September, 2001. The girls were on their way to the first day of school, in grade 2 and junior Kindergarten. It was the first time they’d gone to the same school and they (especially my youngest) couldn’t wait. She’d been pretending to read for years, and now she was finally one of the big kids. Their first day of school was just a few days before an event that would make us all hold our kids a little closer, but on the day this was taken, the world still felt like a pretty safe place to be.
September, 2014. The same front yard, but they’re both a little taller. This is probably the last time we’ll have a traditional “first day of school” photo. My youngest is in twelfth grade this year, and we’ll find out in due course what school she’ll attend next fall. Because my oldest daughter hadn’t started classes at her university yet, we were able to get one last photo of them on the first day of school. I’m still holding them as close as they’ll let me. Whenever they’re around, the world still feels like a pretty good place to be.
Spring, 2014. I made these bars to universal acclaim from my family, then set them aside to post later. That time has arrived. I hope everyone had a happy and safe journey back to school, whether it’s your first time or your last. And if you serve these bars, you’ll make your world a little sweeter place to be!
Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
(adapted slightly from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)
Note: the original recipe makes 9 bars. Because they’re so rich, I cut them much smaller (I got 20 bars from mine).
For the Crispy Crust
1 3/4 cups Rice Krispies
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp light corn syrup
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter layer
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips – 2/3 cup
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter – 1 cup
For the chocolate icing
3 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp light corn syrup
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1. To make the Crispy Crust:
Line an 8” square baking pan with parchment paper. Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and corn syrup and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. (Do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan.) Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.
Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it in the prepared pan. Use a little butter to grease your hands, then press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Let crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.
2. To make the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter layer:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter.
Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.
3. To make the Chocolate Icing:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.
Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread until even. Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until the topping hardens. Slice into bars while cold.