Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In a Baking Frenzy

What is it about the holidays that morphs ordinary women into Martha wanna-be's? Normally sane, calm women find themselves doing crazed things like spraying twigs and pinecones with gold spray paint, writing two page Christmas letters that read like great works of fiction (take that either of the two ways), and going nuts in the kitchen. When there are only 24 pre-Christmas days in December, why should the baking list be longer than the list for Santa?

I steadfastly refuse to gilt my garden, or send a chatty newsletter. I figure with all the time I save there, I can bake even more cookies! I know I'm not posting much this month. I'm spending all my time poring over cookbooks, mixing dough, and baking treats. That would theoretically mean that I'd have tons to post in January, except the table where I take pictures has been taken over by boxes waiting to be mailed, packages waiting to be wrapped, and cards waiting to be addressed and mailed. Yes, all that is taking a back seat to the mad baking fever that has gripped me.

Who could possibly eat all these cookies? Don't know. Don't care. I just have to go with the fever and roll, shape, drop, and glaze as many of the items on my list as possible before Christmas. On Christmas day we'll roll out of bed in a sugar stupor, gaze listlessly at the presents, then waddle back to bed. So be it. Small price to pay for having such fun with cookies.

Any volunteers to come take some off my hands?

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Shortbread Bars
- adapted from Fine Cooking Cookies

Shortbread Crust:

7 oz (14 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Generous 1/2 tsp kosher salt
9-1/2 oz. ( 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, finely chopped


1 cup creamy peanut butter (like Jif)
3 oz (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter at room temperature
6 oz (1-1/2 cups) confectioners' sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


5 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( about 1 heaping cup)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream

1- Line a straight-sided 13x9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal.

2- In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour and peanuts to make a stiff dough. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.

3- Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

4- Bake the dough for 20 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 300°F and bake until the crust is golden-brown all over and completely set, 20 to 25 more minutes. Let the crust cool completely before topping.

5- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment put the peanut butter and butter and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add about half of the confectioners’ sugar to the mixer along with the vanilla extract and 1 Tbs. hot water. Beat on low speed until combined, then on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 more minute. Beat in the remaining sugar and mix, about 1 more minute, until the mixture is smooth and thick, like frosting. If the filling seems too stiff, add another 1 Tbs. hot water and beat for another minute.

6- With a knife or metal offset spatula, spread the filling over the fully cooled crust. The filling may not spread smoothly and evenly, but don’t worry; the ganache will cover it.

7- Put the chocolate in a small heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 3 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until combined and smooth.

8- Spread the ganache over the peanut-butter filling with a metal offset spatula to coat evenly. Let the bars sit at least 3 hours to allow the ganache to set before cutting (or refrigerate for 1 hour).

9- Carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-1/2-inch squares.

The bars will keep at room temperature for 1 week.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'd love to take this batch off your hands! Delightful peanut butter and chocolate on shortbread ... I'm all for that!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Consider me a volunteer ANY time :)

Jennifer Jo said...

Oh my, this looks heavenly. But I'm afraid my cookie-baking list is already long enough.

On the other hand, maybe not.

Maria said...

My baking list keeps getting longer, I just can't stop:)

LyB said...

Well, you've posted way more than I have lately! And from the looks of it, baked more too! Have fun baking, everything looks delicious!

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm waddling over!

NKP said...

Me too please!
What great confections you have going on here!

I'll take some of each. :)

Melinda said...

I just love peanut butter and chocolate together. How lovely it would be to be given these! Lucky, lucky recipients..even if it is just for your family.
I am sure someone will love all the effort you have put into these bars.

Dolce said...

I did something similar last year and it was a total hit. The only thing? I can't be trusted around this, so I have to wait until people show up at home to bake them!

Chats the Comfy Cook said...

Another volunteer to take these babies off your hands. Did I tell you, I love peanut butter and chocolate?

Abby said...

Yaaaaay for Christmas Baking! I do all of mine in a couple of days. (I only choose 5 or 6 treats to make, mind you.) Can't wait until next Wednesday!

Merry Christmas, Lynn!

Jacque said...

Oh my goodness, that look like the perfect cookie! I love the shiny glaze.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

These are definitely worth getting into a baking frenzy about.

grace said...

a frenzy, you say? i haven't reached that point yet, but i've seen no less than 189 recipes that i want to make in the next week. this one goes on that list--beefed-up reese cups must never be ignored.

Aimée said...

Hitting..print..NOW. Why oh why must everything you make look so good that I have no choice but to recreate it instantly?

Do you realize I don't have a single wrapped gift in my house? Still,I bake.
I think I've proved your point.

Debbie said...

What a great combination! They look delicious!

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Barbara said...

You want to know who eats all these cookies? I do. (Burp.) I did finish wrapping though and decorating so I could now concentrate on cooking.
And I HATE those Christmas news letters. I groan when I open one. On the other hand, have you noticed fewer cards this year? And no news letters either. So far.

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Linda Vandermeer said...

Yum - I had just been thinking of adapting a recipe I had to make it peanut instead of caramel slice and you have just made my day. This will be the second recipe off your blog I have made all the way over in Australia. Cheers and have a great Christmas.

eatme_delicious said...

Holy wow these sound like they would be insanely addictive and loved by all!

Allie said...

Wow, these look good! I love shortbread, peanut butter, and chocolate! I'm definitely adding these to my to do list.