Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Shortbread

I love peanut butter. I think it is one of the ultimate American comfort foods. Almost every recipe involving peanut butter produces a cheap, easy, scrumptious result. Peanut butter will never betray you! Ok, not true. Excessive consumption will wreak havoc on your thighs... but thoughts of thighs do not belong on a baking blog, so forget I said that! I recently discovered that peanut butter makes an incredible pancake topping in place of butter. Yes, the syrup still works. Think about it, peanut butter on toast with honey tastes amazing, and that's nearly the same (though not half as good) as peanut butter on a pancake with syrup. That was a bit of a sidetrack, but life would be terribly dull if you traveled the straight path every time, right? So without (much) further ado, I give you Peanut Butter Chocolate Shortbread.

Alas! This post will not do the recipe justice due to the lack of a photograph. It would be very sad for this particularly delicious, ridiculously easy recipe to suffer the sad fate of other, photo-less recipes that remain unread, unsplattered, and untasted between the pages of plainer cookbooks. I have to admit, I don't own a single cookbook without pictures (or if I do it has been banished to the back of my bookshelf while the pretty ones sit front and center), and I am rarely inclined to test a recipe that doesn't have an appetizing depiction of the delectable result... but, sometimes a tantalizing description will do the trick!

These bars start with a buttery layer of tender shortbread. A sprinkle of cinnamon adds spicy heat to the shortbread's mild, homey flavor. Peanut-butter filling (candy-sweet and frosting-thick) tops the shortbread layer. Finally, the deep flavor of a dark chocolate glaze balances the bars' buttery sweetness. The crumbly shortbread serves as a perfect foil for the creamy, sticky, peanut-butter chocolate topping. The bars are a little easier to handle if you eat them after they've been chilled, but I think the flavors taste richer at room temp.

They're so easy I made them twice in one week (on short notice)! So give the ugly recipe a chance.

14 T. melted, cooled, unsalted butter (ok, maybe that was a little demanding)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 cups flour
1/2 t. cinnamon

Peanut Butter Filling:
1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural, i.e. Skippy, not Scudders)
1 stick softened, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla

Chocolate Glaze:
1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 325. Line a 9x13 in. baking pan with foil, letting the foil hang over the edge (longways and shortways) to make a "handle". This will help you get the shortbread out later, and saves you the trouble of washing the pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the flour until a thick dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and prick it all over with a fork. Freeze the entire pan for 5 minutes to firm up the dough.

Pull the pan out, pop it in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temp to 300 and bake for about 20 more minutes. The dough should just start to turn a golden brown.

While the shortbread bakes, make the pb filling and chocolate glaze.

Use the same bowl you used for the dough to make the filling (unless you have tons of bowls and a giant dishwasher- then you can do whatever you want). Beat the peanut butter and the softened butter with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add half the powdered sugar and the vanilla, and beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and beat until incorporated. The peanut butter filling will be very thick. If it seems unspreadable, add some hot water until it reaches a reasonable consistency.

For the glaze, put the chocolate chips and the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave at 30 second intervals until the chips become loose and glossy (gloosy? haha). Wisk the mixture with a fork until completely blended and smooth.

Once the shortbread comes out of the oven, allow it to cool briefly. Spread the pb filling evenly over the shortbread in the pan. Pour the chocolate glaze over the pb filling, and either spread it with a spatula or tilt the pan so that the glaze completely coats the filling.

Place the entire pan into the fridge or freezer until COLD (an hour in the fridge is probably enough). Using the foil overhangs as handles, remove the peanut butter shortbread from the pan. Peel the foil back from the sides, and use a long, sharp knife to cut the peanut butter shortbread into small squares. You probably won't have time to take a picture either.