Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars, and the Uninvited Guest . . .

I'd been working in the kitchen most of the morning, then passing in and out of the kitchen periodically throughout the afternoon. I can't be sure exactly when it happened . . . all I know is that it must have occurred with lightning speed. "It" being the creation of a sizable hole in my kitchen window screen. The culprit? It could only have been a ferocious, peanut-butter lusting tamiasciurus hudsonicus -- a ravenous red squirrel!

I see them on a regular basis, peering in, on days when I'm baking with the window opened. A quick swat of the screen, though, has always been enough to disperse the furry fellows . . . but apparently not enough to sway this guy. Doubtless it was a male, and a fine brawny specimen at that, I'd wager. Obviously emboldened by the rapturous scent of my peanut butter & jelly bars cooling on the counter, he made the split-second decision to break in, and so he set to work with his razor-sharp teeth. If I weren't feeling completely merciless, you might very well hear me utter some empathetic drivel like, "Oh, who can blame him? He's just doing what squirrels do naturally . . . afterall, those cookie bars are profoundly irresistible." Hmmm . . .

"Well, m'aam, southeastern Michigan's just full of 'em . . . "

Here's how the pest control company Critter Catchers Inc., according to their website, describes our furry friend, ". . . the most prominent [squirrel] species, that chews holes in roof eves to gain access to a comfortable attic or wall in Oakland County homes." Oh great. My home resides in Oakland County, and I can just imagine what Mr. Red Squirrel has in store for us next. I shudder to think.

My advice to Critter Catchers? They should revise their dossier on
tamiasciurus hudsonicus, and update their description of the varmint to read as follows: ". . . the most prominent species, that chews holes in roof eves to gain access to a comfortable attic or wall in Oakland County homes . . . this creature will stop at nothing in attempting to gain access to a freshly baked pan of peanut-butter & jelly bars, cooling on a kitchen counter. Residents should be vigilant and be prepared to take all necessary measures."

We never laid eyes on each other . . .

Miraculously, though the hole in the window screen was certainly big enough to admit a housecat, it doesn't appear--based on my thorough and exhaustive investigation--that the squirrel actually gained full admittance. My guess is that my approaching footsteps scared him away just as he was about to set foot into the kitchen. He clearly didn't progress beyond the window sill. The peanut butter & jelly bars were blessedly undisturbed and, as you can imagine, I examined them with the human visual-equivalent of an electron microscope before coming to this conclusion.

Famous last words . . .

Here's a final message for you squirrels out there: Don't worry, I don't advocate vigilante justice . . . but in this case I'm just not opposed to it. So get this straight--if you're a wild creature, I must insist that you keep your fuzzy carcass OUT OF MY HOUSE!

End of conversation.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

These PB&J bars really are irresistible. I just wish I could resist them. They're a Martha Stewart recipe, from her cookie book that came out about a year ago. The only aspects of the recipe that I altered were to include three flavors of jam in one pan (I used strawberry, apricot, and seedless raspberry), and to use honey-roasted peanuts instead of plain salted peanuts. Those small adjustments worked spectacularly well. I'd definitely make these again, the same way.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" x 13" pan, and line it with parchment paper in both directions (length and width). Butter the parchment and dust with flour.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups All Purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, large
2 and 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (I used Jif brand. It works really well in cookies/bars.)
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups of your favorite jam (I used 1/2 cup each of strawberry, apricot, and seedless raspberry--my family's three favorites)
1 cup honey-roasted peanuts (or regular salted peanuts)

In the bowl of a mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy--about 2 minutes.

With the mixer still running, add in the eggs and peanut butter. Mix for about 2 minutes, until combined.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, and beat on low speed until well combined. Add in the vanilla extract. The dough will be quite thick.

Transfer two-thirds of the mixture to your prepared pan. Spread the dough out evenly and gently but firmly press it down so it's of relatively even thickness all over.

Using a spatula, spread the first half-cup of jam onto one third of the dough, then do the same with the other jams until the whole pan of dough is completely covered.

Crumble the remaining dough, that you'd set aside, evenly over the top of the jam. Over that, evenly sprinkle all of the chopped nuts.

Bake until golden, for 45 to 60 minutes. If the bars are browning too quickly at any point, cover them lightly with foil. Cool them in the pan on a rack. When they're cool, run a knife around the edges of the pan, and refrigerate the whole thing, uncovered, for about one to two hours. Lift the chilled bars out of the pan by lifting the parchment sheets up. Use a sharp knife to cut the bars into small squares, about 1.5" to 2" in size. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about three-dozen bars.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple "COMMENTS" below!)


Arlene said...

That is a funny story!! Love the squirrel story, it almost sounds like "Cujo" ever seened the movie?...LOL.
Your dessert I will have to make for my hubby. He LOVES anything PB.
My Casa Bella

Tracy @ Sugarcrafter said...

Yikes! I'm glad the squirrel didn't get the bars. :-)

vibi said...

Thank you so much Jane for leaving such a sweet comment on my blog! Not only was it flattering , but it also brought me here... to discover your oh! so beautiful blog!

And frankly, I'd be totaly willing to exchange a piece of my Batik Cake for one of those moughwatering PB&J bars!!! Trade? :)

Irene said...

Ooh I love these bars! I'm a little skeptical of peanut butter on its own, but I adore it in baked goods - go figure, right? :) I cracked up about the squirrel. My complex is full of them, but I guess the martial gleam in my eye keeps them away from our patio.

Allison said...

The story about the squirrel made me laugh out loud! And I thought the creepy black squirrels around our place were least they don't try to break in!

Thankfully he didn't get to your bars, which look delicious!

Jane said...

Hi Arlene-- No, I've never seen Cujo, and given the way I'm feeling about squirrels right now it's probably not a good idea for me to watch it any time soon! ;) And speaking of hubbys (hubbies??), mine really loved these bars!

Hello Tracy--
You and me both! I don't know what I would have done if that happened. As it was, when I saw the tear in the window I pretty much gasped in horror and immediately started looking around and listening to see if he was in the house somewhere. What a relief to realize he hadn't made it inside!
Thanks for visiting,

Hi Vibi, You are so welcome! Your batik cake is so aptly named, besides being beautiful! I'm glad you came to my blog, too. Please come again!

Hi Irene-- I kind of feel the same way. I like PB, but I wouldn't say it's my favorite stuff on its own. Put it in a baked good, though, and that's a different story! (I'll bet the squirrels don't bother you because they know you have the law on your side!)
;) Jane

Allison-- You have black squirrels too? So do we, tons of them! Strangely, when we first moved here, 15 years ago, there were no black squirrels, just the really chubby brown ones. Now, it's like our yard is an international meeting place for squirrels of all types. It's Squirrel Central around here, I'm tellin' ya. They're really quite fearless!
Thanks very much,

October 24, 2009 4:06 PM

Karine said...

Your bars sound amazing. I love the combo jelly + peanut butter.

Jane said...

Hi Karine--

Thanks so much! Yep, I agree, PB&J is an inspired combo alright. I don't know who gets credit for first thinking it up, but it goes together like love and marriage!

:) Jane

Snooky doodle said...

These bars look delicious. Nice blog :)

visit my blogs at

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane! Congratulations for your blog, it's very very complete!
I'm Andrea, an Italian boy who managed an Italian blog dedicated to food and drinks.

What do you think about a link exchange?

Sorry for my bad English. ;)

Ricette Blog

the twins said...

those bars look so good! i love anything pb & j.
funny story about the squirrel. i've never heard of them breaking in before, thats kind of scary. although we've had racoons and possums come into our house (through the cat door)

anissa ferguson said...

These look super good, Thanks for visiting my blog, yours is amazing

Critter Catchers, Inc. said...

I will have to consider using the peanut butter and jelly bars as bait! Do you think that I will catch more customers or squirrels?

Dave Kugler
Critter Catchers, Inc.