Several years ago, I made these bar cookies as a farewell present for a colleague. Turns out these bars ushered in the end of an era. It started innocently on a crisp Friday evening, when I met my co-worker at a nouvelle French restaurant. Although it was her goodbye party, it was a reunion for me, since I left the company several months prior and got to see my work buddies again.
Our large party sampled a wide range of foods: delicately flavored head cheese, bold sausages, and three sundaes. I also took my first sip of a White Russian but didn’t go beyond that. Any more, and I would have been drunk. As we exchanged hugs, I gave my colleague chocolate and peanut butter streusel bars. She had impeccable manners and as such, I didn’t know whether she disliked any foods (I never heard her say one negative thing). But I figured chocolate and peanut butter was a safe combo.
The following Monday was business as usual, until I heard that the company I used to work at was shutting down, immediately. Little did we know, our dinner three days before was our last hurrah. By week’s end, everyone had left the company. Now, they’re scattered across several states and countries.
Although these bars represent the bittersweet, I hope they bring you nothing but good memories. They’re a riff on Ina Garten’s peanut butter and jelly bars. Instead of the jelly, I filled them with ganache. Naturally, I also reduced the fat in the dough and added whole grains (uh, all that extra chocolate probably cancels out the health benefits). Don’t be disturbed by the modest amount of chocolate in the picture; I adjusted the recipe so you’ll have enough filling.
Recipe: Chocolate and Peanut Butter Streusel Bars
Inspired by Ina Garten
Servings: 48 bars
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces (about 2 cups) 60% chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (not “natural”)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or spelt flour (can substitute all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour an 11×14-inch cake pan.
- Bring cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl, and pour cream over chocolate. Mash any big pieces with a wooden spoon. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- With an electric beater on medium speed, cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until combined.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.
- Place 2/3 of the dough into the pan. Spread and press over the bottom with your fingers. Spread the ganache evenly over the dough. Form the remaining dough into pea-sized globs (it takes a while, but it ensures that the crumbs stay chunky). Drop the dough evenly over the ganache. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool and cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.
Variation: Reduce the fat by substituting water or milk for the cream. In my experience, water ganaches aren’t as rich as the traditional version, but it’s worth a try.