Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Peanut Butter and Nature

My father is a big fan of nature. He cross-country skiis, he organizes and leads senior hikes, and his idea of the perfect weekend is to spend it up to his hips in a freezing cold river, catch and release fly fishing. I don't know how he ended up with me.

My idea of a perfect weekend involves a book, a blanket, a fire place, a mug of hot tea, and a plate of cookies. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like nature, it's just that nature has its place - outdoors. And mine is indoors, where it's warm and there aren't creepy, crawly or slithery things.

My dad really tried to indoctrinate me into the joys of nature. He'd point out fabulous vistas of snow-capped mountains and rushing rivers. Yawn. He'd take a big lungful of fresh, frosty air and say, "Isn't this exhilarating?" Um, yeah, that's one way to describe the feeling of putting on clothes that have spent the night at sub-zero temperatures.

When all else failed, he bribed with food. For long car trips we got hard candies. Maybe it was a treat, maybe it was because he thought that there was less likelihood of bloodshed if our mouths were welded shut with toffees. Either way, I'll always associate a particular brand of toffees with car trips. And I never buy them.

On one especially hot hike, my dad hiked ahead and then rejoined us, telling us some story about spotting kindly nature fairies up ahead. When we came upon a small, burbling stream, with cries of amazement, he showed us the kindly fairies had left candy bars for us in the stream. That trip was almost bearable. Chocolate was involved.

Of course, happy campers cannot live on sugar alone. Main meals must be brought along, too. What does one bring along for a picky eater who will only eat peanut butter and jam sandwiches? Well, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, of course. But my father's too smart to pack in a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. He had plastic tubes that looked like large toothpaste tubes with a screw-top cap and a removable crimper at the bottom and he'd fill one with peanut butter and one with jam. Then he had the brilliant idea to put both in the same tube, taking up even less space.

The resulting smear looked disgusting, but I fell in love with it. The peanut butter and jam were homogenous, so that no bite was too dry (too much peanut butter) or too slippery (too much jam). It's the way I've made my pb&j's ever since.

When I tried these cookies, I thought they'd be a peanut cookie with jam in between. Instead, it's just like my beloved pb&j. A paste of peanut butter and jam sandwiched between two cookie layers. What could be better? Just so long as they're served indoors by the fire, with the book and the tea.

PB&J Squares
- adapted from Mrs. Field's Best Ever Cookie Book

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter; softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup favorite jam or jelly
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp powdered sugar

1- Preheat oven to 325 deg F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

2- In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Whisk to blend and set aside.

3- In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the butter and sugar to form a grainy paste. Add egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl. Then add flour mixture and blend at low speed until thoroughly combined. Dough will be firm.

4- Divide dough into 2 pieces; form disks and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or a plastic bag. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

5- Remove one disk from the refrigerator. On a floured board roll out the disk to 9 by 13 inches, about 1/4-inch thick. Place it in the bottom and up the sides of the prepared baking pan. Place the pan back in the refrigerator.

6- In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter and jam, mixing to a smooth consistency. Set aside.

7- Remove the second dough disk from the refrigerator and roll it out to 9 by 13 inches.

8- Remove the pan from the refrigerator and spread the peanut butter and jam mixture over the dough. Sprinkle with the powdered sugar. Place the second dough rectangle on top of the peanut butter layer. Pinch down side edges all around the pan.

9- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch in the center. Cool in pan, then cut into squares.


Libbie said...

Hey Lynn!

My Bo is a peanut butter & Jelly NUT! He would LOVe these! I need to remember to come back & visit when he has a special day! Thanks!

Adam said...

As someone who eats PB&J five mornings a week, I'm mesmerized right now :).

bellini valli said...

My parents loved all the luxuries so I never camped until I backpacked all over Europe or with friends. I loved it when we had a camper since that was my kind of camping. But I do love a campfire and it's the only time I have eaten hot dogs:D Dad still skiis and he is 82 and they went on a hiking trup in the fall to the Lake District.I'd have to say our dads are pretty similar:D

Elle said...

Experience has shown that there are camper types and non-campers. Even candy left by faries isn't going to change that. Glad that you can now laugh at the trials of misplaced enthusiasms...which brought you pb&j shmear at least...and enjoy sitting by the fire with the book and tea and these fab cookies. Can I come over?I promise not to tell you how much I enjoy camping, OK?

ann@Apples and Twinkies said...

Thee bars look great. I love pb&j. I could eat it everyday.

Molly said...

When we used to go on hikes with my dad, his green backpack was full of granola and tuna sandwiches. Those sandwiches remain some of my favorite ever food tastes. Thanks for the memories.

Deborah said...

I'm an outdoor lover, but also an indoor lover! I love recipes like this that bring back childhood memories. And they look delicious, as well!

VeggieGirl said...

I love your "perfect weekend" description! And those bars :)

grace said...

nicehappyfuntime memories, lynn--thanks for sharing!
also, it's....peanut butter jelly time!

Katie Mar said...

what a cute story :o)
i'm completely with you... give me the book, blanket, and cookies!!!
these look super tasty!!

Barbara said...

I was raised pretty much the same way...outside, camping, boating, nature. Fortunately, I liked it. My sister didn't. We ate fish we caught, blueberry pie mother made after we picked them, not a pb and j in sight. I have great memories...
Now my perfect weekends are much like yours. :) These bars look pretty darn good to me!
Fun post!

Brilynn said...

Aww, what a great story to go with these! The bars look awesome!

Corrin said...

The bars not only look awesome they tasted awesome, too! Thanks for sharing your stories and recipes!