One-Bowl Brownies with Pretzels and Peanut Butter
November 26, 2020
I have a weakness for chocolate and peanut butter. It’s one of those classic flavor combinations that I pretty much never get tired of. And I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy them together that are delicious and easy. These one-bowl brownies do the trick. They combine fudgy chocolate with peanut butter and some pretzels on top, which adds a fun presentation.
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I have some strong opinions when it comes to brownies: First, fudgy is the only way to go. I am just not a fan of cakey brownies. Why not have chocolate cake instead? Feel free to try to change my view! But I am a fudgy brownies lover through and through.
Second, anything goes when it comes to mix-ins and toppings. I am not a traditionalist at all on brownie flavors. Each different variation creates a unique dessert full of fun surprises. In this recipe, I went fairly classic, but the pretzels add a small twist (pun definitely intended).
What You Need to Get Started
- Fridge: Butter, Eggs, Milk
- Pantry: Vegetable oil, Dark chocolate bars, Brown sugar, Sugar, Flour, Peanut butter, Confectioner’s sugar, Pretzels
- Spice Rack: Salt, Espresso powder, Vanilla extract
- Equipment: Mixing bowl, Silicone spatula, 8×8 Baking pan, Parchment paper, Trivet
Let’s Make One-Bowl Brownies
To get started, grab your mixing bowl. I promise I only used one. No small bowls, no extra dishes, just the one. Sure, there are some utensils, but this is truly a one-bowl brownie recipe. I don’t even try to cheat by making you wash it between steps.
Make sure you choose wisely. Go for a good quality mixing bowl that is microwave save and fairly large. This recipe comes together pretty quickly, so go ahead and preheat your oven and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Then add a half a stick of butter to your bowl. This is a pretty forgiving recipe at this point, so don’t worry too much about the temperature of the butter. If it’s colder, it just may take a little bit longer to melt.
Same goes for the chocolate pieces. There’s no need to finely chop these or even break them on the provided lines. Just quickly break them apart and toss them in the bowl. But you do want to use a nice dark chocolate, about 70-80%. I used Wegmans chocolate bars.
Add the oil as well, then microwave in thirty-second increments. After each one, grab your silicone spatula and stir. Eventually, you will find that the butter and chocolate are melted, and everything will start to combine into a smooth chocolate puddle.
At that point, add in the sugars and salt, and stir those in too. I used both brown and white sugars here. The white provides a straight sweet flavor, but it also melts and crystallizes in the oven, giving the brownies that signature flaky top.
The brown sugar adds additional moisture, because it’s made with molasses. This helps contribute to these brownies being extra fudgy and chewy. You already know how I feel about fudgy brownies, and the brown sugar has an important job here.
Adding the salt here helps to incorporate it into the liquid ingredients, which will save you from using an extra bowl just to mix up some dry ingredients.
Next, add in the eggs, vanilla extract and espresso powder. The vanilla and espresso both help add flavor to the chocolate brownies. I know it sometimes seems backwards to add vanilla and coffee flavors, but they really help accentuate the chocolate flavor and make it richer.
When you add the eggs, use your spatula if it’s stiff, or a fork to break up the yolks before mixing them into the rest of the chocolate. Then, stir it all together until everything is fully incorporated and very smooth.
Finally, add in the flour. There isn’t a ton in this recipe, just enough to hold everything together. More flour would make the texture of these more airy and cakey, so limiting that amount makes the gooey chocolate the star.
Use your silicone spatula to fold the flour into the chocolate mixture, making sure you scrape down the sides and get everything combined. There’s no need to go too crazy with mixing, just make sure there are no big dry pockets. Small lumps are fine.
Transfer the brownie batter to the prepared baking pan, using the spatula to help clean it all out of the bowl. Don’t go too crazy over it though. If there’s a little bit left, it won’t hurt anything. Give the pan a gentle shake to help even it all out. You can also use the spatula to spread the batter if needed.
In the empty batter bowl, add the remaining butter and the peanut butter. I decided to use crunchy peanut butter here because I like the extra texture that the peanut pieces add. If you prefer, you can use creamy instead. Microwave the mixture for 30 seconds increments until the butter is melted. Then, stir to combine the two together.
Add in the confectioner’s sugar, stirring as you go. If it feels like it’s starting to get too thick or difficult to stir, add in a little bit of milk at a time. The texture at the end should be a consistency similar to the brownie batter so they mix together well.
Once combined, add spoonfuls of the peanut butter mix on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Then, grab a butter knife and use that to create swirls by pulling the chocolate through the peanut butter, and the peanut butter through the chocolate.
You can create a nice looking design by moving the knife in a snake pattern across the length of the pan. However, any design is fine since you’ll be adding the pretzels on top later. The longer you swirl, the more the peanut butter will be incorporated.
You should have a little bit of extra chocolate left over. You can add this on top for an extra little melty treat. Chop it up into small pieces and distribute it evenly over the top. If you want to skip this step, that’s fine too. I am always an advocate of just eating chocolate.
Bake the brownies for 40-45 minutes. When they are done, they may still have a little bit of a jiggle, but it will be uniform, with the whole pan moving together. If the center moves separately, it needs more time.
A toothpick may never come out completely clean because of the melted chocolate, but double check that’s all you are seeing. If there’s liquidy batter, it’s not quite done.
Take the brownies out of the oven, but leave it on. Arrange the pretzel pieces on top, giving each one a gentle push into the brownie. You want to use the hot melted chocolate to help them stick on top. Place the pan back in the oven for an additional five minutes. This will help the pretzels hang on to the brownies even more.
Allow the brownies to cool in the pan on a trivet completely before cutting. If you cut into these too early, they will not hold their shape. If you want to serve them warm, just throw a scoop of ice cream on the pan and some extra spoons for more of a skillet brownie experience.
Looking for an ooey gooey treat? These super fudgy brownies are topped with a peanut butter swirl and pretzel pieces to add a salty crunch to rich chocolate!
How to Serve Peanut Butter Brownies
If you are cutting the brownies, use the parchment paper to remove them from the pan and place on a flat surface. Then cut using a sharp knife. If the pretzel pieces overlap your cut lines, you may need to saw them with a serrated knife first, or slide them to one side or the other.
These brownies will last for a couple days at room temperature in a sealed container. However, the pretzels will get stale first. If you want to prepare them ahead of time, leave the pretzels off until just before serving.
Add these to a dessert or cookie tray at a party, or serve warmed up with a scoop of ice cream. Vanilla or coffee ice cream both work well, or anything with peanut butter. Include some other fun treats in your dessert spread like cream cheese oatmeal cookie sandwiches, earl grey lemon bars, and apple cider caramel stuffed snickerdoodles.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- If you have extra chocolate bars, chop them into chunks for a different texture in some mini skillet cookies.
- Espresso powder adds flavor to all kinds of chocolate treats, like vegan zucchini muffins.
- I like using vegetable oil for a moist crumb in breads. Try it in a butternut squash cornbread.
If you’re looking for another fun brownie recipe, try rocky road black bean brownies!
One-Bowl Brownies with Pretzels and Peanut Butter
- 6 Tbsp Butter divided
- ¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 9 oz Dark Chocolate Bars broken into pieces, 1 oz set aside
- ½ Cup Brown Sugar
- ½ Cup Sugar
- ½ tsp Salt
- 3 Eggs
- ½ tsp Espresso Powder
- ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
- ⅔ Cup All-Purpose Flour
- ½ Cup Peanut Butter
- ½ Cup Confectioner's Sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp Milk
- 6-12 Hard Pretzels broken into large pieces
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle, and line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the oil, chocolate pieces, and 4 ounces of the butter. Microwave in 30 second increments until the chocolate is melted, stirring after each increment.
- Stir until smooth. Then stir in both sugars and the salt. Add in the eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla. Stir until everything is fully incorporated.
- Using a silicone spatula, fold in the flour. Continue mixing until the flour is just incorporated, and there are no dry pockets. Some lumps are okay.
- Transfer the brownies batter to the prepared pan, scraping all the excess into the pan with a silicone spatula. Shake the pan gently to distribute the batter evenly.
- In the same bowl, add the remaining 2 ounces of butter and the peanut butter. Microwave in 30 second increments until the butter is melted.
- Stir to combine, and then add in the confectioner's sugar, fully incorporating it. Add small amounts of milk as needed until the mixture is smooth, but about as thick as the brownie batter.
- Add the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Then use a butter knife to swirl it around thoroughly. Chop the remaining chocolate into small pieces, and sprinkle on top of the brownies evenly.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until there is only a slight, uniform jiggle, and a toothpick comes out with only melted chocolate. Arrange the pretzel pieces on top, gently pressing each one and then continue baking for 5 more minutes.
- Allow the finished brownies to cool completely in the pan on a trivet. Then use the parchment paper to lift them out of the pan, and cut into 16 squares. You may need to work around some of the pretzels, or cut them first using a serrated knife.
- Serve the brownies room temperature or warmed slightly in the microwave, or as part of a brownie sundae. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.
- Make-ahead tip: The brownies will keep longer than the pretzels, which may begin to get stale. If you won't be serving these immediately bake the extra five minutes without pretzels. Then place them on top just before serving. The brownies without the pretzels on top can be stored at room temperature for 4-5 days.
- For the best results and fudgiest brownies, use dark chocolate bars, between 70-80% cacao. The best pretzels are hard and the standard knotted pretzel shape, and about 2-3 inches wide. However, feel free to experiment with different shapes and sizes as desired.