The Easy Way to Emulate a Childhood Classic: Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

It's funny -- I never ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a child, but as an adult, PB&J is one of my favorite snacks.  I am fond of Marcel Desaulniers' chocolate peanut butter and jelly sandwich cookies both for their PB&J flavor as well as their novelty, but they are a huge pain to make.  They require an entire afternoon of mixing, shaping, chilling, cutting, and baking white chocolate bread slices complete with a brown chocolate crust.  When I saw that Baked Explorations included a recipe for peanut butter and jelly bars that looked like a lot less work, I was eager to give them a try.

These bars are comprised of a crust topped with layers of peanut butter, fruit preserves, and an oatmeal crumble.  Having just made the almond joy tart from Baked Explorations a couple of days ago, the crust recipe for these bars was very familiar -- the two crusts are nearly identical, except that the almond joy tart crust includes two tablespoons less flour and includes 1/4 cup of almonds.  Like the tart crust, the crust for these bars is also made in the food processor and chilled before being rolling out and blind baked.  Even though I weighed down my crust with baking weights, there was some shrinkage (probably about 1/4 inch) all the way around the edges of my 9-inch by 13-inch pan.  In addition, the corners of my crust started getting quite dark while the center was still fairly pale.  I didn't want to burn the corners, so I took the crust out of the oven while the center was still uncolored.

After the crust cools, you spread on a peanut butter layer made from butter, peanut butter (I used half smooth and half chunky), powdered sugar, and vanilla. The peanut butter filling was light and fluffy and tasted a lot like the inside of a Nutter Butter cookie.  There was a lot of filling, and I was surprised at how tall the peanut butter layer was when I spread it on the crust.  You are supposed to spread two heaping cups of preserves on top of the peanut butter.  I used two 10-oz. jars of Dickinson's seedless boysenberry preserves, which is about 1 and 3/4 cup, so I was a little short.  The bars are finished off with a crumb topping made from flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, dark brown sugar, rolled oats, and butter.  After scattering the crumb topping over the preserves, you pop the bars back in the oven until the topping is browned.

These bars are slightly messy to cut, even after being chilled.  The jelly layer isn't really solid, but the crumble layer is quite firm.  I found that using a sharp serrated knife to gently saw through the crumble topping was the best way to get clean cuts.  As you can see in the picture above, the crust was still quite pale.  However, it was browned on the bottom, and it was fully cooked.  The crust is buttery and crisp, and with the crunchy crumble on top, these bars do somewhat resemble a sandwich of sorts.

I thought that the peanut butter flavor was definitely predominant, but the bars had a distinctly tart-sweet fruity finish from the preserves, and with the texture of the crust and crumble, there is a lot going on in every bite.  The bar is reminiscent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in the best possible way.  I thought that they were delicious!

Recipe: "Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars" from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.


Louise said…
You might try Ina Garten's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars which you can find on the Food Network site. They lack the white layer, but have lots going on for them, including being super easy to prepare.
these bars looks so pretty and yummy! what a classic combo..yum!
Shelley said…
These are great looking! As someone who loves PB&J, must make these post haste! Thanks for teh reminder.