My father’s birthday was earlier this week. Everyone at his work forgot; no one wished him a happy birthday. (Granted, he didn’t tell anyone, but it is odd saying, “Good morning, today’s my birthday.”) He came home dejected and sad. Poor Dad! (Actually, it wasn’t too bad. To make him feel better, he went to the grocery store and bought a huge steak and grilled it for dinner. Nothing like meat to make a man feel better!) Today, I thought I would make him some dessert to comfort him, so he knew he was still loved.
One of his favorite desserts is peach pie. My mom makes a fabulous peach pie, but since I invited them over, I didn’t think it fair that she also bring the dessert. I love peach pie too, but I don’t love making it. Pie crusts are hard and take a lot of love and work. I have to be in the mood to make pies. I decided to make these bars instead, mostly because I had all the ingredients and didn’t need to go to the store. And my guess is that you probably have all these ingredients in your pantry too.
Start off by spraying cooking spray on a 9-inch square pan. Press wax or parchment paper over it, pressing down with your fingers to “seal” it. Then spray cooking spray on top of the wax paper. (The first spray enables you to easily take it out of the pan. The second spray allows you to get the bars off the wax paper.)
Next, you’re going to mix flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. You can do this by hand, but the food processor is much easier! Then cut up two sticks of butter and place in the flour mixture and use the “pulse” button to pulse until the butter is worked in and pea size. Stop pulsing when the dough starts to stick together.
In a separate bowl, gently beat an egg. Add vanilla and then the dough mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the egg and vanilla are mixed in.
Remove 1 cup of the dough mixture for the crumb topping. Make sure you don’t compact the dough into the measuring cup; just gently scoop.
Press the dough into the square pan. You’ll have to gently work with the dough to get it to cover the bottom. Make sure you don’t have any holes. Pour some jelly or jam or preserve (any flavor will do) over the crust layer, smoothing it out with a spatula.
With the reserved 1 cup dough, add one bag (1 2/3 c) of peanut butter chips.
Then mix them together and crumble on top of the jelly.
Bake, then cool completely, and cut up.
My dad didn’t seem to care that I didn’t make him a peach pie though; he liked the dessert, the company, and the thought. And of course, any excuse to see his grandson!
I think they’re telling each other secrets…
Or maybe Dad’s saying to Matthew, “Don’t tell your mom, but I’ll give you a bit of this dessert.”
So, here’s to another year Dad. Another year of asking you for advice about house and construction projects, watching the progress on your train set, and spending time with you. I couldn’t ask for a better dad and can’t wait for our son to get older and have you share with him all the things you shared with me. And I pray he’ll be better at baseball, especially swinging the bat, than I was. Happy birthday! xoxo
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
2 ¼ c flour
1 c sugar
½ t salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 t pure vanilla
12 oz. jelly (any flavor), room temperature
1 package (1 2/3 c) peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square pan with cooking spray. Line wax paper (or parchment paper) over cooking spray and use hands to “seal” the paper to the pan. Spray again with cooking spray—bottom and sides.
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Turn on to mix thoroughly. Using one stick of butter at a time, cut into 1-inch chunks and place in the food processor. Pulse 5-6 times. Cut up the other stick and do the same. Pulse just until the butter is pea sized and dough starts to form.
In a large bowl, combine the slightly beaten egg and vanilla. Add dough and mix just until incorporated. Reserve 1 cup of dough for topping. (DO NOT press dough into the cup—just lightly scoop dough in.) Press the rest of the dough into the bottom of the greased pan. You will need to work a bit with the dough to evenly press it into the pan.
Spread the jelly (or jam or preserve) over the crust layer. In a separate bowl, combine the reserved 1 cup dough and peanut butter chips until thoroughly combined. Break apart, or crumble, over the jelly. (It will cover the pan, but you’ll have “crumbs”.)
Bake for 45-50 minutes, until top is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. When ready to serve, take a knife and run around the inside edge of the pan to loosen. Using the wax paper, take bars out of pan and place on cutting board. Cut into bars and serve.
adapted slightly from Everyday Foods, September 2011 issue