Monday, November 17, 2014

Nutter Butter Brownies

I'm having a Nutter Butter moment. It's not nostalgia - my childhood was filled with peanuts ground into sludge at the co-op, not sandwiched between cookies. For me, it's the mouthfeel. There's just something about that creamy, slightly gritty texture of Nutter Butters that's so satisfying. Oreos are iconic, of course, but peanut butter filling is so much less greasy than "creme."

I know I'm the minority on this one - I found an empty package of Oreos shoved back in the pantry, but the Nutter Butters were untouched. I rounded up the usual suspects, but no one copped to it. I'll have to wait for the forensics to come back.

It's just as well that I'm Team Nutter Butter, because chocolate-covered Oreos are happening here in a big way. I'm making them as favors for my son's Bar Mitzvah. We were going to do a candy table, but at last week's festivities, I saw just how far the pitcher on a middle school baseball team can wing hard candy. Far, actually! So, the candy table is out.

Being slightly obsessed with Nutter Butters just now, I've been looking for ways to accessorize. I can sit around in sweats and clogs all day long, but my baked goods always look sharp. But when I consulted my friend Mr. Google, all he had was a bunch of recipes with a layer of goop sandwiched in the middle. Like cookie crust, with half an inch of peanut butter cream, with a chocolate layer on top. Too sweet, too squishy, tootoo much.

So I made these brownies with chopped Nutter Butters in the batter and topped them with a creamy frosting made from crushed cookie crumbs. You can certainly spread the frosting out, instead of piping it on top. But I prefer to eat the frosting without getting it all over my fingers. Plus, look how pretty! Even squirted from the corner of a sandwich bag, it looks dressed up. But, suit yourself. And feel free to use your own brownie recipe sized for an 8" pan. Mine is dense and not overly sweet, so use the one that you love.

Nutter Butter Brownies

7 cookies
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (57g)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (86g)
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 whole egg, plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour (60g)

4 cookies, plus 2 more for garnish
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (57g)
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (32g)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (60g)
2-4 tablespoons of milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection) and line an 8" square pan with foil. Chop cookies into 8 pieces and set them aside. In a medium-sized bowl, microwave the butter and chocolate for a minute on full power. It will still be chunky, but keep stirring and it should smooth out. Mix in the sugar and salt, then the egg, yolk and vanilla. Finish off with the flour, which should be incorporated without aggressively beating it.

Looks just like every other brownie recipe you've made, right? No surprises here. Spray the foil-lined pan with cooking spray. Now stir in the cookie bits and spread it evenly in the pan. If you like a fudgey brownie, take it out at the 25 minute mark. For chewy, give it 30 or so. I prefer something crusty enough to double as a hammer, so I leave it in almost 40 minutes. Listen to the food, it will tell you how to get what you want.

Rest on the counter for at least half an hour before refrigerating until cool enough to slice cleanly. If you skip this step, the brownies will smush and crumble when you cut them. Your brownies will be asymmetrical - GASP. They will still taste awesome, though.

Pulverize the 4 cookies in the processor or with a rolling pin. In a mixer, beat the softened butter for about six minutes until it is very pale and creamy. Add in the peanut butter and beat for another two minutes before working in the crushed cookies and powdered sugar. This will look hopelessly gritty, but don't fret. Add in 2-4 tablespoons of milk, and it will whip right up. If it seems loose, let it set up in the fridge before piping. In a couple of hours, the cookie crumbs will soften, and the sandy texture will disappear.

You can get 12 decent brownies out of an 8" pan, or 9 huge ones. Unless you slice them warm, in which case you get a muddle. At any rate, portion them out before piping the frosting on top. I used an open star tip to apply the frosting, but a snipped-off sandwich bag works just fine, too. Garnish with a chunk of cookie.

Serves 9-12.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Brownie Truffle Balls

Whose idea was it to make hamburger cupcakes for every kid in the fifth grade? They were awesome, but seriously labor intensive. I'll tell you about it later this week. Suffice it to say, pressing out fifty "hamburger patties" from brownie sheets leaves you with a ton of scraps.

Thus, Brownie Truffle Balls. Which is more of a technique than a recipe, really. So forgive me for leaving out the regular recipe formalities. The whole point of the exercise is to use up leftovers, although you could easily bake a pan of brownies expressly for the purpose.

Step 1: Pulverize Brownies
I prefer a crusty, chewy brownie over a fudgey one. My brownies required two minutes in the food processor with a little extra liquid to pull the mixture together. I'm betting your brownies are softer, so maybe you can crumble them with your hands. In any event, you won't need extra fat to bind it like a cake pop, so don't add frosting. Just throw your chunks into the processor and run it until it comes together into a ball. You can add a tablespoon or two of milk, water, rum or whatever if it seems too chunky.

Step 2: Portion
I use a cookie scoop for everything, but spoons will work just as well. Portion out 1-2 tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto wax paper or a silicone sheet.

Step 3: Form Balls
Rub a tiny bit of butter between your palms before starting to work. Depending on the softness of your brownie dough, you may need to squeeze the dough several times before the warmth of your hands causes it to come together enough to roll it. Just keep squeezing until you can roll it into a smooth ball. Return the pan of brownie balls to the fridge for half an hour.

Step 4: Dipping
Maybe you are a purist using only the finest tempered chocolate. Maybe you have a pantry full of Wilton melts in every color of the rainbow. Whatever floats your boat, right? I made these to use up brownie crusts and fed them to my kids - take a guess what I used to coat them! If I make them for company, I'll use something better.

Melt your preferred dipping medium as per the package instruction. Using a small fork (fondue fork if you have one) spear a ball and submerge it in the chocolate. Tap the fork at an angle to shake off the excess coating, put your thumb and forefinger under the ball, and lift it off onto the wax paper, setting it down gently on the imperfect side. (It would be nice if your hands were clean for this part. Just saying.) Sprinkle on any solid decorations while the coating is still wet, because it will set up almost immediately.

Step 4: Presentation
These look best in paper wrappers. I know you're not supposed to refrigerate chocolate. But if I leave these on the counter, they'll be gone in an hour. So, I hide them in the fridge because I love my kids. Try to let them warm up a bit before serving - the truffles, not the kids.