"We're just the same where love is concerned; we can never stop asking ourselves questions as to whether we are being honest or not, whether we are acting wisely or stupidly, whether the relationship is going anywhere and so forth. I don't know whether all this is a good or a bad thing, but I do know that it holds us back; it's not rewarding, it's just a source of irritation." -Anton Chekhov ("About Love")
Although I was itching for a way to flex my baking muscles, I also wanted something simple. And what could be simpler than cookie bars? The good thing about bars--and the reason my grandmother has always preferred them to actual cookies--is that there's no rolling or spooning individual cookies, no baking one or two pans and then still having to finish off the last. In three quick steps you're done: mix the batter, spread the batter and bake. Did I mention fewer dirty dishes?
Chocolate Peanut Butter Mud Bars
Heavily adapted from the Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook
Yields about 12 bars (if cut into large, 3-inch squares), but could easily yield up to 24 bars if cut into small squares
The original recipe calls for peanut butter chips in addition to the chocolate and white chocolate ones--for both the cookie base and the topping--but, since I didn't have them, I decided they could easily be cut out of the recipe. Too many chips can lead to unnecessary sweetness in my opinion.
I also decided that, for the love of all things peanut, I would substitute peanuts for pecans; they just didn't seem to have a place in this peanut buttery world. By accident (it was a glasses day), I added 1/2 teaspoon salt instead of the suggested 1/4 teaspoon, but, given the salty-sweet flavor of the final product, I felt this mistake was actually an act of a wise and fortuitous fate. 1/4 teaspoon, given the amount of sweetened chips that go into this recipe, would have been too little; for the sake of balance, more salt was the way to go.
Finally, because my mother and I went to Peanut Butter and Co. for flutternutter milkshakes on our first trip to New York together back in 2001 (somehow, I knew about this place at the ripe age of 17; clearly, my desire for good food was present even then), she'll often send me jars of their peanut butter--with white chocolate or honey already mixed in. I don't like to bake with natural peanut butter, so I used the White Chocolate Wonderful in this recipe. The peanut butter is sweetened (7 grams sugar), which led me to cut the sugar in the recipe back by 1/4 cup. If using regular peanut butter (3 grams sugar), I would add that 1/4 cup back in.
For the bars:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (1/2 cup for the cookie base and 1/2 cup for after it comes out of the oven)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
For the topping:
2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
-Preheat the oven to 325 F.
-Grease and lightly flour a 9 x 13 baking sheet.
-In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Then, set aside.
-With a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on low speed until fluffy.
-Add the peanut butter and mix to combine thoroughly.
-Mix in the egg and vanilla.
-Add the dry ingredients and beat on low until thoroughly incorporated (no flour should be visible).
-With a wooden spoon, stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips, the white chocolate chips and the peanuts.
-Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
-Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cookie has puffed up and looks golden brown.
-Remove from oven and sprinkle on the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips immediately. Let sit for a minute or two and then spread the softened chips across the cookie base with a rubber spatula.
-Cool for about 30 minutes and then sprinkle the topping over the surface.
-If you have the patience, you could continue to let the bars cool or you could, as I did, cut yourself a bar and pour yourself a glass of milk. Either way, you won't be disappointed!