Who knows what triggered the memory but suddenly, in the very recent past, all I could think about were these peanut butter bar type creations that were served in my elementary school cafeteria. Now I realize that “things served in an elementary school cafeteria” and “things one would want to eat” are not often used in the same sentence. But these, at least to the third grade me, were even better than the twinkies or ding dongs that were usually considered the pinnacle of eight-year-old haut cuisine. They were super moist, slightly chewy and had some sort of slightly cruncy icing on them. Let me take a moment. Okay…moving on.
At this point I’ve done enough baking to have a “sense” of how to make something. I mean, I’m no Alton Brown but, I’ve sort of started to “get it.” So, I skipped the recipe search and went straight to experimentation. The first batch, while not bad tasting, completely missed the mark on texture. Texture is an important part of the memory for me. So, during a particularly long commute the next day, I worked out the following recipe. And, wouldn’t you know, I hit pay-dirt.
My own relationship with peanut butter is pretty hot and cold. Sometimes I love the stuff while other times I want nothing to do with it (this usually comes right after making the infamous chocolate peanut butter balls and all I can smell is peanut butter). I provide fair warning: these are super-duper peanut-buttery. There is no nuance in this baked good. No delicate layers of flavor or multiple dimensions for the palate. I didn’t even cut this with chocolate (though you couldn’t go wrong by doing so). This bar has one note…peanut butter.
The recipe begins where all good recipes commence: with butter. Two kinds. Regular and peanut. Melt them together over low heat and set aside to cool to room tempurature.
While the butters are cooling, sift the sugars and salt together. There is a lot of sifting in this recipe. This is so you don’t have to do a lot of mixing. In this case, as with my brownie recipe, mixing makes things tough. And nobody wants a tough time with peanut butter.
Whisk in some eggs and vanilla. Then the butters.
Finally, we stir things up with some (sifted) flour.
And then, into a prepared pan and into the oven.
I realize it comes out looking an awful lot like a blondie. But these are not blondies! I can’t exactly tell you why–as I’ve already said, I am not Alton Brown. But really, these are not blondies. They are much less cakey and springy and slightly fudge-like in texture.
Remember how I said the original Flying Hills Elementary School Bars of Excellence had icing. Well, these do too. Three ingredients: peanut butter, confectioners sugar and milk.
We’re getting there.
Really, are shots of icing ever gratuitous?
Once the icing sets up, cut as normal and, well, you know what to do next.
Yep, just like the cafeteria used to make. Let me pull-on my jelly shoes and flip up my Izod collar because 1982 called and it’s got some baked goods for you.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and line with parchment a 9X13 baking pan.
16 TBs unsalted butter
1.5 C peanut butter (I used chunky because that is what we had–use what you prefer)
1.5 C granulated sugar
.5 C golden brown sugar, packed
1.5 tsp kosher salt
1 T vanilla
4 eggs at room tempurature
2 C flour, sifted
Melt together butter and peanut butter. Set aside to cool to room tempurature. In large bowl, sift together sugars and salt. Whisk in one egg at a time until combined. Add-in vanilla. Whisk in peanut butter mixture until combined. Sift in flour and mix until flour just disappears. Pour into prepared pan and bake until tester comes out with moist crumbs (about 35 minutes).
1 C confectioner’s sugar
.25 cup peanut butter, melted
Milk (amount depends on desired thickness of icing–start with a couple of tablespoons and go from there).
Once bars have cooled, flip out onto a cooling rack fitted into a cookie sheet (to catch the icing). Mix icing ingredients togther until of desired consistency. Drizzle over bars. Let icing set up and cut.