One of the things about having a food blog, is that your blogging skills improve over time. Especially your photography (who knew you were not ‘sposed to use a flash? I sure did not!). So even though I have shared this recipe before, I am going to share it again, because many fo you were not reading back then and because these pictures actually look tasty!
The first time I made these, I used mini peanut butter cups to sprinkle on top of the bars. However, I could not find any in my pantry this time (which is shocking given the sheer volume of baking goodies in there) so instead I used M&Ms. I wanted something with chocolate (as opposed to, say, other peanut butter based add-ins) and the kids always like the M&Ms of course.
My second main change was to be a tad more sophisticated in my use of salt. 2 years ago it would never have occurred to me to sprinkle a baked sweet with sea salt! The recipe as I made it this time is below.
M&M Peanut Butter Shortbread Bars
Closely adapted from Culinary in the Dessert
16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups (222 g) AP flour (I used King Arthur)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 t fine sea salt
1 cup peanut butter chips
2 small cookie scoops (50 g) of natural peanut butter
1/2 t coarse sea salt
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 t vanilla
1 cup M&Ms
additional coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9X13 pan with foil and lightly grease the foil (very lightly–I accidentally forgot and it was ok).
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy. Mix in flour, sugar and fine sea salt just until the mixture is crumbly. Scoop out about 2 cups of the mixture (reserving the rest of the mixture) and scatter it in the bottom of the prepared pan. Evenly pat the mixture down to form a crust – if it is sticky at all, use a piece of plastic wrap to help press down. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the edges have started to turn a golden brown color, about 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the peanut butter chips and sweetened condensed milk. Add the peanut butter to this as well. Heat over low and stir until the chips have melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt. Quickly pour the mixture over the hot crust and use an off-set spatula to evenly spread the mixture.
Combine the reserved crumbles and M&Ms. Scatter these evenly over the top of the peanut butter filling. Sprinkle with additional coarse sea salt to taste (these bars are quite sweet so I think the salt makes a nice contrast). Place back in the oven and bake until the center is set, about 25 – 30 minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into bars (life the bars out of the pan by the foil and then slice on a cutting board).
Makes about 28 bars.