(Please accept my apologies for these pictures. I was experimenting with light since it was very dark and stormy the night I made these... obviously said experiment didn't go as well as planned, but this wasn't discovered until I uploaded my pictures and deemed them beyond photo editing repair. Thankfully, the treats weren't affected by my little point-and-shoot's shortcomings, so you shouldn't be deterred by them either.)
Peanut butter and jelly. Is there a more famous duo in the food world? Probably not. (And if there is, please keep it to yourself for the sake of this post. A-thank-you.) And while it seems that my brain has been cranking out ideas like oatmeal and cupcakes, my taste buds simply can't get enough of this salty sweet combination. Some might call it a rut; I, however, humbly prefer terms like "groove" and "hot streak."
This is another recipe that's been waiting in the wings for quite some time. I hadn't forgotten about it, no, but was saving it for a little "happy new apartment!" treat for two lovely folks. Short of sending some large mysterious casserole to them, what says comfort like a classic twist on a basic bar cookie? These just beg to be eaten curled up on a couch (or floor, if said couch hasn't quite found its final resting place) with a tall glass of milk, looking around and marveling at the possibilities of your new space. They will also hold you over when you realize that your pretty new refrigerator is stark empty. Woops.
While I sent most away to be enjoyed in a new home, I kept a few for myself. The jelly keeps the peanut butter cookie so moist, making me forget about a slightly tragic experience with a peanut butter cookie so dry that I'd favor eating Sahara desert sand (oh, and it was one of the queen's recipes -- she isn't flawless, people). The salty crunch on top from the peanuts is a perfect finishing detail. But, be warned. You can't eat just one of these. In fact, I'd say four is a good number. If you push them together, they are roughly the size of a sandwich, anyway :)
(adapted the teensiest of bits from Ina Garten)
-makes 16 two-by-two-inch bars
Note: I halved the original recipe and used an 8x8-inch pan with success... mostly so I didn't sit home and feast on 20 cookies by my lonesome. Anyway, if you are making these for a crowd, simply double the ingredients, use a 9x13-inch pan, and use roughly the same baking time.
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
1 cup (about 9 ounces) creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups (about 9 ounces) your favorite jam or jelly -- I used grape jelly
1/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8x8-inch pan, line with parchment paper, and grease and flour the paper and pan together.
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, egg, and peanut butter and mix until all of the ingredients are combined. Keeping the mixer on low speed, gradually (I usually use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour first, then turn on the mixture to avoid a mini blizzard in my kitchen) add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and mix until just combined.
Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and pat until evenly distributed. Spread the jelly evenly over the dough. Drop small globs (oh Ina, I love your not-at-all technical terms, really) of the remaining dough evenly over the jelly. Don't worry about covering every inch of jelly -- the dough will spread in the oven and over it. Sprinkle top with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan. Cut into squares while in pan and remove parchment paper to separate bars and serve. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk... possibly followed by a nap or craft time.