「アメリカの料理は？」<What about American food?>
「やっぱりピーナッツ・バター！ピーナッツバターが懐かしい。」 <Definitely peanut butter! I miss peanut butter. >
「甘い。。。」<But it’s sweet…>
It’s the nature of an expat to be perpetually food-frustrated–if I’m in Japan, I want turkey and fancy cheese; if I’m in America, I want bamboo shoots and yuba. The ultimate American comfort food for me is peanut butter.
Peanut butter is a quintessentially American food and Japan just doesn’t get it. There’s no dearth of interesting foods to eat in Japan, of course, and there are a lot of good Japanese substitutes for ingredients, like nerigoma for tahini. That said, Japanese “peanut cream” is basically peanut-butter frosting in terms of sugar content and consistency, so, while I’m sure it’s lovely on white cake, it’s horrifying as a peanut-butter substitute.
After the quake, all I wanted was some sort of comforting American-style peanut-butter and chocolate sweet, but I couldn’t bear to use my fancy Alishan peanut butter in baking. Luckily the big grocery store by my gym carries Meidi-ya peanut butter. This brand is a bit sweeter than I like, but it was good for cooking and came in a glass jar instead of the plastic ones the tiny and overpriced imported Skippy comes in.
Regarding the actual recipe, Cooking Light has become my go-to site for baking this year because the magazine’s philosophy is the same as my own: make it from scratch and make it healthier. I need to ascend my soapbox for a moment and say that I dislike the American trend of buying low-fat, low-carb, low-cal prepared foods. I can taste the preservatives, and the amount of non-recyclable/reusable packaging is obscene. Cooking Light focuses on three things: 1. learning about food; 2. learning how to cook with healthy ingredients; and 3. revamping classic recipes so as to be lighter without sacrificing the flavor. That is, it’s not about paying lip-service to a diet, it’s about making conscious decisions about food and being able to enjoy your meals. Desserts included.
These brownies are the perfect combination of peanut-butter and chocolate and have the lovely brownie top and texture. What’s best is that a brownie pan (8x8in; 20.5×20.5 cm) is the perfect fit for the Japanese oven range, so there’s no need to worry about the center not cooking through.
Adapted from “Peanut Butter – Chocolate Chip Brownies,” Cooking Light (June 2000).
Yields 16 small brownies (one 8×8 in./20.5×20.5 cm baking pan)
100 grams [1 US cup] all-purpose flour (komugiko, 小麦粉)
45 grams [1/4 cup] chocolate chips (chokochippu, チョコチップ)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (juusou, 重曹)
1/8 teaspoon salt (shio, 塩)
140 grams [3/4 cup] granulated sugar (guranyuutou, グラニュー糖)
50 grams [1/4 cup] packed brown sugar (sanontou, 三温糖)
50 grams [1/4 cup] creamy peanut butter (piinattsu bataa [kuriimii], ピーナッツバター[クリーミー])
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (sarada oiru, サラダオイル) or applesauce (appurusousu, アップルソース)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (banira essensu, バニラエッセンス)
1 large egg (tamago, 卵)
1 large egg white (ranpaku, 卵白)
1. Preheat oven or oven range (yonetsu, 予熱) to 175° C (350F).
2. Coat the bottom of the baking pan with cooking spray or just a little bit of oil on a paper towel.
3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour, chocolate chips, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
4. Combine white sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a bowl, and stir until well blended.
5. Add flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Spread batter in bottom of prepared pan.
6. Bake at 175° (350) for 25-30 minutes or until a chopstick inserted in center comes out almost clean.