Recipe: Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

updated Jan 21, 2020
Valentine's Day
Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting
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(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

A Valentine’s meal is not complete without a bit of chocolate. Here we end with chocolate in the form of a rich, fudgy brownie topped with a whipped peanut butter frosting and finished with flaked salt to tame the sweetness and round out all the flavors.

By the time we get to these brownies, we usually skip the plates and just grab a couple forks. The best way to end a special meal.

When it comes to brownies, I like them chewy, fudgy, and so rich with dark chocolate that all you need is a little piece to satisfy the inevitable desire for something sweet after a rich meal. These brownies use brown butter to give them a soft toffee flavor and contain both unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder to reinforce their richness.

I could have just let them be that, but I decided to add a rich peanut butter frosting. Watch out.

(Image credit: Running Press)

→ Buy Ashley’s Book! Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez

→ Read more of Ashley’s writing on her blog: Not Without Salt

Testing Notes

This delicious combination reminded me of a peanut butter cup — yum! I used a commercial peanut butter that contains sugar, which yielded a beautifully smooth, fluffy frosting that was quite sweet, but I think a natural peanut butter without sugar would be even better.

Christine, February 2015

Bittersweet Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting

Makes 12 to 15 brownies

Nutritional Info


For the brownies:

  • 3/4 cup

    (170 grams) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan

  • 3 ounces

    (90 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

  • 1 1/2 cups

    (300 grams) granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    instant espresso powder (optional)

  • 1/2 cup

    (40 grams) cocoa powder

  • 1/2 cup

    (70 grams) all-purpose flour

For the frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons

    (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup

    (100 grams) smooth peanut butter

  • 1/3 cup

    (40 grams) confectioners' sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    flake salt


  1. To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8-inch square pan. Line the pan with parchment paper so that a couple inches hang over the edge. Then grease the parchment.

  2. Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to cook until the milk solids bubble up and then settle into the pan and caramelize. Swirl the butter in the pan in order to see the color of the little bits on the bottom. As soon as the milk solids are golden and the butter smells nutty, about 3 to 5 minutes, remove the pan from the heat.

  3. Pour the browned butter into a medium bowl and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute to melt and then whisk together. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla while the butter mixture is still warm. Stir in the eggs, salt, and espresso powder until well blended.

  4. Over the bowl with the chocolate mixture, sift in the cocoa powder and flour. Fold the ingredients together until just combined using a spatula.

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle pulls out clean. Let cool to room temperature.

  1. To make the frosting, with an electric mixer, whip together the butter, peanut butter, and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Continue to mix until everything is well combined and the frosting has lightened in color. Frost the cooled brownies and finish with the flake salt.

  2. If the brownies are too fudgy to cut, refrigerate for 30 minutes and then cut. Let the brownies sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Brownies can be made 1 to 3 days in advance. The frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance.

Recipe Notes

That light, wrinkled, and crackly top is one of my favorite parts of a brownie. I realize, though, that some people like a more cake-like top. So, here’s a way to please both with this one recipe: If you like the crackly top, follow the recipe above; if you prefer your brownies without the crackly top, simply add the eggs when you add the sugar. (The crackly top comes when the sugar has a chance to melt before it bakes.)

Also, if you are partial to an even fudgier brownie, bake these brownies with 2 eggs instead of 3.

Reprinted with permission from Date Night In © 2014 Ashley Rodriguez, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.