Some kids, like my sister, never get into the spirit of Halloween. I, on the other hand embraced it. Well, at least part of it. I wasn’t into the scary, creepy aspects of Halloween, but always loved the fun childlike excitement of costumes, carving pumpkins and decorating the house. But I think mostly I embraced it for the candy.
Oh, how I loved all those fun-sized candy bars. There was even a house in the neighborhood that once gave away full-size candy bars and I made sure to visit that house well into high school, just in case they did it again. As for that house that gave out pennies? Let’s just say I wouldn’t have gone there if it wasn’t my friend’s house. There’s always one that just doesn’t get it.
My favorite candies were Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (NOT the pieces), M&Ms, Nestle Crunch, Starbursts and Skittles. Now I find most of these way too cloying in that fakely sweet way, so I decided to make my own adult version of my ultimate favorite: the peanut butter cup, but in a bar form.
This recipe for chocolate peanut butter bars starts with chocolate shortbread that is topped with peanut butter frosting and covered in melted semi-sweet chocolate. The crumbly cookie bottom, creamy and slightly salty peanut butter layer, and rich chocolate coating makes for a delicious treat.
Here’s the recipe:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars – makes 16 bars
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper and keep a small overhang. Coat the parchment with butter or nonstick spray. Set aside.
Combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl and mix well using a wooden spoon or fork. Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until smooth.
Press the dough evenly in the prepared baking dish and dock the bottom (prick small holes with a fork). Bake for 20 minutes or until the shortbread is firm. Cool to room temperature before topping with peanut butter frosting.
Peanut Butter Frosting
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Combine the peanut butter, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat on medium high speed for 3 minutes.
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Once the shortbread has cooled completely, spread the peanut butter over it in an even layer.
Place the chocolate chips in a glass or metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Stir gently until the chocolate has melted, then remove the bowl from the pot.
Pour the melted chocolate over the peanut butter and smooth with a rubber spatula until a thin layer of chocolate completely covers the surface. Cool in the refrigerator 2 hours up to overnight. Bring to room temperature and cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.