Last week was my friend Colin's birthday. His fiancé specified "no gifts" at his celebratory dinner, but I couldn't resist. Colin is one of my favorite people. Always quick with a kind word, he has the ability to hone in on the one person who doesn't know anyone at a party and ask them lots of polite, interested questions until they feel at home. Or slowly back away. He will help you move. He will come to your poetry reading/interpretive dance performance/bake sale. He is also very fun to drink with. (Unless he drinks too much, and in that case, he is fun to laugh at.) At the very least, the guy deserves some cookies.
I emailed his fiancé and asked about his dessert preferences and she quickly wrote back "anything in the chocolate family." For a second, I wondered if that was actually her dessert preference (kidding, Anne!), then I got started thinking about chocolate cookies.
Which seemed kind of boring. As did brownies. But I needed something transportable that could be brought to dinner and consumed much later in the evening. So I grabbed my trusty dessert bible: How to be a Domestic Goddess and remembered a fool-proof recipe for chocolate peanut butter squares that I made for a party a very long time ago. It blew my mind that I hadn't made the squares a second time. They are nothing fancy, just a thick layer of chocolate atop a thick layer of soft peanut buttery crust. But they are mind-numbingly good. Like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, but in bar cookie form. And without the chemicals.
And the kicker: you don't have to bake them. Seriously.
My only regret is that I didn't bring more to Colin's party. The Tupperware I used was not that big, so I only managed to squeeze about a dozen squares. After the ice cream cake was served, I put the container out on the table and they got gobbled up immediately. Colin, did you even get one?
Meanwhile, Dan and I still had half a pan left at home. We are trying to not be greedy and gross and are limiting ourselves to one square (okay, two) a day, but that is something akin to torture.
Chocolate peanut butter squares
From Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. Cut these very small when serving. Trust me.
(Makes about 48 very small squares)
For the peanut butter layer:
9-inch square pan, greased
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, scant
1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, scant
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (leave it out of the fridge for a bit so it's not rock hard)
For the chocolate layer:
7 oz. milk chocolate
4 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
In a large bowl, stir all the ingredients for the peanut butter layer together until smooth, with a mixer or with a spoon. Nigella says, "You will find, either way, that some of the dark brown sugar stays in nubbly but very small, lumps, but don't worry about that." Press the sandy mixture into the brownie pan and make the surface as even as possible.
To make the chocolate topping, melt the chocolates and butter together in a microwave (for a minute or two on medium) or over a double boiler over low heat. Spread the chocolate over the peanut butter layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator to set for an hour. When the chocolate has hardened, cut into small squares.