My Recipe Box

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Shortbread Bars

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Yields 4 dozen 1-1/2-inch-square bars.

  • To learn more, read:
    Raising the Bar Cookie
  • by Nicole Rees from Fine Cooking
    Issue 82

Upgrade the classic bar cookie with the buttery tenderness of a shortbread crust. These crowd-pleasing bars are covered with a creamy peanut butter spread and bittersweet chocolate ganache.

For the crust:
  • 7 oz. (14 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 9-1/2 oz. (2 cups plus 2 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
Tip:
For the best results, measure your flour by weight instead of volume. (1 cup of all-purpose flour equals 4-1/2 oz.) If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the proper technique when filling your measuring cups.
For the peanut butter filling:
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural but an emulsified variety such as Jif)
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 oz. (1-1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the ganache:
  • 5 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt Excellence, chopped (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. heavy cream
Make the peanut shortbread:

Line a straight-sided 13x9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal.

In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour and peanuts to make a stiff dough. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.

Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Bake the dough for 20 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 300°F and bake until the crust is golden-brown all over and completely set, 20 to 25 more minutes. Let the crust cool completely before topping.

Make the peanut butter filling:

Put the peanut butter and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add about half of the confectioners’ sugar to the mixer along with the vanilla extract and 1 Tbs. hot water. Beat on low speed until combined, then on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 more minute. Beat in the remaining sugar and mix, about 1 more minute, until the mixture is smooth and thick, like frosting. If the filling seems too stiff, add another 1 Tbs. hot water and beat for another minute.

With a knife or metal offset spatula, spread the filling over the fully cooled crust. The filling may not spread smoothly and evenly, but don’t worry; the ganache will cover it.

Macke the ganache:

Put the chocolate in a small heat proof  bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 3 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until combined and smooth.

Spread the ganache over the peanut-butter filling with a metal offset spatula to coat evenly. Let the bars sit at least 3 hours to allow the ganache to set before cutting (or refrigerate for 1 hour).

Carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-1/2-inch squares.

Make Ahead Tips

The bars will keep at room temperature for 1 week.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : per bar; Calories (kcal): 150; Fat (g): 11; Fat Calories (kcal): 100; Saturated Fat (g): 5; Protein (g): 3; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3; Carbohydrates (g): 13; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 50; Cholesterol (mg): 15; Fiber (g): 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

OK, but not my favourite chocolate & peanut butter combination. I was surprised at how not-sweet the base was, but I'd leave it alone. I did 1 cup instead of 1.5 cups of sugar with the filling, and I prefer that sweetness level, but there wasn't enough filling overall, I'd double the peanut butter layer. There also wasn't enough chocolate layer to easily cover the hills and valleys from getting the peanut butter layer in place. I'd increase the chocolate by 50% and the whipping cream by 25%.

Made these on the weekend --- for such a simple recipe, they are delicious and addictive. My husband said they're like something you'd buy from a bakery. I mostly followed the recipe but only used 1 cup icing sugar in the peanut butter layer (and no hot water). I increased the chocolate a wee bit (7 oz) just to be on the safe side. They were snapped up very quickly (I had to hide some in the freezer). BTW, to vegetarianswife, I put the pan in the 'fridge for a couple of hours, then lifted the foil out of the pan and used a large chef's knife to cut into bars before I peeled the foil off. The squares cut cleanly for a nice presentation.

These have become one of my Christmas cookie staples as they are always requested. If you love PB/Choc combo, they are the best! I am one to fiddle with recipes but follow this one as written--and use good quality chocolate as it makes a difference. Rich and yummy!

Really good! I used unsweetened chocolate as a greater contrast to the sweet peanut butter and pecans in the crust cause that's what I had. It all worked great. I was really impressed with the shortcake base. Good flavour and texture.

Excellent recipe. I will definitely make these delicious bars again

Really great recipe. Good contrast of crunchy and smooth. I had a hard time with the shortbread crumbling apart when I cut it into squares. Anyone have any tips for me?

These are verrry good! Could not stop eating them! Definitely a keeper.

I made this recipe the other night and the ganache did not melt the chocolate completely (it melted most of it but a few small pieces were left) but I promptly stuck it in the fridge and chalked it up to learning a new recipe. Let me tell you, those little pieces that didn't' melt, added a really GREAT taste of bitter sweet chocolate (I used 71% Choc.) It's an easy recipe to make, it just has several stops in it - which can be good if you are working on other projects.

THESE ARE SOOOOO DELICIOUS!! They're like a not-so-sugary-sweet peanut butter cup with a crust.........mmmmmm.

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