An easy & secretly skinny recipe for any occasion!
Our senior year of high school, my best friend and I created a Big City Adventure tradition. We hopped on BART (the Bay Area’s “subway” system), exited at Powell Street for lunch in the Westfield Mall’s trendy basement food court, and eventually emerged into the brisk windy air to walk 2 miles through Chinatown and Little Italy to the shoreline.
On our last visit, we added a stop at the Ferry Building to stare at the gently rolling waves and avoid the viciously persistent seagulls. She shared stories about her year abroad in Korea while we watched white sailboats bobbing off in the distance, and as the sun slowly drifted in the sky, sending long shadows onto our rough wooden bench, we stood and strolled past the long lines of piers, tourists, and souvenir stalls.
As the docks thinned, we climbed the steep San Francisco hills to Ghirardelli Square. Although we normally skipped straight by in favor of fresh sushi in Japantown, we contemplated joining the queue and spoiling our appetites with a towering ice cream brownie sundae… Until we spotted the line completely circling around the Original Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory.
Instead, we wandered into the spacious courtyard, pausing at Kara’s Cupcakes and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace, before meandering into their smaller out-of-the-way ice cream parlor. Between our two incredibly indecisive personalities, we read through the menu for 15 minutes, during which time an employee took pity on us and handed us samples of their individually wrapped caramel-filled dark chocolate squares, before we realized that our traditional sushi (and crêpes) still sounded more appealing than frozen treats on that chilly day.
As we ambled back to BART after dinner, we both agreed—we cherished the comfort and predictability of our classic SF trip but really enjoyed the additional Ghirardelli twist.
Similar to our yearly city adventure, these brownies provide the comforting fudginess you crave but contain a fun new feature: a double dose of peanut butter! Each rich chocolaty slice starts with a nutty swirl on top, and as you bite into its surface, little morsels of chopped peanut butter cups appear as a sweet and decadent surprise.
The key to fudgy brownies begins with the flour. As a dry ingredient, it detracts from the batter’s moisture, but you still need some to provide structure and chew. Less flour leads to moister, fudgier brownies. After a few tries, I found that 1 cup created the perfect balance of structure and fudginess.
The second secret to fudgy brownies lies in the baking. Just like with meat, you want to bake the brownies low and slow! A lower temperature—300°F, instead of the typical 350°F—allows the sides to slowly firm up without turning crispy and crunchy, while giving the center just enough time to set.
The center of the pan will not cook all the way through in the oven! After pulling them out, the heat trapped in the surrounding brownie batter continues to cook the center bit while the pan cools on a wire rack. Therefore, I highly suggest erring on the underdone side to ensure the brownies turn out extra fudgy.
As the star of the show, the peanut butter resides both inside and on top of the brownies. I chopped up miniature peanut butter cups to fold into the batter. I prefer a fairly small cut—not microscopic, but not gigantic chunks either that only emerge once in the entire slice and leave every other bite barren. Feel free to dice yours however you like!
I swirled lines of peanut butter on top for a pretty, polished look. As my first time attempting the technique, they turned out fairly nicely! I snipped off the corner of a Ziploc baggie for piping, and I really recommend cutting a medium-sized hole. I sliced my bag fairly small and layered multiple skinny lines on top of each other to create each fat one, but the skinny lines started to drift apart after baking as I sliced the brownies into squares. So do as I say, not as I do, and pipe fatter lines of peanut butter!
Each decadent brownie bursts with dark chocolaty flavor, followed by sweet swirls and nibbles of creamy peanut butter. Its soft, gooey texture dissolves on your tongue, tempting your taste buds to sneak a second luscious square. Go ahead; give in! Despite their rich flavor, these healthier brownies are secretly skinny, low fat, and low calorie. How’s that for another surprise?
As for my friend and me, we may skip the Ghirardelli sundaes on our next SF trip if I pack a batch of these Fudgy Double Peanut Butter Brownies for us instead!