seasonless: bittersweet brownies with salted peanut butter frosting

The culinary traditions that follow the holidays are so predictable. And kind of crazy.

Christmas is the season for feasting. That I get and agree with. However, what follows confuses me. 

Eat yourself silly over the holidays, detox yourself to a "new you" in January and then get your sugar high on with February's Valentine's chocolate. 

Even though I like green juice as much as the next gal, I need more than juice in January. It's cold! There's snow! 

This is all to say, that there are some foods that I think shouldn't be bound to seasons. They make sense year round. Green juice is one of them (some times of year it makes more sense as a meal, other times only as a beverage, you know, a glass of juice). Brownies are another.

A good brownie recipe just doesn't go out of style. It is something that will always spark chocolate-covered smiles and attract complements.

So if you're celebrating Valentine's Day or not, make some brownies. There is never a wrong time. 

And if I think that brownies are generally a good idea, then I think that bittersweet brownies with salted peanut butter frosting are a very good idea. 
When I first came across this recipe on the Wednesday Chef I had barberry-fennel scones on my counter and bits and pieces of an Icelandic Christmas cake in my fridge. So the idea of baking brownies and adding them to the kitchen seemed both indulgent and irresponsible. So I did the next best thing: grocery shopping. I went and bought everything that I needed to make these brownies, so as soon as a bit of pantry real-estate became available I could start melting butter immediately. Which is exactly what I did.  

The recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, which is a rarity in Germany. So Luisa uses 70% chocolate and reduces the amount of sugar. I did the same, except I used brown sugar instead of white.

If you use salted butter for the frosting, make sure you taste it before you add any salt. You can also use unsalted butter, which is what I did, and add flaky sea salt to taste, plus a bit more for sprinkling.

Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Adapted from 'Date Night In' via the Wednesday Chef

makes 16 square brownies 



3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
3 ounces (90 grams) bittersweet chocolate (70%), chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (170 grams) unrefined, brown sugar (or granulated)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour 


6 tbsp (85 grams) salted butter (or add a generous pinch of salt, to taste, to unsalted butter), at room temperature
3/4 cup (100 grams) smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup (40 grams) confections' sugar
flaky sea salt for sprinkling 

Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 C / gas mark 3. 

Grease an 8-inch square pan (or a rectangular pan with a similar size) with butter. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper, so that a couple of inches hang over the edge, and then grease the parchment paper with some butter too. 

Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Let the butter cook until the milk solids bubble up and then settle in the pan and caramelize. Cook until the milks solids are golden and the butter smells nutty, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. 

While the butter browns, chop the chocolate and place in a heat-proof, medium bowl. Once the butter is ready, pour the hot butter over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for one minute to melt. and then whisk together. While the butter mixture is still warm, whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, and salt until well blended. Sift in the cocoa powder and flour. Use a spatula to fold together the ingredients until just combined. 

Pour the batter into the parchment-lined pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges are set. Don't over-bake! Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For the frosting, use an electric mixer, or a whisk and a sporty hand, to whip together the butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Mix until well combined and the frosting has lightened in color. 

Frost the cooled brownies. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if you wish. Cut into squares and serve.

The brownies can be made 1 to 3 days in advance and the frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance.


* * * * * 
For those who read German, I'm thrilled to announce that I confronted my fear of the writing in the language by penning an article about food in it. A good appetite conquers all - grammar included. In issue 16 of the charming publication the Weekender, I write about Canadian food and share three Canadian recipes. You can find out more about the issue here.

Another good idea, beyond baking brownies, is to book a last-minute trip (or relatively last-minute when visa applications and irregularly sized passport photos are included). After baking the former, I booked the latter and in a few days I'm flying to India. When I get back, I look forward to sharing more tales of chai


old grains, new tricks: breakfast semolina porridge

Oatmeal and I have a good thing going. It is never a bad idea to have plenty of rolled oats on hand. It means that you're never too far away from homemade granola, a big pot of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal, or cookies spiked with chunks of chocolate.

I also know how to really make oatmeal. You might be wondering what could I possibly mean. Doesn't everyone know how to make oatmeal? Our world would be that much more delicious if the answer were yes.

Years ago I worked as a cook in Copenhagen. It was a weekend gig and, no surprise, I worked the brunch shift. Because Saturdays and Sundays I worked from 8-4, my weekend nights did suffer slightly (but hey! I was a student and one of the many perks of being a student is being able to treat weekdays like weekends). However, my weekends were that much more full of strong coffee (Scandinavian strong), cake, huge batches of freshly made hummus and individually deep-fried French fries now and then throughout the day.

It also taught me some good tricks. For example, an Icelandic co-worker taught me to put a knob of butter on a hot bowl of oatmeal. Brilliant.

Years later I become a loyal reader of Marion Cunningham's the Breakfast Book. She sure knew a trick or two about breakfast, but my favourite of hers is to toast rolled oats before cooking them (or adding them to a recipe for any kind of baked good). She suggests toasting them on a baking sheet in the oven until they crisp up and take some colour, but I tend to use the stovetop.

In my books butter is always golden, but I really love to melt some coconut oil (a generous tablespoon) in a pot, add rolled oats and let them cook for a minute or two before adding water and or milk.

That is just the first step for my oatmeal. The second step is dried ginger or maybe cardamom. The next is good maple syrup and the last is a mix of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and maybe another little knob of coconut oil.

Like I said, oatmeal and I have a good thing going. However, sometimes I need a break from even good things and I'm currently calling that break fine semolina porridge.

I was recently testing a recipe for a semolina tart with chocolate ganache. It made me buy fine semolina and I'm sure glad I did.

Semolina is quite common in desserts here in Germany and the recipe I was testing was an Italian tart, where the filling is cooked semolina dotted with lots of fresh lemon zest. A semolina tart may not sound that sexy, but the filling made me even more excited than the chocolate ganache. This, of course, got me thinking about breakfast. 

Since it is winter, pomegranates and honey and almonds are a winning combination, but do use any toppings that you like.

Breakfast Semolina Porridge

serves 1


1 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/4 cup fine semolina
zest of 1/2 a lemon (preferably organic)

to serve

a handful of pomegranate seeds
a small handful of almonds, chopped

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a light boil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and reduce the heat so the milk is at a simmer. Add the semolina slowly and use a whisk to stir it into the milk. Whisk continuously until the semolina is thick and the consistency of porridge, about 7-10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Serve right away, topped with honey, pomegranate seeds and whatever else you fancy.


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