When I was a kid, we lived in a small Pennsylvania town surrounded by countryside and farmland. My grandparents still own the dairy farm where my Mom grew up. It was a beautiful place and a simpler time, where people took down their neighbor’s laundry to help out, if it started to rain, and you could go next door to borrow a cup of sugar. We weren’t rich, by any means, but looking back, I think we were probably richer than we knew, growing up carefree and happy, with skinned knees, and happy, sunburned faces.
In the town where we grew up, there was a sweet elderly woman named Dee Lewis. Although she suffered greatly from diabetes and many other health problems, she was as sweet and giving a person as you could ever meet. She was endlessly patient with kids and was always making us treats and having our family over for cartoons and board games. She is gone, now, but the memories of her sweetness remain. And I can’t have one of these delicious cookies– an intoxicating mix of chocolate and peanut butter– without remembering her kindness.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Bars
(adapted from Dee Lewis’ original recipe)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy– either is fine)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Peanut Butter Cream Ingredients:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
4 tbsp. whole milk
Cream softened butter and both sugars until mixture is well combined and soft. Add in egg and peanut butter, mixing well to combine. Add in baking soda, salt, and vanilla, and mix. Next, add in flour and old fashioned oats, stirring just until combined. Smooth mixture into a greased (with cooking spray) 13×9 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, gently stir together your powdered sugar, peanut butter, and milk to form the peanut butter cream; set cream aside until you are ready for it. When the 20 minutes are finished, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the cookie base and bake for 5 minutes more. After 5 minutes, use an offset spatula to smear the chocolate chips in a coating over the cookie layer. Drizzle with peanut butter cream and swirl with the spatula, to mix the peanut butter and chocolate. Allow to cool, completely, before cutting.
“You’re the cream in my coffee! You’re the salt in my stew! You will always be my necessity . . . I’d be lost without you!” Haha. If you know that song, I love you 😉
We are going to start by creaming our softened butter and sugar. There isn’t anything crazy and different about “softened butter;” I usually just sit the butter out on the counter about 1/2 hour before I’m ready to use it, and it’s good to go. Room temperature ingredients make for happier cookies.
Speaking of room temperature ingredients, it’s a good idea to get your egg at room temperature, too. Usually I like to sit the egg and butter on the counter about half an hour before I start, but in the event that things get busy and you forget, here is a quick trick to help you get those eggs at room temperature in a flash. Run yourself a coffee mug of hot (not boiling) water. I just get hot water from the tap. Put your egg into the hot water for a few minutes, and PRESTO! Your egg is room temperature. You’re welcome.
By now, your butter and sugar should be nice and creamed. The mixture should be soft and smooth, with no lumps. Sigh. I wish I were soft and smooth, with no lumps. haha.
Next, add in your sweet little eggy (that is room temperature, thank you very much!) and peanut butter. You can use crunchy or creamy peanut butter– either is fine. I am using creamy because that’s what I had. At this point, add in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla, and give the mixer a few spins. I just like to add the seasonings in before the flour so that you don’t accidentally get a huge lump of salt somewhere. Ick.
Now you can add in your flour and oatmeal. I like to use old fashioned oats. Perhaps I’m old fashioned. Well, you were singing an old song up there . . .
Go ahead and spread your batter evenly in a greased 13×9. An offset spatula (I got a cheap one here) works great for this. Just get the batter as smooth as you can and smoosh it flat. Bake this cookie layer for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
But meanwhile, back at the ranch . . . (ominous music swells in the background . . .)
We are going to start getting our toppings ready so they will be ready to tango when the cookie layer is ready. Let’s start by mixing up our peanut butter cream. This is super easy– just use a spoon to mix up your powdered sugar, peanut butter, and milk. Stir, my pretty.
There is our PURDY peanut butter cream. Now, it has to wait until showtime. Please wait . . . your call is important to us . . .
After the cookie base has baked for 20 minutes, pull the cookie out of the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Try to get the chips evenly spread, but don’t split hairs. We want to get those chocolate chips on there quickly and put the whole ‘shebang back into the oven for 5 more minutes so the chips can soften.
Awww– they’re so sweet and such softies, now. 😉 Use your offset spatula, again, and just spread the chips into all the corners and evenly over the top. Num, num, num . . .
Next, with the artistic flair of Picasso and the delicacy of a ballerina, gently drizzle your peanut butter cream overtop, using a ruler to make sure it’s even . . .
Haha. Yeah. Not so much. Just plunk your peanut butter cream on top of the chocolate in any way you can get it on there.
Use your spatula to smear the peanut butter overtop of the chocolate. If the chocolate mixes in there, a little bit, why, that’s just fine and dandy. Chocolate and peanut butter are like the high school sweethearts that are still in love after 50 years of marriage. Sometimes, it’s just meant to be.
Allow the cookies to cool, completely, before cutting them into bars.
Take a plate of these chocolate peanut butter beauties to a friend or neighbor. Start a new tradition, just like Dee Lewis did, and have the neighbors over for board games and snacks. Go outside of your comfort zone and do an unexpected act of kindness for someone else– just because. From the kindness of others, we learn how beautiful life can really be.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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