Somewhere along the line, I got used to always having plans for Friday night. Where I once spent the end of my week parked in front of the television watching marathons of Say Yes to the Dress (kind of pathetic, I know, but I was single), my Friday nights have been occupied with friends, dinners out, theater, and general merriment. However, tonight, I found myself home alone, with nothing to do. Instead of vegging out with an evening of bad reality television, I decided to at least do something productive and make some dessert.
After last week's caldo gallego adventure, I've felt a bit of an impetus to make better use of my cookbook collection, which generally sits around gathering dust. For Valentine's Day, Justin gave me my own copy of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, after he checked a copy out from the library for me when I wanted to make the root beer Bundt cake featured inside. There were several other tempting desserts featured in the book that I filed away for future reference, and tonight seemed like as good a night as any to give one a try.
I opted to make Baked's Peanut Butter Crispy Bars, since they could be made without waiting for any butter to come to room temperature (sometimes I just don't have the patience to wait), and because Rice Krispies were on sale at the grocery store. They also entailed candying the Rice Krispies instead of binding them together with melted marshmallows in the traditional way, and I've been wanting to learn my way around a candy thermometer and overcome my fear of melted sugar. Besides, peanut butter and chocolate are like the pork chops and applesauce of the dessert world -- some foods are just meant to be consumed together.
Ultimately, I was surprised by how easy this recipe was to prepare. Although it had a lot of steps, and required chilling the bars in the fridge for an hour between layers, everything came together really simply. Baked bills this as the most popular bar at their eponymous bakery in Brooklyn, and I can see why -- the flavor is reminiscent of an over-sized, more decadent, and crispy Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. If you are a die-hard Reese's fan, or are otherwise fond of the classic pairing of chocolate and peanut butter, you should consider giving these a try; they're well worth the effort.
Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
For the crispy crust:
1 3/4 c. Rice Krispies
1/4 c. sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer:
5 oz. good quality (i.e. not Hershey's) milk chocolate, chopped
1 c. creamy peanut butter
For the chocolate icing:
3 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Make the crispy crust:
1. Lightly spray a paper towel with Pam and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan.
2. Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup, being careful not to let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan, and use a small wooden spoon to stir until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan and cook over medium high heat, bringing mixture to a boil. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.
4. Remove from heat, stir in the melted butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir the cereal until thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.
Make the milk chocolate layer:
1. In a large glass bowl, stir together the chocolate and peanut butter. Place over a pot of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until smooth and combined.
2. Remove from heat and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust and smooth the surface.
3. Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the layer hardens.
Make the chocolate icing:
1.In a large glass bowl, stir together the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Place over a pot of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until smooth and combined.
2. Remove from heat and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the icing over the peanut butter layer and smooth until even.
3. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until topping hardens.
4. Cut into 9 squares and serve. Bars should be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.