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PB&J: the American Way

July 5, 2010

When we were invited to an epic 4th of July party (the host would be leaving for a month in Italy the next day; it would be the last of many 4th of July parties at his apartment, since he’s moving upon returning to the States; his balcony overlooks the fireworks barge on Lake Union, making the fireworks so concussive that my insides shake along with every explosion), I figured I had to make an epic 4th of July dessert.  What’s more American than peanut butter and jelly?  Since my father-in-law makes jam for every Christmas, we had a good supply of red and blue, and I merged the American flag cake design with the peanut butter bars recipe I found in Better Homes and Gardens.  The result:  pure patriotic deliciousness.

Peanut Butter Bars with Jam, Berry, and Whipped Cream Topping

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens (quantities in parentheses are the ones I think could be adjusted, but I followed the recipe specifically the first time around)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4  cup butter, softened (1/2 cup)
  • 3/4  cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar (minus 2 Tbsp)
  • tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4  tsp. salt
  • eggs
  • tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4  cups all-purpose flour

Toppings:

  • 1/4 cup blueberry jam
  • ¾ cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jam
  • ¾ – 1 cup strawberries, cut small
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla

Additional utensils:

  • toothpicks
  • cheese spreaders or other thin spreading implements

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a 13x9x2-inch pan with foil, hanging foil over the edges. (No greasing necessary.)

2. In large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter on medium until smooth and creamy (half a minute). Beat in sugars, baking powder, and salt until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour (dough will get thick and stiff).

3. Smooth dough evenly in pan. Bake 25 min. or until top is golden and cake tester comes out clean.

4. Cool completely.  Lift bars from pan by foil and set on serving board/tray.  Have toppings ready nearby.

5.  Insert 12 toothpicks along the right side to separate the stripes, ~1.5 centimeters apart.  Measure about 4.8 inches from the left and 7 stripes down for the blueberry jam.  Spread jam in designated square.  Spread strawberry jam in alternating stripes, starting from the top and ending on the bottom.

6.  Remove toothpicks.  Spread whipped cream in the blank stripes.  Place strawberry pieces along the red stripes, and blueberries over the blueberry jam.  Dollop a dot of whipped cream or use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to put stars over the blueberries.

7.  Refrigerate up to 6 hours. Makes 18 good-sized bars, or 24 smaller ones. 

Make Ahead: Wrap the peanut butter base in foil; store at room temperature up to 24 hours. Before serving, top with jam and berries. Or freeze the peanut butter base in a freezer container up to 3 months.

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