Back in the day, there was a restaurant in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle called Madame K’s. It was a pizza place in an old building that had once been a brothel: the walls were dark red and feather boas were everywhere, the waitstaff was flirty in a fun way and the menu was full of ribald references. I loved that place and we went often. (Let’s have a moment for the Artie-Parmie Pie.) How funny that, in spite of the flamboyant atmosphere and delicious pizza, my fondest memory of Madame K’s was dessert. I mean, who goes to a pizza place and eats dessert? I remember being honestly confused when I found out that was even a possibility. But you needed to get dessert at Madame K’s, because it was an underdone chocolate chip cookie, still warm from the oven, in a little skillet. With ice cream on top. It was called the Orgasm, and it was really good. When Madame K’s closed back in 2010, headlines like this underscored just how wonderful and popular the dessert was. I still pine for that skillet.
And so, it was time to make my own, a tribute to my memories of a pizza parlor dessert. I haven’t perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe yet, but I make a mean brownie, so I chose that as a base. Then came the peanut butter swirl, made purposefully with brown sugar so it would have a little texture, just enough to make you sit up straight and take notice. These peanut butter swirl skillet brownies are everything: warm, gooey, chocolaty, salty, sweet and chewy around the edges. Both the peanut butter swirl and the centermost bites of brownie are reminiscent of fudge. Put a little ice cream on the top so it melts down over the side– there are no words. You will be too busy eating to need words. Even the following day, when they have cooled to room temperature, these are some seriously tasty brownies. The skillet gives them a little extra something, I can’t quite put my finger on it, perhaps it’s just the fun presentation? But honestly, in addition to aesthetics, the edges are perfect, and the large surface area makes the brownies just thin enough to be gooey in the middle, but not unpleasantly so. The chocolate chips are a cherry on the top of this hot fudge sundae– ooh! they would be so good as part of a sundae. Peanut butter chips would work really well, too, in addition to or in place of the chocolate chips.
These are crowd pleasers, for sure. Who doesn’t love a good brownie? It’s a great recipe to make with kids, as the stirring of the peanut butter swirl ingredients and dolloping of that mixture are important but simple (and entertaining) steps. Next time you need a quick and easy treat that is as delicious as it is fun, have this recipe handy. With a nod to memories of Madame K’s iconic dessert, we can make something just as good in our own kitchens.
Peanut Butter Swirl Skillet Brownies
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 c. canola or grapeseed oil
- 3/4 c. baking cocoa
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c. flour
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)
- vanilla ice cream to serve
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a seasoned 12″ cast iron skillet*.
In a 3 qt. saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the oil, cocoa, salt and sugar and stir until smooth. If the mixture is still warm, let it cool to room temperature, then add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each before adding another. Stir in the vanilla and flour. Pour the batter into your skillet and spread out to the sides.
In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and brown sugar until smooth. Dollop the peanut butter mixture over the top of the brownie batter, about 8-10 dollops spaced around the edge and in the middle. Use a knife (or the spoon, really) to swirl the peanut butter through the brownie batter. It’s nice to leave some nice big pockets of peanut butter, so take care not to swirl too much and mix it into the brownies. Sprinkle the top with chocolate chips, if using. Bake for 20 mins., no more, and remove the skillet carefully from the oven. Serve wedges of molten brownie (be careful!) with ice cream, or cool to room temperature and serve as you would any other brownie. This recipe makes 16 generous or 24 small brownies.
*If you don’t have a skillet, you can bake the brownies in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Because they will be thicker, I would recommend cooking for 25 mins.