Chewy Glazed Peanut Butter Cookie Bars
I cannot BEGIN to tell you how refreshing these past few weeks have been, you guys. First of all, the frozen tundra of the Midwest has thoroughly thawed and we are now in that glorious window of Chicagoland weather where most days it’s brilliantly blue-skied and sunny with just enough humidity to make a person feel alive, and even get tricked into leaving California for it, with no thought about the meteorologically bipolar months of November through April.
Lately there’s also been lots of family time (including Disney World, which for me was a tremendous personal victory as I am not a fan of excessively themed things or crowds and hello) and a chance to recalibrate after a verrry long process (going on three years!) of creating Midwest Made and figure out my next projects. The book, by the way, is officially all buttoned-up, barred from any more of my futzing with it, and off to the printers within the next week. (It’s available for low-key pre-order now, and when you order, save your receipt because we’re doing a fun pre-order giveaway later this summer!)
I’m also SO HAPPY to finally have some time to do some baking that isn’t book-related or generally considered work. This is the good stuff—windows open, music floating (Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart, and Tom Misch have been the soundtrack of choice), mixer whirring, and no deadline for getting a perfect result, other than certain children drawn to the fragrance wafting from the oven, and asking 157 times when something will be ready.
These Chewy Glazed Peanut Butter Bars are the result of one of these recent baking sessions, inspired by a recipe I had tucked away in my files. It’s allegedly representative of a popular treat served in San Diego’s public schools in the 70s and 80s, but I’m just the messenger, here. And funny enough, the end result reminds me a little of my browned butter blondies recipe in the new book, which I’m telling you is worth the cover price all by itself, but that is neither here nor there. These bar cookies are a celebration of everything a peanut butter lover could want—big peanut flavor, mellow chew, brown sugary sweetness, and a sparkle of salt. Bonus points: they are sturdy and perfectly packable celebratory treats for the lunch boxes of deserving children who are (really, already?) wrapping up the school year.
Chewy Glazed Peanut Butter Cookie Bars
Makes 2 dozen
The inclusion of shortening might be skeevy to some—the recipe I had was nearly all shortening, so the ratio of butter to shortening is an improvement, but I can see how the shortening lends tenderness and unique cake quality to the bars, and since I had some in the pantry, I opted to leave some in the mix. Use all butter, if you like—it would likely be a matter of it becoming a slightly firmer final product, but wouldn’t ruin the recipe.
For the glaze, you can make it as thick or thin as you like by playing with the amount of water added. I wanted my glaze to be more of the sheen-adding variety rather than an icing, because the bars themselves are already quite sweet. You do you.
For the bars:
1/2 cup/50 g old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups/160 g unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons/84 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup/50 g vegetable shortening
1 cup/200 g granulated sugar
1/2 cup/113 g firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup/132 g smooth peanut butter (I like Skippy for baking)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the glaze:
1/4 cup/30 g confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
3 to 4 teaspoons hot water
Pinch of fine sea salt
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), for sprinkling, optional
Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch light-colored metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and line it with parchment paper.
In a clean coffee grinder or blender, grind the oats to a tweedy flour. Dump into a medium bowl. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening, sugars, peanut butter, and vanilla on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl often. Reduce the speed to medium-low and beat in the eggs one at a time. Reduce the speed to low and stir in the dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth evenly with an offset spatula. Bake until puffed and lightly golden, about 25 minutes. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes—the bars will deflate a bit in the center during this time.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, enough water to create a pourable glaze, and the salt. Drizzle over the warm bars and smooth with an offset spatula. Allow the bars to cool completely and the glaze to set. When the glaze is still just a bit tacky but not wet, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if you wish. Cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.