Life. And Brownies. [Pretzel & Peanut Crusted Cocoa Brownies]
Isn’t it odd? In a beautiful, bewildering, can’t-seem-to-wrap-your-head-around-it, how did I get here sort of way. The idea that one single day can bring about so many exciting opportunities, so many changes, exchanges, smiles, frustrations and successes never ceases to amaze me. Life is absurdly fascinating.
I woke this morning feeling the same as always; tired, unmotivated to emerge from my comfy cocoon for the sake of work and wanting to stay in bed and snuggle with Ryder a little longer. I walked the same streets I do every day. McLeod to Gladstone. To Bank. To Slater. I sat at my desk, like thousands of days before. I ate my lunch, leftover ginger scallion meatballs with chicken stock, heated in the office microwaves, as always. I walked to the store to buy a birthday card for a friend. I said hello to some usual suspects, the perpetually cheerful homeless gent who sets up camp on the corner of Albert and O’Connor Street, the disinterested security officers who sit, sharing in discourse about the hockey game and the Subway around the corner, my co-workers poking fun at each other. I met Mr GL on Gloucester St for a ride home. I walked in the door to be greeted by an excited Ryder, her low grumbles stifled by her favourite florescent orange ball crammed far too deep into her gullet. My work bag fell from my shoulder onto the same cherry red chair it always does.
And then my phone rang. A number I wasn’t familiar with. I sat and listened, for what felt like an hour, and received some potentially life changing news. Good news, I should say. But until next week, I must stay tight lipped about this news.
And so I’ve come here to share the things I am allowed to share. Brownies! Sweet and salty brownies, to be more precise.
As you know, I’m not one for sweets. But somehow, once a pinch of salt has been added to the mix, I turn into a mad woman, secretly hogging all the sweets to myself, scavenging for any crumbs that, god forbid, may have fallen from my mouth to the table below. And these Pretzel & Peanut Crusted Cocoa Brownies are no laughing matter. They are intensely cocoa-y, rich and dense. The crunchy, nutty, salty topping only accentuating the incredible chocolatey flavour. I could have easily devoured all 12 of them in one fell swoop…. but I took a deep breath, composed myself and resisted their sexy, salty advances. I wish you all the luck in the world doing the same thing. Truly. It is a feat of strength.
Pretzel & Peanut Crusted Cocoa Brownies
Brownies adapted from Smitten Kitchen, topping is my own
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (flaky sea salt works wonderfully here)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pretzels
1/2 cup salt roasted peanuts
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan (I used an11 x 7 x 2 inch Rectangular Pan, which worked, but the brownies are a touch thin) with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
In a large heat-proof bowl, add the butter, sugar and cocoa powder. Place the bowl over a barely simmering pot of water on the stove (the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the boiling water so try to use a smaller pot + bigger bowl combo). Let the butter melt and stir the cocoa and sugar into it slowly. Once everything is melted, remove from the heat and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon. It’ll still be quite gritty at this point. Let it cool until just warm (not hot - don’t want to cook the eggs!)
While you’re waiting for the cocoa mixture to cool, toss the pretzels and peanuts into a plastic bag and smash with a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet. Leave some larger pieces of pretzel as they give a nice texture to the finished product. Pour into a medium sized bowl and add the peanut butter. Stir slowly until everything has a light coating of peanut butter.
Back to the brownies; Add the vanilla and salt and one egg. Mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon. Add the second egg and mix well.
Add the flour to the bowl and stir until no flour-pockets can be seen. Beat with a wooden spoon/spatula for another minute to get everything really smooth and uniform.
Pour batter into prepared pan and top with salty mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out clean.
Let cool completely before cutting into 2” squares.