Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Today marks the fourth straight day of heavy rain and gray skies here, and each day it gets harder and harder not to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed.  I shouldn’t complain, we’ve been lucky.  There hasn’t been widespread flooding as so many of my friends down in Pennsylvania have experienced.  And I know my friends in Texas would be grateful for some of this rain as the wildfires continue to rage on there; I so wish I could box it up and send it their way.  But still, I’m desperate for better weather these last few weeks of summer.  On a few occasions this week I’ve even found myself going through my photos from earlier this summer to savor the sunshine and blue skies that were so plentiful at that time.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars

In doing so, I also happened to come across the photos of these peanut butter and chocolate shortbread bars.  I made them in late June and somehow they got buried in my Flickr stream and never made it onto the blog.  You would think a dessert featuring chocolate and peanut butter wouldn’t be so easily lost in the shuffle, but I think I baked 10 or 12 things that particular week.  I was house sitting for Shane’s parents and I love to leave them lots of treats in their freezer, which explains the baking frenzy.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars

So yes, it took me over 2 months to share these with you, but I don’t think you should wait that long to make them.  The bars have three irresistible layers – a buttery shortbread crust on the bottom, a sweet peanut butter filling in the middle, and a smooth, shiny ganache to top it all off.  The only part of the bars that is baked is the crust so they come together quickly and easily (though you do have to wait for the ganache to set before digging in).  I loved everything about them, and if I remember correctly, they were among the most well received of the treats I left for Shane’s parents too.  My only minor complaint is that the shortbread crust was pretty crumbly, though I should note that I skipped the peanuts called for in the recipe so maybe I’d have had better luck with them in there.  Regardless, they’re definitely worthy of a repeat here.  Heck, maybe I’ll make them today – if nothing else, rainy days are a good excuse for getting in some baking :)

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars
from Fine Cooking

Crust
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (9 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped

Peanut Butter Filling
1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache Topping
5 oz. (about 1 heaping cup) good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

To make the crust: Line a metal 13×9 baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides to lift the bars out.

Stir the butter, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and peanuts, mixing until a stiff dough comes together. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Use a fork to prick the dough all over, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is firm.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 F.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 300 F and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and set. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely.

To make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the peanut butter and butter on medium until smooth. Add half of the confectioners’ sugar, the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of hot water to the bowl. Starting on low speed, then increasing to medium, beat until smooth and fluffy. Mix in the remaining confectioners’ sugar until smooth. The mixture should be thick but not too stiff – if it is, add another tablespoon of hot water.

Using an offset spatula, spread the peanut butter filling over the cooled crust.

To make the ganache: Add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan then pour over the chocolate. Let stand for about 3 minutes, then stir gently until smooth.

Spread the ganache over the peanut butter filling in an even layer. Let sit until the ganache sets (at least 3 hours at room temperature, or 1 hour in the fridge).

Lift the bars out using the foil handles, then cut into squares before serving.