the brownie mixture. For a swirled look, pour all of the brownie mixture in then pour the peanut butter on top. Spread the peanut butter out, then use a knife or toothpick to gently swirl the layers together. I went with the swirled option, but both will taste great.
After baking for thirty minutes, you will have a pan of rich brownies packed with all of the flavors and textures you could ever want. At least until I get another weird brownie craving.
- 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), cut into 8 pieces
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup cashews, lightly toasted
- ¾ cup pretzels
- ¾ cup peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- ⅓ cup sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9” square baking pan with two pieces of parchment paper and butter the paper.
- Melt the butter and chocolate, either in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a microwave safe bowl on 15-second bursts, stirring after each burst. Once both are melted, stir until smooth.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and whisk in the sugars, followed by the eggs. Using a spatula, stir in the flour and salt until the mixture is smooth, then fold in the cashews.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the peanut butter, melted butter and sugar.
- Pour roughly half of the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan, followed by half of the peanut butter mixture, then the rest of the chocolate and the rest of the peanut butter. Keep it in distinct layers, or take a knife and swirl them together. Place a layer of pretzels on top, then bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the center is just set.