Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Squirrel Bars

There are few combinations more universally popular than the pairing of chocolate and peanut butter. And there are few examples of this pairing that I love more than squirrel bars. A favorite of my family’s , these cheekily named bars are essentially a peanut butter blondie with swirls of melted semi-sweet chocolate running across the top. They are a perfect combination of salty and sweet and, though they are fairly rich, they impart a generous dose of chocolate and peanut butter flavor without evoking the mouth-filling heaviness of, say, a Reese’s peanut butter cup.

I actually can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post about these, since they are frequently my go-to recipe when someone asks me to bring a treat to a shower, open house, etc. Squirrel bars look a little fancier than your typical brownie or cookie, but are easy and quick to make. Perfect for when you want to change things up a bit but don’t have a lot of time to make anything elaborate. Just be careful serving them to children, since word on the street is that they all have deathly peanut allergies these days.

Squirrel Bars (from the Ivory Favorites cookbook)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Cream together first four ingredients.
2) Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended.
3) Stir in flour and baking powder.
4) Spread dough in a greased 9x13 pan and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
5) Bake at 350 for 3 minutes, or until chocolate chips are nice and melted, like this:
6) Remove from oven and marbelize by dragging a butter knife or similar utensil (I use a chopstick) through the chocolate chips, like so:

Until they look like this:
7) Return the bars to the oven and bake for another 18-20 minutes, or until bars are a pale golden brown and set (mine usually don't take that long, so start checking after like 15 minutes).

*Don't be tempted to substitute milk chocolate chips- they don't impart enough chocolate flavor. Also, every time I have made these with chocolate chips that have been sitting in my pantry for quite some time, the end result isn't quite as pretty, since the chips don't melt enough to be marbelized. So if you're looking to achieve the result pictured above, use fresh chocolate chips (one sure sign that chocolate chips are old is if they are kind of white on the outside).

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