Monday, April 26, 2010

PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE (and the cooking blah's)

This is not my favorite time of year. We still have a little snow in the yard and everything is a sad shade of “dead vegetation brown” except for the bits of grass sprouting near the warm house foundation. Most days are still too cold to barbecue outdoors and yet that is what I want to do. We are tired of heavy winter stews, casseroles and roasts, yet summer vegetable crops and fresh seafood will not be in our markets for a while yet. This scenario results in the “cooking blahs” for me, how about you? How do you combat your cooking blahs? .

Personally, I find myself trying new dessert and cookie recipes. That is how I found this yummy treat. It has a chocolate cookie base (conveniently made with a cake mix) and a super creamy peanut butter center, topped with milk chocolate ganache. Served chilled, what's not to love here?

(1) 2 layer chocolate cake mix
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg
¾ cup butter, softened
¾ cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whipping cream
¾ cup honey roasted peanuts chopped
½ cup whipping cream
2 cups milk chocolate chips
Line a 10" x 15" baking pan with parchment paper (or foil) leaving the ends long so you can use them as handles (to lift the bars out of the pan) after they've cooled. Spray the parchment paper (or foil) with vegetable spray. Set aside.

 Mix the dry cake mix with 1/3 cup melted butter and 1 egg. Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes or until well combined. This "dough" will be super thick. My Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with a paddle worked well. Press this into the bottom of your prepared 10x15 cake pan, trying to get it as even as possible. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes, remove from oven and cool completely in the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the peanut butter, butter and vanilla until very well combined and light in color. Beat in powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of whipping cream. Mix well, then stir in the chopped peanuts.

Spread this mixture over the cooled cookie crust. Place this in the fridge (or freezer) while you make the ganache topping.

For the topping, heat ½ cup whipping cream, in a saucepan, just to the boiling point (don't let it boil). Remove from heat and add the milk chocolate chips. Do not stir, just let it sit for five minutes, then stir until smooth. Cool for 20 minutes.

Gently spread (evenly) over the peanut butter bars. Chill for at least a couple hours. To serve, loosen the edges of the bars and lift them out of the pan, using the ends of the parchment paper. Cut them into bars.

NOTE: These freeze well.
NOTE: Store covered in refrigerator. Let these sit at room temperature about 15 minutes before you serve them.