Saturday, April 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

Every so often we all need some comfort food. A little hug from whatever is on your plate. Peanut Butter Jelly Bars are definitely on my comfort food list. I've surely eaten enough of these this week to feel comforted.

As a kid, baking was not part of our household. My mother would lie down if she suddenly had the urge to bake, waiting for the "fever to pass". Holidays usually involved wrangling me into the kitchen to take over cooking whatever my mother had a craving for, but didn't want to labor over. After a while I learned that if I was ever going to get home baked goods, they would have to come from a friend's house. And one of my childhood friend's mother used to make the best Peanut Butter Jelly Bars!

These are fabulously easy to make, very much a tasty treat, and something you should have in your baking arsenal. I didn't make too many changes to the original recipe, other than using walnuts and adding almond extract. There is definitely room to play around here, such as using different mixtures of peanut butter or almond butter as well as an array of different jam/jelly flavors to choose from. I can even foresee using banana slices/chips or even chocolate chips. Play around with the recipe and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars 
Adapted From: Lemons and Lavender
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 3/4 smooth peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup grape jelly or other jelly or jam
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with heavy-duty foil, leaving 2-inch overhang around edges and pressing firmly into corners and up sides of pan. Coat foil with nonstick spray. 

Whisk flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter,  and butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and continue to beat until well combined. Add egg, almond extract, and vanilla extract; beat on low speed until smooth. Add flour mixture; beat just to blend. I do the last bit of this by hand. Transfer half of dough to prepared pan (about scant 1-1/2 cups). Place remaining dough in freezer for 10 minutes. Using fingertips, press dough evenly onto bottom of pan. Spread jelly over in even layer. Remove dough from freezer; using fingertips, break into grape-size pieces and scatter over jelly/jam layer. Sprinkle walnuts over.

Bake bars until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

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