Growing up, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were an everyday staple. I would make them for my Dad everyday for lunch before he went to work. I piled on the peanut butter and countered it with grape jelly which would wobble all over the peanut butter until I broke it up with the knife. My Dad said every time he took a bite, a blob of the peanut butter and jelly would fall out. I guess I had a habit to overfill them. He was grateful and I didn’t change the way I made them. He just learned to eat them over a plate! But, this isn’t a sandwich, these are Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. Jelly falling out isn’t an option.
The combination of peanut butter and jelly is awesome. Why limit it to sandwiches? I wanted to create Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars that my kids could enjoy as a snack or dessert. The trick was to do it without making it too sweet. The sweetness of the jelly beautifully compliments the peanut butter in a sandwich, but note that sandwich bread isn’t sweet. Creating a bar where the base is a peanut butter dough containing sugar then topping with jelly or jam, which is sweet on its own, was something I needed to figure out. And, after many, many attempts, I did.
I was getting close to the perfect recipe but I didn’t feel I had achieved it yet. I wanted the bar to be chewy, but using all brown sugar made it too soft. I added regular sugar to provide a stronger texture for the bar. I wanted the bar to be sweet, but because of the jelly adding sweetness, I didn’t want it to be candy sweet. Finding the right proportions entailed so much trial and error, but it was worth it in the end.
Last batch I made looked perfect. I cut into the bars but hadn’t tested it. My son, Ryan, took it upon himself to bring a piece to our friend, Ray, who owns a shop in town. Ryan is sweet and brags about my cooking but he didn’t ask permission to offer my bars to anyone. Especially since they weren’t tested. I didn’t even try them yet!
Ray is the type of guy who says it like it is so when he told me they were perfect and not to change them, I knew I had a winner. He told me he knows my blog is important to me and he’s right. It is. An honest opinion is the best opinion.
You can make these bars with grape jelly or jam – my fruit preference, or any fruit flavor that pleases you.
Here’s what you do…
Beat the butter and the sugars until fully combined and light in color – about three minutes.
Add the peanut butter and vanilla and beat until smooth.
And in the eggs and beat until combined.
Now add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
Take 2/3 of the dough and press evenly into a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Spread the jelly evenly over the dough.
Break off pieces of the remaining dough and scatter them on top of the jelly.
Bake in a 350° oven for about 35 minutes. Let them cool completely before cutting into them.
Here they are. Look at these Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. The base is chewy but is strong enough to hold the jelly and topping without crumbling into pieces. The jelly is present but not dripping down. You want to be able to hold these and eat them without jelly dripping out. The topping is perfectly uneven and crumbly but stuck on the jelly.
Give these bars a try and with every bite spark a memory of childhood and that old standby lunch we had growing up. Enjoy!
- 2¾ cups flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 cups creamy peanut butter*
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1½ cups jelly or jam
- Preheat oven 350 degrees.
- Butter or spray a 9 x13 pan. I use a Pyrex baking dish.
- Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
- Using bowl for mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until creamy and light in color - about 3 minutes.
- Add in the peanut butter and vanilla beat until smooth.
- Beat in eggs until combined.
- Add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
- Divide the dough into thirds. Evenly spread ⅔ of dough into pan. Use you hands to press dough in pan.
- Spread the jelly or jam evenly on top.
- With the remaining dough, break off pieces and scatter them on top.
- Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown.
- Let cool on rack then cut into squares.