PB&A Brownies

P is for peanut, B is for butter…as for A, it is for adzuki. It may seem like an uncertain rendez-vous for the two, but peanut butter is nothing new in an oriental pantry. Just think peanut-coconut dipping sauces and peanut-butter-stuffed glutinous rice balls simmered in ginger muscovado tea. I love peanut butter in both its savoury and sweet state, and certainly when it’s used in a traditional manner, swirled up to make something a little special.

My taste buds have an amazing memory, one that whimsically decides to sweep me into gastronomic nostalgia in the most peculiar moments. My old man, born and raised in Keelung the northern extreme of Taiwan, knows the Miao Koh (temple-front) night market like an eight-year-old knows his monkey bars. Though over the years the place has gotten exponentially crowded with foodies from around the world, Pa can still pick out from the many impostors the true, vintage originals. One of which would definitely be the red bean peanut butter pao-pao ice – essentially syrupy red beans and natural PB whipped by hand with finely shaved ice into a sorbet…made to order.

It’s sort of a family legacy. My Pa‘s Pa ate at that stand. My Pa ate (and still eats) at that stand, and I, who inherited their taste also have become a returning seat taker at that stand. Surely you can imagine my joy when I found two-pounds worth of homemade red bean paste in the freezer upon coming home from Costco with a two-pack of natural roasted peanut butter.


Ingredients for the brownie base:

450g semi-sweet adzuki bean paste*

10 medjool dates, pitted and chopped

4 tbsp coconut oil, melted

3/8 c Dutch-processed cocoa

1/2 c rice flour

1/2 to 2/3 c almond milk*

1/3 c agave nectar*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Line a square (9 x 9-inch) brownie pan with parchment paper. To make the brownie, puree the adzuki and dates to a smooth puree in a food processor or blender. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth and thick. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Ingredients for the peanut swirl:

1oog medium firm tofu

3 tbsp natural peanut butter

In a separate blender, puree the tofu and peanut butter until light and creamy. Drop spoonfuls of the tofu mixture onto the brownie batter and swirl with a knife following your own artistic intuition. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely before slicing.

These will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 3 days, or up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Enjoy them warmed up in the microwave, at room temperature, or chilled. I personally find the latter the most appealing (likely due to my childhood memories). Whatever you decide, the fudginess of this brownie will not be changed. I mean it.

*choose Japanese varieties of adzuki bean paste if you don’t plan on making your own. However, it is guaranteed that whichever brand you choose to buy will be very sweet, so omit the agave nectar and replace the missing moisture with almond milk. If you don’t feel too hot towards the refined sugars in the sweetened adzuki paste, use two 540ml cans of unsalted black beans instead: just rinse and drain well before using, and add a little extra agave, say, 1/2 cup or so instead of just 1/3 cup.

This is a very forgiving recipe, so have fun and eat, a la sante!

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them!

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