06 March 2009

The Only Bar You'll Ever See Me Near

It's the soft kind.

The kind that makes your kitchen fill with the dreamy smell of sugar caramelizing and chocolate and peanut butter slowly melting into each other. That's the kind of bar I like.

I came across these milk chocolate-peanut butter bars in Carole Bloom's The Essential Baker while looking for cake recipes and with a slew of guests due to arrive. (I'm excellent at being in denial.) There was no way a cake would be ready quickly, but I thought these would keep everyone happy along with their welcome afternoon tea. And I had all the ingredients on hand, except for the peanuts- which I do think the bars would benefit from, but I wasn't about to run out for just peanuts.

Keemum, a medium-strength Chinese black tea, is a natural pairing for chocolate desserts: The tea's own flavor is often described as chocolaty, with a pleasant, roasted aroma. Trying it just with a bit of the bars' milk chocolate- strictly for research purposes, of course- highlighted this, so I brewed up a big pot to have at the ready for everyone.

And if you can find it, use a dark milk chocolate- preferably at least 41% cocoa- for an increased depth of flavor. As it's a bit less sweet than traditional milk chocolate, it's easier to inhale more of while you're baking.

Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bars
Makes: 16 squares.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick foil, or grease with butter. Heat oven to 350°. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

2. With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add peanut butter and cream together well. Mix in sugar until blended. Mix in eggs one at a time, beating well after each, then mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in two additions and beat just until blended. Stir in chocolate and peanuts.

3. Scrape batter into pan and smooth evenly. Bake for 35 to 38 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out slightly moist. Let cool 15 minutes before cutting into squares.

Keemum is delicious straight up, but do try it at least once with a bit of milk and sugar- it really draws out the chocolate tones in the tea, transforming it into a confection in a cup. You'll need that after the bars' inevitable disappearance.


Unknown said...

Peanut butter and chocolate...mmm...they look really good!

Donna-FFW said...

Just had to tell you I saw these on photograzing and thought they looked out of this world delicious!! Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

May I ask what kind of peanut butter you used? I always try to use some all natural stuff, and am disappointed when I think how much better Skippy would have worked. Thoughts?

ana dane said...

i can understand wanting to go with the natural PB, as a more pure ingredient. but sometimes the really hippy stuff (teddy brand in particular) just doesn't work as well.

my absolute favorite, for baking and just eating, is from peanut butter and co., as annoying as the name is. and it's just peanuts and salt. runner up is trader joe's, also just peanuts and salt.

maybe you just need one with salt?

and who knew? march is national peanut month.

R. said...

Those looks great! I'm doing a 'homemade dessert of the month' club for my dad, and I think these will be making an appearance. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

onesilentwinter said...

sound delicious!