Peanut Butter Bars


When I was in high school The Back Street Cafe was one of my favorite hangouts. It was right down the road from me, in Eagle, Wisc., before it moved to a bigger location in Delafield, Wisc. It’s since closed its doors, sadly. They had amazing food and always made my list of restaurants to visit on my visits “home.” My favorite foods to get at the Back Street Cafe were the Lovers Lane sandwich and fried cheese curds. Both came with the delis homemade ranch dressing. I also tried about every dessert and pastry they offered. The peanut butter bars were one of my go-to choices. So when my mom said she had tried them recently and also sent me the recipe, I was inspired to give them a go myself.

I made two different batches after I wasn’t totally satisfied with the first batch. The bars turned out extremely thick. They didn’t really remind me of the bar I used to buy in the deli so I wanted to try to recreate the bars as I remembered them, flatter (not nearly as thick). For the second batch, in re-reading the recipe, I noticed that the recipe states that the bar sold at the deli is a different shape than the bar you can get if you purchase them through the catering business.

You can find the original recipe published on the Milwaukee-Journal website. My tweaked version for a thinner, flatter bar is below.

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ingredients.

  • 2 2/3 c. flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp.baking soda
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2½ c. peanut butter (divided; see note)
  • 2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • Pinch or two of salt
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) chocolate chips (about 2 cups)

directions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 15-by-11-inch pan or large rimmed cookie sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  3. In another bowl, cream butter and 1 cup of the peanut butter. Add brown sugar and mix until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Gradually blend in flour mixture until well blended. Spread into prepared pan.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 15 to 20 minutes or until batter does not jiggle. Remove from oven. The bars will fall after baking. Remove from oven and cool completely. If desired, bars can be refrigerated overnight, then covered with the peanut butter and chocolate layers the next day. If you want to make it all in one day or night, stick the bars in the freezer or refrigerator to cool while you make the filling and topping.
  5. For filling: In medium bowl, mix remaining 1½ cups peanut butter, salt and the powdered sugar until well blended. Spread over cooled bars.
  6. For the topping: In small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until scalding, then pour over chocolate chips in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Stir until smooth, then pour over top of bars.
  7. Refrigerate overnight. Best if eaten a day after making; allow the bars to come to room temperature.

Note: Do not use natural or crunchy peanut butter.

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The trick with these bars is that you need to make them a day before you plan to serve them. Just as the directions say. I’m not sure why but the magic happens when you cut them and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. The peanut butter filling seeps into the cookie-like base making the base super moist. I cut them in large squares and brought them to work on a Friday. My boss ate five of them that day!

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