Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
The holiday baking continues, here at the Choosy Beggars. Yes, I cut it close, but at least the baking does (eventually) get done, right? RIGHT?! My goal was to make four (4) different holiday cookies or treats. Because the weather here has been disastrous and I’ve spent rather more time snowed in at home than I’m used to, I actually met the target which I had no intention of keeping. Not only that, but I EXCEEDED it and made five. I KNOW!! Here I thought that I was totally lying to you all about my plans, and that I would make a tin of cookies, or two, and then buy a holiday platter from Costco and try to pass it off as my own, but it seems that Lady Luck and Mother Nature have been conspiring to keep me honest.
So let’s talk about these bars. I love Nanaimo bars, but I refuse to make them because it’s a death and taxes guarantee that somebody else will show up with their chocolaty goodness over the holidays. But….but I really love them. Not the flavor, per se, but the texture of that creamy sweet center, which oozes out as you break the chocolate with your first bite. Oh man. Oh man, oh man. I’ve been craving that feeling, but steadfastly refuse to make them, which puts me in a bit of a bind. Or rather, it DID until in came Mr. Chocolate and Ms. Peanut Butter.
The crust of these bars is a hearty chocolate flavored and rustic textured shortbread. Then you have the center, which is creamy, peanut buttery, and not too sweet. Top this all with the crunch of chopped roasted peanuts and a layer of chocolate? I’ll eat it, I suppose. The guidelines that I’ll give you make (thankfully) rather a lot, which is perfect in our household where there are no peanut allergies and Reese’s cups are seen as an unacknowledged layer of Heaven. I haven’t gotten around to freezing the cut squares yet, and the two trays have been sitting covered in my fridge for the last two days….and every time that I kiss Mike he tastes like peanut butter. This should be a good reminder for me to pack them up before they’re all gone, but…but he just looks so cute with a bit of chocolate on his chin, and I can’t bring myself to do it.
Oh, and by the way, I used a lot of chocolate to make these squares. It’s just best to come to terms with that before moving on.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Makes 40 small squares or 32 larger ones
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 3 cups flour
- 2 cups oats
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 8oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 cups peanut butter
- 1 cup confectioners sugar *
- 1.5 cups chopped roasted peanuts
- 16 oz semisweet chocolate
* You can substitute superfine sugar if you don’t have any confectioners sugar.
Preheat the oven to 350F. There isn’t a lot of cooking to be done for these squares, but sadly this is still a bit of a necessity.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together for the crust. This is the cocoa powder, flour, oats, sugar and salt.
Melt the chocolate slowly in a glass bowl which is set over a pot with an inch or two of water in it, sitting at medium heat. Stir this from time to time as it melts. When it is liquid, add the butter and let it melt, stirring as you go.
Pour the chocolate over the dry ingredients. Oh, and as much as you might be tempted to wash the bowl right now (ha! I’m NEVER tempted to wash dishes, but I assume that other people don’t live the lazy Filthy Nelson lifestyle that I’m accustomed to) please don’t. Really, there is method to this madness. Don’t dump the water out of the double boiler either, as you’ll be using it again soon enough.
Stir lightly until everything is combined and it is starting to come together just a bit.
Grease two (2!) 8×8 square baking dishes, and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Press half of the chocolate base mixture into each pan, trying to make it as uniform as possible. Tuck both pans onto the center rack of your oven, for 20 – 22 minutes.
When the base is cooked it will feel just slightly firm to the touch. Let this cool for at least a half hour, still in the pan.
In the meantime, cream together the peanut butter, cream cheese, and icing sugar. You could do this by hand in a bowl, but I like to use my food processor because it takes all of about 35 seconds and it gets a little bit of air in there so it’s not as heavy.
Spread the filling over the base in a nice even layer.
Sprinkle half of the peanuts over each pan, and press them in gently with your hand.
In the same bowl that previously housed the chocolate and butter, melt the remaining 16 oz of chocolate for the topping. Drizzle the chocolate over both pans and even it out using an offset spatula. The top will not be smooth because of the peanuts, but that’s half the allure to me.
Let the squares cool in the fridge until the chocolate is set, then cut them into either 32 squares (4×4) or 40 rectangles (4×5). Because the base is a set shortbread, it will firm up as it cools. Use a very sharp knife to cut them, and you may want to periodically rinse it until very hot running water to keep things sane and cut through the chocolate topping cleanly. If you wait until the next day to cut them, which is fine, bring the squares down to room temperature before you do so. This will keep the chocolate from shattering.
Chocolate and peanut butter squares: they’re not too sweet, but they’re delightfully creamy and rich to make an alluring and addictive treat. Well, I don’t mind if I DO serve myself up a square!
Oh, who am I kidding? We all know that my plate *really* looks like this……
My good intentions were to bring some of these squares, as well as the other Christmas baking, over to family gatherings this season. However, at the rate that we’re motoring through them? Well…..maybe I’ll save a couple for my Mom. But only because she reads this website, and if I don’t then she’ll be upset.
HAPPY HOLIDAY BAKING!!!!