There are no surprises in the brownie base, made with potent unsweetened chocolate, butter, sugar, fragrant vanilla, a few eggs, flour, baking powder and of course, a good almount of salt to allow the flavors to bloom. Usually I'd be inclined to add a spoonful of instant espresso powder here, but since these brownies are pretty over-the-top, I figured keeping the base a little less intense might be a good choice. If you'd like to add it though, try a heaping half teaspoon or so, stirred in once you've melted the butter and chocolate together.
When the brownies had almost baked through in the oven, the ridiculous (in a good way!) topping comes together in a saucepan by melting together more unsweetened chocolate with butter, cream cheese and a splash of milk. When those ingredients were smooth, off the heat a mess of confectioners' sugar and vanilla was stirred in to tighten the topping to a loose frosting consistency. This gives the mixture a chance to cool slightly, making it a snap to mix in the puffy miniature marshmallows and salty peanuts, without turning the marshmallows to goo.
To help this topping cement to the brownies, you'll want to scoop it on top of the hot brownies and use a gentle hand to spread it over the top. I used a spoon to drop medium dollops off all over, then took our trusty off-set spatula to connect the dots. Be sure to give them several hours to set and firm before even contemplating cutting them into bars, unless, that is, you'd just like to eat them out of the pan with a fork (tempting!).
The bottom of the brownies is dense, with a center that is moist, a touchy chewy and definitely fudgy - just be sure you are watchful to not over-bake the base! The flood of creamy frosting, marshmallow and peanut on top firms up enough that it won't run off after being cut, yet it doesn't turn rock solid either - it stays soft and well, frankly, dreamy. We used our rocker to dissect the brownie slab into thirty lavish portions, but they are surely rich enough that smaller squares would be appropriate. I do have one problem with them... Jeff is now trying to come up with a devious plan to figure out how to "lose" them on the way to work so he doesn't have to share - they better make it!
Fudgy Rocky Road Brownies