Peanut butter brownies pack protein punch

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I almost missed it. A month-long recognition and celebration of Arachis hypogaea and all the good things it provides to our world. What hullabaloo am I talking about? March is National Peanut Month.

Botanically speaking, peanuts are not really nuts, but legumes. They belong to the same family as peas, chickpeas, lentils and other beans. And like other legumes, peanuts grow on bushes. They differ, though, in that their pods grow down into the soil and develop underground.

But culinarily speaking, peanuts are referred to as nuts, since they are consumed in similar ways to tree nuts such as almonds and walnuts. Ground into nut butters, roasted and salted for a savory snack, or baked into desserts, peanuts go where no lentil ever will.

In the southern parts of the U.S., peanuts are sometimes referred to as “goobers,” a variation of the African word for peanut, “nguba.” It is thought that the boats that brought African slaves to the New World also brought peanuts and introduced them to the region.

When I was growing up, there was a peanut butter product called “Goober Grape,” which was peanut butter and grape jelly packed in alternating stripes in a glass jar. In addition to looking so pretty sitting on a shelf, Goober Grape was delicious when eaten straight out of the jar. I’d enjoy it with a spoon when my mom wasn’t looking. Sorry, mom!

Unbeknownst to me, I was getting some good protein with each surreptitious spoonful. Peanuts contain more protein per ounce than any other nut. One cup of peanuts contains 38 grams of protein, which is slightly more than a 4-ounce broiled top sirloin beef steak.

Since my daughter and younger son both play sports, they are always on the lookout for portable snacks with protein to tide them over after practice and games. They were thrilled to find out that the 1.6-ounce plastic sleeves of peanuts that I buy at Costco, and that are available at every gas station and grocery store checkout stand, have 12 grams of protein. That’s a power-packed snack.

This week’s recipe, from the Smitten Kitchen website, is a delicious celebration of our star of the month, peanuts. It is a heady swirl of chocolate brownie and peanut butter that bakes up into a dense, peanutty brownie that has protein written all over it. Yes, I’m here to help you.

The original recipe calls for a 30-minute baking time, but I found my batch needed longer and adjusted the recipe accordingly. I enjoyed these even more the next morning with a hot cup of coffee. Protein and coffee? That’s something to celebrate.


Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (190 grams) smooth peanut butter
  • 2/3 (135 grams) cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extra
  • A few pinches of flaky or coarse sea salt

Chocolate Brownie batter:

  • 3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky or heaped 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
  • 2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8×8 square baking pan with aluminum foil and coat the bottom and sides with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside pan.

To make the peanut butter batter, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl until smooth.

For the brownie batter, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain in a double boiler on the stovetop or in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Add sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour.

Spread a thin layer of brownie batter in bottom of prepared baking pan. Drop spoon-fulls of peanut butter batter all over. Dollop remaining brownie batter in pan, between the peanut butter batter. Use a butter knife to swirl the batters together. Top batter with chocolate chips.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

 

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Betty Williams