Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Cooking the Books #1

Cooking the Books is a new meme I've created so I can showcase some recipes found in fiction books. I read a lot of cozy mysteries that feature recipes at the end of the book, and tie-in recipes are becoming more common (like Maggie Stiefvater's November Cakes or Jessica Verday's Snickerdoodles). But these recipes rarely come with images and finding out what they taste like can be tricky so I've created a space to share my views with you!

The first recipe I tried was the Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies from Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates (my review is here). The brownies are mentioned several times in the book, most frequently referred to as Katie's favourite treat. The following passage was so mouthwatering I needed to bake these:
"I needed to digest the conversation with my parents and figured I might as well digest some comfort food, too. The salad had been healthy to an almost holy degree, and now it was time for some sweet goodness. First I stirred up some simple brownies using the old trick of adding boiling water to the batter to make them extra moist. Then came the best part: chunky peanut butter mixed with soft butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla and dolloped on top of the brownie batter. I drew a knife through the combination to create a chunky marbled effect and popped the pan into a hot oven." ~ pages 125-6

These were really fun to make, especially as my two-year-old niece helped :) The recipe is clear and easy to follow, with all the measurements in US cups and tablespoons. With my niece's help it took us about 45 minutes to prepare pre-baking (chances are you could easily halve that time if you don't have a toddler erm helping) and then a further 35-40 minutes to bake.

I stuck to the recipe throughout as my go-to brownie recipe doesn't have any water added so I didn't want to mess with things. You could probably convert it from US cups but to be honest it's not too hard to find a set (I have two) and they are a lot easier to use, especially when cooking with kids.

The only part of the recipe I would change is to make the peanut swirl topping after the brownie mix is made and in the pan as it thickened considerably when making it first. I was able to thin it a little by placing the mixing bowl into a larger bowl of hot water (essentially how you melt chocolate), but when you have a toddler anxious to see the results of their cooking you have to work fast so mine went on lumpy.

The final result:

And the taste? I really enjoyed them. The brownie is dense and has a rich, dark chocolate-y taste while the peanut topping adds a hit of sweetness and contrast. They were also approved by my niece who said they were "nom noms" :) The only person who wasn't overkeen was my brother-in-law but he isn't a big fan of peanut butter.

If you aren't a fan of nuts in your brownies, you may not like using crunchy peanut butter for the swirl. Given that the peanut layer puffs up and bakes onto the brownies, you could probably substitute smooth peanut butter with no problems. We don't often have chunky peanut butter at home so chances are I'll try this out at some point.

For people with food intolerances - these are dairy free, but do contain gluten, eggs and nuts.


  1. This is such a great idea! I'm not a big fan of peanut butter or nuts in general but I love brownies. It looks yummy!

    1. Thanks Vicky! I'll have to try out some nut-free recipes soon. I don't mind peanut butter but I'm kinda fussy about how and where I have it.

  2. I've never tried any recipes found in any fiction books. But this looks interesting...

    1. I've tried a few and I'm hoping to try and share some more on the blog :)

      Thanks for stopping by Nash!

  3. This brownie recipes sounds very good..! I have this book on my to be read shelf, I thought it sounded very cute!

    1. It's a really fun cute read. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it, and the brownie recipe is really great too :)

      Thanks for stopping by Melissa!

  4. This is a great post. Love chocolate and peanut butter. Yummers!
    I have made several things from the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke. Fluke came out with an entire recipe book which is a collection from the series.

    1. Chocolate and peanut butter together is usually an awesome combo :) The Hannah Swensen books are the first ones that got me trying out recipes! I finally got a copy of the cookbook so I wasn't doing weird kitchen acrobatics to try and keep my books out of the food lol

      Thanks for stopping by!


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