Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

2011.  The year I turned 40.  Oh my.  The funny thing is that I’m writing this about a week before the actual birthday and it won’t post until well after the day has come and gone and I take my first few steps down the road towards that next big number.

40.  In my mind it doesn’t feel much different than 20 or 30.  Except maybe for the morning after a night with the box of wine.  Then I definitely feel it….damn liver ain’t what it used to be.  But then I start to think about other people I know and what marked their lives at the same age.

For instance, at age 40 my parents had children that were teenagers…closer to college age than the middle school years.  At 40, my grandparents had raised one child and were less than a decade away from beginning to raise two grandchildren.  At age 40, my father and both of my grandfathers had been to war and back.  I tell myself those were different times with different opportunities and expectations.

Could I see myself as the quintessential housewife as personified by Harriett Nelson?  Unlikely.  I’d more likely have been Lucy Ricardo on a good day or Betty Draper on a bad one.  Although I say that from the perspective of living in, and being shaped by, one age and wondering if that version of me would have fit in another age.

I can’t really imagine my life being different than what it is.  Sure, there are hopes that may never be realized but there are also things I never thought to hope for that have been part of my world.  I am not one to believe that the absence of something unknown is greater than the actual presence of something else.

So what is it exactly about the age 40 that strikes fear into the hearts of countless 39 year olds?  What is it that sends people into the first stages of mid life crisis and what symptoms should I be on the watch for to indicate that I’ve stepped into the danger zone?

While you ponder those mysteries of life, I’m going to make myself a batch of peanut butter and jelly bars.  It may not be a traditional treat to celebrate ones birthday but I think I’ve pretty much established over the last 40 years that I’m not exactly traditional.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2011

BAH Note: If it weren’t for the prevalence of peanut allergies, I would say these should be mandatory at all bake sales.  Imagine the best parts of a pb&j (without the pesky crusts) in one bite sized morsel.  If you ask The Googley about peanut butter and jelly bars, you’ll see that all the cool kids are making them.  Not that that’s a reason that you should. But you really should make them…you know you want to.

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup jelly

Heat your oven to 350 degrees and completely line an 8″ square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving an inch or two overhang around the edges.  Lightly spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the workbowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, and butter until smooth.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined.

Transfer half of the dough to the prepared baking pan and press it into an even layer.  Place the pan in the refrigerator.  Put the remaining dough in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and spread the jelly over the base in an even layer.  Remove the dough from the freezer and use your fingers to crumble the dough over the jelly layer.

Bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.  Cool the bars completely in the pan before using the foil handles to remove the bars from the pan.  Peel the foil from the edges and cut into bars.

Store leftovers in an airtight container.

{printable recipe}