Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bake Date Revival: Peanut Butter Fudge Oatmeal Bars

I can't pick a favorite close up

Last summer a few friends and I met every month for a baking day. We planned the menu beforehand and divided the ingredient lists amongst the 4 of us. But after moving to Richmond, and the other girls to their own areas, coordinating a baking day became a little challenging. Happily, one of the crew, Patti, was staying in Ann Arbor so we were able to revive the tradition this past week.

Patti and I are (in)famous for our desire to "pick" at things. Cutting a piece of cake does not satisfy us - we like to eat the little nibblets that fall off the piece of cake. Or the gooey gob of cheese that comes off when you pull your piece of pizza away from the pie. Get it?

So we picked a recipe that would allow us to fulfill this pleasure: Peanut Butter Fudge Oatmeal Bars! Not only are there lots of bits that fall off - each ingredient is a pickers paradise as well! I had first seen pictures of these from Patti a while back, but the original recipe comes from Pink Parsley's site (and I think it even has a history from there, too).

What you need:

For the oatmeal cookie layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

For the fudge layer:
2 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free and I recommend you do, too because the bars are really sweet)
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips (you can probably use a little less if you want)
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Reese's pieces, for the topping

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides.

Cream 1/2 cup of the butter with the sugar until well-combined. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix well, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. You can do this by hand if you don't have a mixer, just make sure you soften the butter in the microwave.

Press two-thirds of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of the pan, and set aside the rest for the topping.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, condensed milk, chocolate chips, and peanut butter. Cook over medium or medium-low heat until the chocolate and butter are melted, stirring often otherwise the chocolate can burn. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. We poured all the sauce over the oatmeal layer, but you can save some as a fudgy sauce for ice cream if you don't want a thick layer of chocolate. Spread it over the oatmeal cookie layer with a spatula.

Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the fudge, then sprinkle with the candy.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until the topping is starting to brown. The top will be cooked, but it's hard to tell about the bottom because you have to cut through the fudge layer, which is basically still sauce because it hasn't set up yet. Ideally, you should let them cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours to set completely. Cut into squares and serve, or store at room temperature (or in the fridge on a hot day).

These are SWEEEET so trust me and just cut off a little square, unless you want to risk a full-blown sugar shock :) Patti and I couldn't wait for them to cool so we ate them warm - yeah, even for us it was a little much. So Patti threw them in the freezer and they set up nicely. Point is: if you're in a hurry, freeze them for about 40 minutes, cut them, then freeze as individual bars. If you have time, then follow the recipe and keep them in the fridge. If you have no time at all, just spoon it out over ice cream. See how versatile this recipe is?

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