Swirly Peanut Butter Brownies for Rachel Olzer
We all have a lucky charm – a totem – of some sort. A token, that favorite pair of socks, or special treat in your pocket…something that evokes good feelings, memories + has the power to perk us, power us + save the day. In this #HeroCookies series with Prokit, ‘Swirly Peanut Butter Brownies’ were fitting for cross-country racer, advocate, activist and co-founder of @pedal2thepeople – Rachel Olzer!
I know, I know. You’re here for these Chunky + Swirly Peanut Butter Brownies I made for Rachel Olzer. There are many recipes for swirled brownies out there. So before I give you the recipe, I want to share how these packable, decadent, completely addictive treats came to be. (Hint: we have Rachel to thank!)
One smart cookie
Cookies brought Rachel Olzer + I together in the beginning if I recall correctly. I created a deep dish skillet cookie, perfect for mountain biking with my friends at Backcountry.com . Rachel reached out to give me high fives about it. This incredible woman, whose powerful voice, potent work + badassery on a bike I deeply admired knew my cookies!
Making the connection with Rachel in the digital realm came at a time when I (like many) was swimming in the learning and unlearning of the year; when individuality and community began their redefinition. But connecting with Rachel reminded me that our humanness is a compass in it all. No matter who we are, where we come from, we all benefit from the universal grounding of cooking something nourishing with our own hands, and sharing it.
(I also have a hypothesis that regardless of our beautiful differences we’re also all bonded by a love of gooey chocolate and peanut butter but that is a different story.)
A lovely swirl
Rachel Olzer is the superhuman cycling hero you might now know yet. But there is no reason for you to live in the dark about this amazing woman any longer. Rachel is a math whiz, PhD candidate in biology, an absolute ripper, the co-founder of @pedal2thepeople, AND an avid cook. Rachel is one of the loudest advocates for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in cycling. She is infinitely generous in sharing her voice; reminding us that representation in cycling matters. And, she inspires us – as a cycling collective – to dismantle the structure of our sport and rebuild with inclusion at the core. Rachel’s life and work is a beautiful swirl of the analytical and the personal, grit and grace, strength and softness, hard-work, and a rock-solid internal compass.
“We have to act as though it is possible to change the world and we have to wake up every day ready to work together to do so.“-Rachel Olzer, Bicycling Magazine – July 2020
Changing the world, and specifically changing cycling, will require action and long-term commitment and action from every one of us. Rachel is paving an excellent way forward. Along the way, we’re gonna need a little self-care and plenty of snacks. And I’m pretty sure Rachel + I agree that these Swirly Peanut Butter Brownies can help with all that.
On cooking + crushing
Rachel and I could have talked all day about the virtues of burrata. And, the glory of cleaning up the kitchen on a Sunday just to mess it up again with cooking projects all weekend. We talked about the challenges we face as women and athletes to find a healthy balance between food and sport. And, how fulfilling it has been to learn those comforting foods that bring you joy are also the ultimate fuel.
Fuel for your passions, fuel for the pedals, fuel for your soul to strive too.
Rachel talked about intentionality in what she chooses to cook. As a biologist, both the science and the sensory pleasure appeal to her when she dons an apron. Making something special, fueling her body, mind, and emotions are all goals of her time in the kitchen. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with herself.
“Cooking gives me an opportunity to slow down and be with myself. I love to spend time really putting effort into something and with cooking, I can enjoy the fruits of my labor immediately after. Academia and bike racing are such long-term investments with a lot of delayed gratification.“– Rachel Olzer
Eventually, our conversation wound its way to cookies, and the way just a moment with a good one can rekindle our energy for the road ahead.
What’s your hero cookie? Or is it a cookie hero?
“Chocolate-y, with chunks of something, it sweeps me off of my feet and takes me for a sweet and delectable ride.”
If you close your eyes and imagine yourself eating this cookie, where are you?
“It’s the evening and I’m sitting in a luxurious bubble bath in my clawfoot tub. I’m consuming a cookie and a glass of wine, reflecting on a hard day’s work, whether that be a day of writing and working on my PhD research or a long, challenging day in the saddle. Either way, the opportunity to pause gives me hope that I can wake up and do it all again.“
So, these Swirly Peanut Butter Brownies
This was the cookie I hoped would give Rachel, and all of us, the stamina to wake up every damn day and DO IT.
The idea of a swirl makes me think of something unsturdy, and constantly moving. But in the case of Rachel, the swirl of her personal heritage, her curiosities and pastimes make her STRONGER. And so, we swirled together two simple but irresistible flavors to replicate the straightforward, but dynamic pieces of her life. So, I hope wherever these treats may travel, you’re fueled by the sturdiness of Rachel’s convictions AND the stoutness of the cookie itself.
Rachel is a highly technically capable person, so I wanted to add something challenging to her recipe. But, sometimes technical means time consuming, and none of us want to make a really time consuming cookie. So the technical challenge here is making two different doughs and swirling them together (which is easier than it looks.) Ultimately, this cookie comes together quickly and is highly rewarding so you can spend more of your energy getting after it, using your powers for GOOD.
At its core, this is a truly good cookie with simple aspirations. I left a few of the “traditional” details intact in this brownie/cookie bar. I didn’t shirk any opportunity to make these decadent. This one is not for the light of heart. It’s dark, rich, sweet, decadent, and good for your soul. This recipe makes a sizeable pan of brownies, so cut them into bite-sized squares, and share them widely with friends.
For those looking for a gluten-free recipes, feel free to substitute a cup-for-cup gluten free flour here. This recipe hasn’t been tested with a vegan butter. Let me know how this works for you if you tackle it! I don’t recommend replacing the eggs in this recipe.
In my opinion, the darkest chocolates (70% and above) are preferable here to offset the sweetness of the peanut butter dough. Also, I highly recommend the chunks of unsweetened chocolate and cacao nibs, because I love the surprises mixed into the swirl.
Rachel proclaims to be a straight-up peanut butter lover (I believe her!) But, if you’re peanut-averse you can swap in any nut butter you love. Regardless, you’ll have the best results if you stir your nut butter very well, mixing it together so that the oil is completely incorporated. The peanut butter dough won’t come together if you miss this step!
We’re eager to hear how you like this one, and even more eager to see where the power of this decadent little treat takes you. If you share on social media, don’t forget to tag @rachel.olzer and #HeroCookies!
Ride on, push on, and keep up the good work friends!
Rachel’s Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Makes 24 2” inch brownies
- 1 cup unsalted butter, divided at room temperature
- 4oz /113g semi sweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 cups evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup / 100 g unsweetened cacao powder or cocoa powder
- 1 cup / 160 g unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup cacao nibs (optional)
- ½ cup unsweetened chocolate or dark chocolate, chopped roughly (optional)
- 1 cup / 332 g creamy peanut butter (look for one without palm oil!)
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Spray a 9×13” pan with coconut oil spray or grease with a bit of butter. Line the pan with parchment paper and press the paper into the pan to adhere. Set the pan aside.
Fill a small saucepan with 2” water, and bring the water to simmer. Pick a heat proof bowl large enough to sit comfortably in the top of the saucepan, and place ¾ cup of the butter and the semi sweet chocolate in the bowl. Place the bowl on the saucepan and melt the butter and chocolate, stirring often and wiping the bottom of the bowl occasionally to prevent condensation from forming. This is called a “double boiler.” If you like, you can also melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave, in 30 second bursts stirring between each burst.
Once the chocolate and butter are melted completely, whisk in the evaporated cane juice, 1 tsp of the vanilla and the eggs until no streaks remain and the mixture is thick.
In another medium sized bowl, whisk together the cacao powder, flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the melted chocolate mixture, folding gently until no dry patches remain. The mixture will be VERY thick. Stir in the optional cacao nibs and unsweetened chocolate until well combined. Set this aside and prepare your peanut butter batter.
Melt the remaining butter and add the remaining 1 tsp vanilla extract, peanut butter and confectioners sugar. Stir until smooth and without dry patches or lumps.
Drop the chocolate batter by the fat spoonful over the prepared pan, top with fat spoonfuls of the peanut butter batter, and fill in the gaps with remaining chocolate batter.
Use the tip of a knife to drag stripes through the batter to swirl them together. Repeat, turning the pan as you wish, until the batters are adequately swirled.
Pop the pan into the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out without crumbs, roughly 30 minutes (mine took 33 minutes.)
Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares. Store brownies in the fridge in an airtight container, or freeze them for up to 3 months.