This'll bring you back to your childhood. Though when I offered it to coworkers and asked them if they felt nostalgic, they responded that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are still a very real part of their lives...and no, they're not parents yet. I guess I haven't been paying close enough attention to what my coworkers have been eating for lunch!
These bars are really simple to prepare because the bottom layer is the same as the top layer, just that the bottom is pressed together and the top is crumbled and sprinkled over the jelly layer. I used raspberry preserves as my jelly ingredient and it had the perfect consistency - not overly liquidy like a fruit sauce, but not so solid that it doesn't spread easily. With the raspberry preserves' rich red hue, the cross section of these bars is beautiful. In fact, you should celebrate the fact that some of the jelly oozes out the sides. Way more visual drama! And tossing salted peanuts on top adds both crunch and a salty-sweet flavor.
I made a lot of people really happy with this treat. I guess that makes it a keeper! Maybe next time I'll feed a batch to kids and see if I get as good a reaction. :)
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
Adapted from a recipe on Page 99 in the March 2011 Bon Appetit magazine
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup grape, strawberry, or raspberry jelly
2/3 cup coarsely chopped salted dry-roasted peanuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang for lifting up out of the pan later. Spray the bottom and sides of the foil lining with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl: flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer or bowl with electric hand mixer, beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, and butter until smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well incorporated. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed just until blended (and not a moment more!).
Divide dough in half. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap and freeze for 10 minutes. Place the remaining half in the foil lined pan and press down to cover the bottom.
Pour jelly or preserves on top of the dough layer in the pan and spread evenly to cover.
Remove the dough from the freezer, break it up into pieces the size of grapes, and scatter on top of the jelly layer. Finally, sprinkle the salted peanuts on top.
Bake the bars until the top is golden brown, about 28-30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Then lift the foil overhang up and place the bars on a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, or make smaller pieces (which I prefer doing so you can feel like you can have more than one). Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Note: You can make these 3 days ahead. They keep really well!
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Whisk together the dry ingredients; set aside...
Beat together the butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter...
Beat in the egg and vanilla...
Add in the dry ingredients...
Divide dough in half...
Press half the dough into the bottom of the pan, chill the other half of the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes...
Spread the jelly over the dough in the pan...
Cover the dough layer completely with the jelly...
Break the chilled dough into grape-size pieces and sprinkle them on top of the jelly...
Sprinkle the salted peanuts on top and bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes...
Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving. Enjoy!