Thursday, October 14, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

I happened to catch an interview with Olympic swimmer Micheal Phelp's mom a while back. She was describing what it felt like when she saw him for the first time after his very first gold medal win. She cried as she recalled him striding up to her, beaming, with his gold medal in one hand and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the other. It was a great story of Michael and his single mom and what an inspiration she was for him.

And then later all I could think about was the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He won his first gold medal in Athens in 2004. Isn't PBJ a classically American thing? Do they even have peanut butter in Greece? Did he bring the peanut butter and jelly with him? Or is that part of the Olympic hospitality, making sure every country's home food is represented in the Olympic village? I could go on all night speculating on what I would want for my Olympic food, but instead I decided to whip up a batch of The Barefoot Contessa's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.

These are rich and delicious and they are everything you love about peanut butter and jelly, all grown up. I didn't have salted peanut's on hand so I did without but I know the salty crunch of the peanuts would have made a wonderful addition.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars, The Barefoot Contessa

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (recommended: Skippy)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) raspberry jam or other jam
2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.

Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if all the jam isn't covered; it will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and cut into squares.

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