Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

For the last three days, I've been struggling to write a post.  It was for Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies that I'd made on day 8 of the 25 Days of Christmas Cookies.   In theory, I was going to love them.  But I guess I didn't, which lead to me not being able to find the words to blog them. 

baking with Ariel.
I'm not going to lie and say that baking every single day for 25 days with a three year old is fun.  Or easy. There have been days that I have literally phoned it in.  With a pre-made gingerbread house that she got to put on her apron and decorate.   But with the brownies, I copped out.  I'd pinned and bookmarked and read countless mint brownie recipes over the course of the year.   When it came time to make them, I didn't reference one of them.   I was too tired to get into all of it, so I made my old stand by.  Ina Garten's brownies and instead of nuts or regular chocolate chips, I threw in Andes mint candy pieces.  And instead of vanilla I used peppermint extract.

I really love Ina's brownies, but I was totally underwhelmed.   So here I sat staring at my computer trying to find something to say about my Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies with no luck. 
Tonight, I decided to scrap it and move on.   So let's talk about these Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.

One thing I have not made enough of this month is peanut butter treats.  Nico hates peanut butter (have I mentioned that before?  I always remind him how un-American he is when he says he hates peanut butter.)  So maybe that's why I haven't made too much.  I was going to make several peanut butter treats, but they would get bumped in favor of something else.  

I am so glad I made these peanut butter bars, though!  I think Nico even tried one and said he liked them.  They are super rich so we didn't eat too many.  I probably had more than I should have, in all truth.  They are an easy bar to make, except on the cleanup scale.  I had to use my stand mixer AND my food processor.  You know I hate the clean up.  But it was so worth it.   There is not much that is better than chocolate and peanut butter, is there?   (Unless you're my husband and he will quickly answer that with, "Nutella".)

I made several changes from the original recipe.  For one thing, I could not find the Nabisco Famous wafers at any store I went to.  All year I see them and dream of holiday baking.  No one had them.  After much consideration, I decided to use the top half of the oreo.  It was a little drier than the Famous wafers would have been, but it made a suitable substitute.  

Also, I used crunchy honey roasted peanut butter.  I had accidentally bought crunchy peanut butter last month, which Evelyn wanted nothing to do with.  So I put it aside knowing I could use it for baking.  It worked out just fine and added some nice texture to the bars.    

Last change I made was to use light brown sugar instead of dark brown, simply because I was out of dark brown.   These bars are heavenly. The perfect combination of sweet and salty.  What's not to love about chocolate and peanut butter? 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
adapted from Once Upon A Chef
For the crust:
22 Oreo cookies tops, or Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, crushed fine (about 1 2/3 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

For the filling
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 cups Confectioner's sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups of your favorite peanut butter
pinch of salt

For the Milk Chocolate Topping
1 12 ounce bag milk chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.   Combine the chocolate wafers, sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until cookies are finely crushed.  Press mixture firmly into baking pan.  This is a great job for small hands.  Bake for 8 minutes and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the peanut butter filling in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low until just combined, careful not to whip.   Set aside while you prepare the chocolate topping.

Combine the milk chocolate chips and heavy cream in a metal bowl and set over a sauce pan of simmering water.  Stir until all the chips have melted and remove from heat.

Using an offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup of the chocolate mixture over the cooled crust.  Place the pan in the freezer until the chocolate is set, about 5 minutes.   (I debated skipping this step.  But I realized that spreading peanut butter on a crumb crust would probably be the death of my sanity and opted to not cut out this very important step!) Spread peanut butter mixture in an even layer over the chocolate.  Spread the remaining chocolate ganache over the peanut butter layer.   Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight to set.  When firm, use a sharp knife to cut square.   Keep refrigerated.

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