Science says much about how the mind works, like how the most creative people tend to stay up late. And that’s me. Often I find myself struggling to sleep as idea after idea flows through my mind when I lay down.
And that’s how this recipe came to me. Well, not this recipe exactly — that came later — but a piece of it.
It started with candymaking — chocolates to be precise. And then the thought of what to fill them, to which I turned to a trusted recipe.
Peanut butter mousse.
And I couldn’t let all that peanut butter mousse go to waste. It would be a sin.
So then I started thinking of ways to use the excess. Despite having little cream cheese in the mixture, the mousse could hold up in a concoction similar to nonbake cheesecake. Then, and this really shouldn’t surprise frequent readers by now, I decided to pair it with two of my other favorite desserts — brownies and ganache.
You’ve likely had a similar dessert before. But this stands out because of the peanut butter mousse, which is so light and fluffy and yet strongly peanut butter-flavored that I often find myself wanting to eat spoonful after spoonful without any restraint. Hell, it’s outright addictive. Paired with the two chocolates, the mousse still holds its own.
But fair warning: It is decadent, so I recommend cutting small slices (small enough to produce 12-16 per brownie).
Prep time: 30 minutes. Cook time: 30 minutes. Serves: 12-16
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups whipped cream (3/4 cup to 1 cup heavy cream — it doesn’t have to be exact)
2 oz cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
Brownie mix (follow box instructions) or Alton Brown’s recipe
Ganache (6 oz chocolate, 4 oz heavy cream)
Start by mixing your brownie batter, following either the directions on a box mix or this recipe by Alton Brown (which I can vouch is totally amazing). You’ll want to cook it in a 9-inch springform pan, which you will use later for the assembly. Make sure you grease the sides well so the brownie comes out easily. I use the Pam baking spray, which also coats with flour.
Bake your brownie according to the directions provided. Remove it from the spring form, which you should wash for later, and let cool at least two hours.
While the brownie is baking, you should have enough time to make the ganache. Place your chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl. In a small pan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Immediately pour it over the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then whisk until the mixture is a smooth, glossy dark chocolate. Refrigerate about 1-2 hours or until the ganache thickens some but still is pourable.
You also can make the mousse while the brownie is cooking and refrigerate it, or wait until just before assembly so it’s still easily spreadable. In a stand mixer, start by creating whipped cream — whipping heavy cream on high until it forms soft peaks. Refrigerate.
Using the same bowl, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until the two are fully incorporated and smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix on medium high until light and fluffy.
Remove the bowl from the stand and gently fold in the whipped cream by churning it into the peanut butter mixture with a spatula. This will take a little work but the important thing is a consistent but gentle stir that incorporates it evenly while maintaining the airiness of the whipped cream. The end result should be a smooth, fluffy and lightly colored mousse.
Prepare for assembly by lightly greasing the springform or covering the sides with parchment (my preference). Place the brownie on the bottom then scoop the peanut butter mousse on top of it and smooth out with a spatula. Pour the ganache on top of that, smoothing if necessary by gently rapping the pan on the counter.
Refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to serve. If freezing, let defrost before serving. Lastly, for decoration, chop up or smash some M&Ms and spinkle them along the edges.
Cut and serve.