I made these brownies for a fourth of July party, and really, it was more fitting than I even intended at the the time. (At the time, my only thought process was: "I need a way to spice up these box brownies. What sounds good? Oh, peanut butter. Duh.) I mean, peanut butter and jelly and pretzels are about as all-American as you can get when it comes to snack foods, right? Well I can't speak for you, but in my America they certainly are.
Also, being that I was baking for a group of people whose tastes were mostly unknown to me, I figured that peanut butter, jelly, and pretzels were all safe bets that people would probably like. It's usually best to save curve-balls like marzipan or lemon pistachio or ... I don't know, basil buttercream (before you ask: yes, that has happened, and it was awesome) for a more tenured audience.
Peanut butter, jelly, and pretzels, though? Classics. If you don't like them, I'm sorry to say I might have to question whether you're a true American. (Not really. But kind of.)
So you know Emerald, the brand of nut mixes? Have you encountered their new flavor, peanut butter and jelly? If you haven't...you should get on that. They are seriously tasty. I may or may not pop a few every time I set foot in the pantry. They're kind of a current obsession of mine. And, I discovered, they blend into a seriously tasty nut butter, too. So, to make slam-dunk recipe even more slam-dunk-able, I decided to use that for the swirl instead of plain (boring, predictable) peanut butter.
My second alteration was to pulverize the pretzels and mix them into the swirl instead of laying them on top. The coating on the jelly nuts gives the butter a sweet crunch, and my thought was to complement that with the salty crunch of pretzel crumbs.
The PB&J flavor is subtle - the nut butter itself doesn't scream PB&J so much as PB&sweet&yum, so the effect is naturally even more subtle when the flavors start competing with rich chocolate and salty pretzel - but the jelly undertones add enough fruity sweetness to alert your taste buds that what they're tasting is just on the gourmet side of classic. That is, if you're not too busy sighing happily and sinking your teeth into the next bite.
PB&J Pretzel Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Joy the Baker
For the Brownies:
1 box brownie mix of your choice
For the Peanut Butter Pretzel Swirl:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of pretzels, pulverized in a food processor to fine crumbs
*For PB&J effect, use Emerald's Peanut Butter and Jelly mix, blended in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste.
To make the peanut butter swirl, whisk together peanut butter, melted butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Add in pulverized pretzels.
Pour the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter and use a butter knife to swirl the two together.
Bake according to box instructions. Let cool for about 30 minutes before slicing and enjoying.