In Portland we have these wonderful dessert bars dubbed Charlie Brown Bars. They are vegan and delicious. To break it down for you, they are a vegan shortbread base layer (made with oats and wheat flour) + a peanut butter filling + hard chocolate ganache topping. Sweetpea Bakery makes them. You can buy them at some local coffee shops or New Seasons for nearly $5 a bar. Admittedly, they are huge dessert bars. But still I have a hard time paying $5 for one dessert bar.
This is where the great idea to recreate them at home came into play. I was sadly disappointed when I did a google search and discovered no one before me has tried to make these at home. At least no one who came up immediately. I found a similar recipe at Life Made Sweeter but the bars in the pics looked nothing like the Charlie Brown Bars I’ve been buying from New Seasons. Nothing might be a stretch but they didn’t look nearly exactly like the Charlie Brown Bars and that’s what I was going for.
So I begged and borrowed from several recipes and my own baking knowledge and came up with a pretty good knock-off Charlie Brown bar. My base layer wasn’t as thick as the real Charlie Brown Bar. And my bar wasn’t vegan. We didn’t have any vegan buttery spread in the house so I really couldn’t help that at all. But I’m pretty sure you could make some easy substitutions to get to a vegan dessert. I’m also pretty sure that if I increased the base layer ingredients a bit, I could achieve a nearly perfect Charlie Brown Bar knockoff.
The most annoying but signature thing about Charlie Brown bars (in my opinion) is that the chocolate ganache is too hard and the base is too hard and the filling is too soft. What happens is that when you bite into the bar, the filling squeezes out the sides. In recreating my bar, it was essential that my peanut butter filling squeeze out the sides to replicate the annoyingness of the Charlie Brown Bar. The peanut butter filling couldn’t be too stiff and the chocolate ganache frosting couldn’t be too soft. I was able to achieve the perfectly hard chocolate ganache by melting chocolate chips with butter instead of cream and I made sure not to add too much powdered sugar to the peanut butter filling. In other words, nailed it.
I do think the base layer needs some tweaking. Not only is it too thin (it should be equal in size to the peanut butter layer, which is perfect) but it seems to need more oat. Nothing a little experimentation can’t fix. Also, Sis explained that it was almost too buttery tasting. A weird problem to have, I know, but when you’re used to eating a vegan bar, I can see her point.
If you live in the Portland, Ore., area and you want to make your own Charlie Brown Bars instead of buying them for outrageous prices per bar, this recipe is for you.
Note: I have made these twice. The second time I made the gluten-free version (using oat flour) and doubled the crust recipe (recipe adjusted below) and found out that I like the gluten-free version much better. Never thought I would say that! But it might have been because the crust was a lot thicker and softer than the first time I made them.
- 3 c. all-purpose (sub oat flour for gluten free)
- 2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten free, if necessary)
- 1 c. packed brown sugar
- ½ tsp. baking soda (gluten free, if necessary)
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 c. butter or vegan buttery stick, melted