I’m going to try really hard not to use superlatives on this blog. In no way do I think I make “The Best” or “World’s Most Delicious” of anything. I share things that I REALLY like (and I think you will too!), but I’m sure someone out there can do it better than I can. I need one exception to this rule, though. These peanut butter bars. They have got to be the exception because they are THE BEST I have ever had. The Ultimate. And I’ve tried a lot of peanut butter bars because I’m the kind of girl that eats peanut butter by the spoonful and considers it a perfectly normal afternoon snack. I don’t crave many things, but I do crave good peanut butter bars. And these right here… the best ones I’ve tried.
I can’t even take credit for these. All the credit goes to Jan. Jan is Lynzee’s mom. Lynzee and I played volleyball together in high school. Jan made these peanut butter “fingers” for the entire team before every single volleyball game we played. (Yes, Jan is amazing.) I’m gonna be honest… my favorite part about that volleyball season was not actually playing the game. Yeah, sure I like volleyball, but these bars… the real reason I showed up 🙂 Kidding slightly, but these really were a BIG deal to me. My 15-year old self even asked Jan for the recipe at the end of the season, because that’s a normal 15-year old thing to do.
I make these peanut butter bars every year with a few tweaks from Jan’s original recipe. I usually make them in September sometime because that’s when volleyball season was (I’m a sucker for nostalgia), and also when my birthday is, so Happy Birthday to me!
So… the real question… what makes these “The Ultimate”? The cookie layer is perfect – soft, moist, not the slightest bit crumbly or dry. Top that with fluffy, smooth, not-too-sweet peanut butter frosting with a thin layer of chocolate in the middle instead of chocolate frosting. Everything works so well together, they’re perfectly balanced. This recipe makes 24 small-ish bars from a quarter sheet pan. That sounds like a lot, but if you plan on sharing, you’re going to want to double it. They have a habit of vanishing, and the last thing you would want is to run out 🙂
Ultimate Peanut Butter Bars
For the bars
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, fairly cold
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the frosting
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, fairly cold
- 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- a pinch of salt
- enough milk to make spreadable (2-4 tablespoons)
Preheat your oven to 350°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugars on medium-high speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix well. Next, add the baking soda and salt and mix again. Finally, add the flour and oats and mix until the dough comes together and no more visible patches of flour can be seen. The dough is going to be really sticky - don't add any more flour.
Scrape the dough out into an ungreased quarter sheet pan. You could also use a 9x13 pan, your bars will just end up thicker. Press the dough evenly into the pan using a rubber scraper. It's super sticky, so just do your best to make it even. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the edges just start to barely brown.
Top the still hot bars with the chocolate chips. Let them sit for a few minutes, then spread the melted chips evenly over the bars. Let the chocolate cool completely. Feel free to speed this step up by putting the bars in the fridge once the cookie portion has cooled.
To make the frosting, beat the butter with a stand mixer until light and "whipped" looking. Add the peanut butter, and whip for 1 more minute. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix well. Add the milk a little at a time, beating after each addition, until the frosting is spreadable, smooth, and fluffy. Top the cooled bars with the frosting, cut into 1 x 3-inch pieces, and enjoy!