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I am working mom who loves to cook and bake. I hope to keep track of recipes and share some of my better ones. In the process, hopefully my photography and cooking will get better and better!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

      Blame it on Baked Explorations.  That's what I'm going to say when they ask me why my chapters are not written for this crazy book project I'm involved with.

      I decided I wasn't baking this weekend.  That was until Sunday morning when I decided I had to bake!!   I had seen a similar recipe from Ina Garten and been intrigued then.  They taste exactly how you would expect- the crust just plays a supporting tole, with the bulk of the flavor coming from the sweet peanut butter filling.  The only thing I would change the next time is to make sure my jelly topping was really a heaping 2 cups (a 15.5 oz jar is not quite enough)-some of the pieces were a little jelly sparse. But it was a really yummy treat and a nice change from the traditional peanut butter-chocolate combo.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Adapted from Baked Explorations

For the sweet pastry dough:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (7 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg

For the peanut butter filling:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups smooth peanut butter or 1 cup smooth peanut butter and 1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the crumb topping:
3/4 cups all-purpose flour (3.5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the assembly:
2 heaping cups good-quality jelly or preserves, grape preferred

To make the sweet pastry dough: Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9-by-13-inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.  (I forgot to do this.  Thankfully, even on the bar pan, it came out just fine....) Put the sugar, flour, and salt in a stand mixer and beat with a paddle until combined. Add the butter and mix until sandy. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and pour them into the mixer. Mix just until the egg is distributed.  Form the dough into a disk with your hands, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. 
Put the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper.  Unless you have major arms muscles, you will probably need to let it sit for 30 minutes or so until you can work with it.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle slightly larger than 9 by 13 inches (the size of the pan) and about ¼ inch thick. The dough will be sticky.   I pop it back in the freezer for ten minutes to then help the dough peel off the wax paper.

Guide the dough into the pan and lightly press it—without pulling—into the bottom; it is not necessary to bring the dough up the sides of the pan, only to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Trim off any excess. Place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Remove the pan from the freezer, line it with aluminum foil, and fill it three quarters full with pie weights or dried beans, or lentils (all I had!!). Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the peanut butter filling: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth. Add the peanut butter and beat until combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again. Turn the mixture out onto the crust and, using an offset spatula, spread it into an even layer. Chill the peanut butter layer while you make the crumb topping.

To make the crumb topping: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the brown sugar and use your hands to rub it in until the mixture is uniform in color. Stir in the oats. 

Place the dry mix in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat on low speed until loose crumbs form. 

To assemble the bars: Spread the jelly in an even layer over the peanut butter filling. Sprinkle on the crumb topping until the jelly is no longer visible.

Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  The top may not brown.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut the bars and serve.
Note: The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.   Bars are tastiest cold!!!

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