Peanut Butter & Jam Bars

My new Better Homes & Gardens Fall Baking magazine has a chapter on peanut butter treats, including these peanut butter and jam bars. While the original recipe called for tossing some chocolate-covered peanuts into the top crumb mixture, I omitted them because a) I can’t eat chocolate and b) that just seemed like an odd addition to me. You could certainly leave them in if you like, but I think my plain bars are absolutely delicious.

I chose strawberry jam, but you could use raspberry or blackberry with equal success. The sweetness of the strawberry jam pairs very well with the sweet/salty combination in the peanut butter, without yielding a treat that’s too sweet. They remind me of something you’d find at an old-fashioned bakery or on the menu at a school bake sale, the type of treat that sells out quickly because once you have one, you really want another.

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2 cups flour
  • 12-ounce jar strawberry jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil; lightly grease the foil or spray it with baking spray.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and peanut butter on medium speed until smooth. Add brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt, beating until well combined, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times. Add oats and beat to combine, then add flour in two batches and beat to combine. The mixture will be crumbly.

Reserve 2 cups of the oat mixture; press the remainder into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Stir jam until smooth, then spread over crust within about 1 inch of the edges. Top with remaining oat mixture, covering jam completely.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack; when completely cool, use edges of foil to lift bars out and place on a cutting board. Cut into squares.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 32.

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Peanut Butter Smoothies

What do you do when you want something like a brownie, but you can’t eat chocolate? You make these peanut butter smoothies, another treat from my beloved King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. It’s funny to describe something chocolate-free as fudgy, but these absolutely are.

While the original recipe calls for baking in a 9 x 9 pan, I made mine in an 8 x 8. The edges are definitely darker than I wanted them to be, but the end result is delicious nonetheless. I covered mine for the last 5 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning on the top, and the center of my squares fell as it cooled, which was fine. You could substitute chocolate chips or lightly salted peanuts for the peanut butter chips if you like, and I’m sure they’d be equally delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add sugars and beat to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine.

Add flour and beat on low speed until just combined, then mix in peanut butter chips.

Spread batter in the baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and pull away from the pan; if you use a cake tester on the center, it should have some moist crumbs sticking to it. I covered my bars for the last 5 minutes of baking to prevent them from over-browning on the top.

Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan before cutting. Cut into 16 bars.

Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

Peanut butter cookies are among my favorites. But what if you don’t want to go through the process of making the dough, rolling it into balls, dipping them in sugar, then making that crisscross pattern in the tops? You make peanut butter cookie bars.

The original recipe for these bars came from the Nestle Very Best Baking blog and included chocolate chunks, but I substituted peanut butter chips instead for an extra kick of peanut butter flavor. Next time, I might also add some melted peanut butter chips in a drizzle on the top. You could very easily substitute my peanut butter chips for chocolate chips or chunks if you like; I’m sure it would be delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10-ounce package peanut butter chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine light brown sugar, sugar, butter, and peanut butter; cream together on medium speed until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, beating again until smooth.

Add flour mixture and beat to combine, then stir in peanut butter chips.

Press dough into the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan and bake for 18-22 minutes, until edges are light brown and a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs when inserted in the center.

Cool completely in pan; cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Peanut Butter Bars

peanut butter barsThis week’s chocolate/peanut butter baking continues with these delicious, old-fashioned peanut butter bars. I found this recipe in a Good Housekeeping magazine, and they remind me of something you’d see at a bake sale or church picnic. You can leave them plain, but I chose to spread some melted milk chocolate chips on top for a peanut butter cup-type treat.

My only improvement would be to use chocolate frosting, rather than melted chocolate on the top, as the chocolate layer does separate from the peanut butter layer a bit when you bite into them. Next time, I’ll probably use this fudge frosting for my chocolate layer.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and lightly spray with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat peanut butter, butter, dark brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add extracts, beating well, then add eggs, one at a time, beating until completely combined.

With the mixer running on low, add flour mixture and beat well, until completely combined; dough will become thick.

Press dough into prepared pan, flattening as best as you can with your hands.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely in pan; once cool, lift out and remove foil.

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips, stirring until completely smooth. Pour over cooled bars and spread; allow to set completely before cutting.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Bars

pb cup cookie barsAs far as peanut butter goes, I’m a Jif loyalist. My mom was one of the choosy moms who chose Jif in my childhood, and as such I find pretty much every other brand inferior.

Jif introduced its creamy peanut butter in 1958 and the extra crunchy variety in 1974. Why there isn’t just “crunchy” peanut butter, I’m not sure, but you can use either smooth or crunchy for this recipe. I had a jar of extra crunchy on hand, so I decided to use that, along with chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins. You could certainly use regular chopped peanut butter cups or milk chocolate chips if you prefer; just adjust the quantity to 1 3/4 cups.

A note of caution for your oven: this recipe bakes in a 10 x 15 x 1 pan, and mine puffed up and spilled over the sides, dripping quick-to-burn cookie bits on my oven floor. Next time, I’ll place a cookie sheet lined with parchment beneath the pan to catch the drips. This recipe can also be baked as individual cookies; just scoop them out, flatten them with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, and bake for about 8 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 7 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins, chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place a 10 x 15 x 1 jelly roll pan on the parchment. You do not need to grease the pan.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking soda; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, and vanilla and beat until very well combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, beating until combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and gradually add the flour mixture.

Stir in chopped peanut butter pumpkins.

Spread dough in the ungreased pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown but still puffy in the middle.

Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Using a small offse