Saturday, 28 May 2011

We go together like... peanut butter and raspberry jam cake bars?


Well, it makes more sense than a rama lama lama ka dinky da dink da donk. Don't you think?

For someone brought up on a diet of largely American musicals, novels and television the lure of PB&J (I know, get me!) has always been great. However, the reality never quite lived up to the expectation - somehow it didn't transport me to a summer camp, or a high school, or one of those yellow school buses that permeate the world vision of those musicals and tv shows. Try as I might it was always still a grey London housing estate with semi-permanent drizzle and I was still a teenager with frizzy hair and spots. And the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, just a combination of things in my world that just. Didn't. Go. Occaisionally it would seem like a good idea again, and the romanticism of those idealised worlds would once again peek through the net curtains of a house that was just a bit too small for it's ever growning residents, only to let you down at the crucial moment. I don't know what was wrong, maybe the peanut butter wasn't salty enough, or the jam not fruity enough but crucially it just didn't seem to be the magic combination that was promised. And so, as with the perm, the ice skates and the matching t-shirts and ankle socks (I was epically cool I'll have you know) it was discarded, and largely forgotten about.

Last week I needed to bake, I needed to make up for forgetting to go to Brownies (don't ask) and I always try to take cake to our Division's working day. Having been off sick with these migraines of late, I've been watching a lot of the Food Network, and am growing to love the Barefoot Contessa's cooking quite a lot. Apart from today, today she made 'mac and cheese' and had to switch off lest I threw up again. Anyway, my food phobias aside, her liberal use of butter, her pristine kitchen, and her garden (ohdearlord her gorgeous garden) have me hooked. I haven't seen her make these cake bars, but when I was throwing around ideas I wanted something that would slice up well, and that was a bit different and for some reason the peanut butter and jam idea popped into my head. I have no idea why, it was a very English weekend, gardening for most, Guides and resting for me but something about the flavours spoke to me. A bit of googling found a Barefoot Contessa recipe which I didn't adapt too much, apart from in the quantities of jam and peanut butter. Oh and I don't have a kitchen aid or beaters as I burnt out the motor on the ones Mark had loaned me making these. I would say a mixer or by hand is best as it's a really sticky dough.

The end result was fantastic, a moist yet short, peanutty base, with a really great jammy layer topped with more of the peanutty base mix and (and this is the touch of genius I think) some bashed up roasted, salted peanuts which give a brilliant crunch, and a fantastic touch of salt to the flavour. I have to say this made about 35, 2inch squares of cake which was brilliant (and a perfect mix to a hot cup of tea), but it is a LOT of mix to wield and is quite heavy to boot.

Peanut Butter and Jam bars

250grams butter at room temperature
1.5 cups caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs (room temperature)
2 cups smooth peanut butter (I used Sainsbury's own but the original recipe recommends Skippy)
3 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups raspberry jam
2/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Grease and line a 9x13x2 inch baking pan (I used the grill pan from my oven)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla, eggs (one by one) and peanut butter. Now this is where I diverge from the recipe as I couldn't be bothered with measuring out 2 cups of sticky peanut butter so I just dolloped in 1 and a half jars as that felt about right. Mix well until evenly combined

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add slowly to the peanut butter mixture. Mix well - this is what make the motor of Mark's beaters smell of burning so be careful. Or get someone you love to buy you a KitchenAid or similar.

Spread about 2/3 of the mixture in the pan, smooth it out with a pallette knife or spatula. Top with the jam. Now, I realised (cunningly) that the jam jars and the peanut butter jars held the same amount, so I went with the incredibly precise jar and a half quantity. Again.

Top with dollops of the peanut butter mix (this spreads out whilst baking, so no need to freak out like I did)

Sprinkle with the peanuts and bake for 45 minutes. I think my oven is a bit insane because it took about an hour in a fan oven for me to feel it was cooked through, and it was still nice and sticky so work with your oven, don't let that be prescriptive just because it's the recipe.

Cut into small squares whilst warm (it's easier) Let it cool in the tray though.

3 comments:

thebutcherthebaker said...

These look and sound absolutely fantastic! I think I'll have to make them very soon.

Seren said...

I adore the Barefoot Contessa. I sometimes wish she was...well, perhaps not my Mum but definitely my Aunt. These bars sound rather yummy - I wonder if she puts them in Jeffrey's lunchbox?? :)

Sx

Pen said...

They were so good Jules, really tasty, and a lovely sticky texture.

Seren I think she'd be a great Godmother, that's what I'm aiming for. I love Jeffrey, he's so cute!

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