This morning in sunny, autumnal Melbourne, I sat at my desk with a lovely sun-streaked view of the Shrine and surrounding gardens, and thought about the following: it’s Friday, thanks the heavens. It’s Good Friday for the Greek side of my fam, which means for them eating nothing except legumes, vegetables and olive oil – doable, although not a terribly uplifting range of foods on a magnificent day such as this. It’s also the day on which my friend and colleague, Robyn the Amazing Marathon Lady, embarks with her team on the Oxfam walk, with the goal of finishing in less than 24 hours.
And yet with all of the admiration I have for Robyn and the Orthodox Easter fasters, I couldn’t seem to shake off another thought: that of the super delicious, giant peanut butter and dark chocolate brownie I had made a few weeks ago. I am a terrible person, I hear you thinking as you read about the cruel inner workings of my mind. There is the strong possibility of being struck by lightning for my thoughts of chocolate and peanut butter on this very day of others eating cold gruel and the like; most unholy thoughts of a marriage of happy ingredients to form one enormously tasty block of sin. Disgraceful. In an unashamed quest for redemption, I will say that on the day of bake-age, I had been working away on a maths (yes, maths) manuscript at home. It was gloomy outside. I was feeling sad for a myriad of reasons, mostly to do with the maths manuscript factor. And the thought of odds and sods of dark chocolate and the half tub of good-quality peanut butter wasting away in my kitchen cupboard was gnawing at my conscience. It was either I ate them in a frenzied Augustus Gloop kinda way, or I therapeutically merged them into some form of goodness, so that their little chocolate and peanut souls could live on. I chose therapy, and was rewarded with a level of deliciousness that made my heart and tummy blissfully content and the maths disappear into Never Neverland. And I did share the goods … eventually.
250 g butter, at room temperature
280 g good-quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
1 ¾ cups castor sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup good-quality, smooth peanut butter
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup plain flour
Reese’s Pieces or peanut butter M&Ms, to decorate (optional)
Preheat your oven to . Grease a cake tin (I use a rectangular-shaped one, as you can tell from the pic) and cover it completely with foil, ensuring you push the foil right into the corners. Line it with baking paper. I tend to give this a light coating of butter or cooking spray, for good measure.
Add the butter and about 200 g of the chocolate to a medium-sized saucepan over very low heat, gently stirring until they have completely melted. Set the pan aside and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
Once cooled, add the sugar and vanilla to the mixture and use a balloon whisk to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one has been added.
Add the peanut butter and salt. You may need a wooden spoon to mix at this point, as the mixture will become quite thick. Taste and add more peanut butter if you wish. If you do, I would also add a little more salt.
Add the flour and stir gently to combine, being careful not to overmix. Tip the chocolate mixture into the prepared tray and give it a bit of a shake to even out the mixture. Top with Reese’s Pieces, M&Ms or any other chocolatey bits you might have in your cupboard or leftover from Easter. Place in the oven and cook for about 40–45 minutes.
Now this is tricky, because judging the readiness of brownies is a fine art, I have learnt. I check by using a skewer at around the 35–40 minute mark. For brownies, the skewer shouldn’t come out clean. This would mean it’s overcooked. and you really want that nice fudgy centre to them. It also shouldn’t be completely set if you give the tray a shake. A little wobble is perfect. I like to see fudgy crumbs, but not wet batter, which would mean it needs more time.
It will be hard, but do give this amazingness a chance to cool before cutting and serving. I find it lasts a few days, even a week, if stored in the fridge in a sealed container.
Christos Anesti to all of my Orthodox family and friends, and happy hiking Robyn, you amazing person!