Season of the Cookie: Martha Stewart’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Does anyone out there know why certain foods taste better the second day? Spaghetti, chili, lasagna, soups, stews and dips usually all seem to benefit from a day or so in the fridge, don’t they?  Cold or re-heated, the ingredients somehow marry together over time and improve upon the initial combined flavor.  That was definitely the case with these peanut butter and jelly bars. MG and made them together on a Sunday night, and for the amount of effort put in (as well as the loss of a beloved utensil), I had high hopes that really weren’t met. MG felt the same way: “They were definitely good, but they weren’t amazing.”

Agreed.  Definitely not amazing.  So, that night we each had two bars while watching Boardwalk Empire, and that was it.  We didn’t race back for more, or sneak a bonus one in just before bedtime.  If I remember correctly, MG didn’t even finish his first two. And this recipe makes a lot… I got over three dozen out of it, so the fact that they were most certainly lacking in “wow” factor was a disappointment.  I wrapped them up, stuck them in the fridge and said to myself, “Eh, I’ll take them to work.  They’ll eat anything.”

Monday morning I forgot to grab them on the way out of the house, but I promised my co-workers I would bring them in Tuesday. “But they didn’t turn out so hot,” I warned them, “definitely not my best effort, so don’t be surprised.”

I got home that night, pulled them out of the refrigerator and let them warm to room temperature.  Later that evening, I cut myself up a piece and popped it into my mouth.  My eyes darted back and forth suspiciously in my head.  “Did they taste this good yesterday?” So, I tried another one, and another one. Damn if they weren’t incredible. Salty but sweet, dense and crumbly.  I ate four more before bedtime. There was not a loser in the bunch.

The next day, I took them to work and left them in the control room. There were about thirty left, and they were gobbled up completely within the hour. I managed to grab one before they were all gone, and lo and behold, it was even better than the day before. And talk about praise for the cook!  One co-worker even called me out on selling them so short to everyone the day before.

So, I guess that these peanut butter and jelly bars are simply late bloomers. Julia Child didn’t publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking until she was almost fifty.  Colonel Sanders didn’t franchise Kentucky Fried Chicken until well into his sixties.  Some things just take a little longer and may not immediately impress, but that doesn’t mean they won’t turn out to be worth the wait.

I definitely suggest you give these a shot.  You may find the peanuts on the top excessive and unnecessarily messy, as I did.  Next time, I will leave them out. There is more than enough flavor in the bars themselves.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars from Martha Stewart

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberry jam, or other flavor
  • 2/3 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with butter, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease the parchment, and coat inside of pan with flour; set aside. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add eggs and peanut butter; beat until combined, about 2 minutes.

Whisk together salt, baking powder, and flour. Add to bowl of mixer on low speed; combine. Add vanilla. Transfer two-thirds of mixture to prepared pan; spread evenly with offset spatula. Using offset spatula, spread jam on top of peanut-butter mixture. Dollop remaining third of peanut-butter mixture on top of jam. Sprinkle with peanuts.

Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; cut into about thirty-six 1 1/2-by-2-inch pieces.

Rest in Peace, little blue plastic spatula thingy I used often. Know that your final efforts were most definitely not in vain.

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2 thoughts on “Season of the Cookie: Martha Stewart’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

  • October 9, 2010 at 4:59 am

    So these PB and J bars are basically like good red wine. Gets better with age.

    Although, I love PB so much that I’m not sure the tray would last long enough in my house to be able to age. Just saying.

  • October 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Yowzah! Those bars look bitchin’!! Can almost taste them!

    FYI, love the new masthead graphic & slogan! Very now, very hip! I approve!

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