I am a huge peanut butter fan and have been since the first day I took a peanut butter sandwich to school in my lunch bag. To this day, I have a soft spot for peanut butter treats. I know that I’m not the only one, either! The salty-sweet combination so often found in peanut butter candies, cookies, cakes and pies is what makes them so addictive and has built them such a fan base.
These bars were inspired by the Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookies – aka peanut butter-stuffed peanut butter cookies – that won the Pillsbury Bake Off a few years back. Those cookies were stuffed with a peanut butter filling that made them downright irresistible, even though the filling was so simple. These bars use the same concept, but they’re even easier to make because you don’t need to hand-shape each cookie.
The bars start with a peanut butter cookie dough, made with creamy peanut butter. A portion of the dough is used to cover the base of a baking pan, and a layer of salty-sweet peanut butter filling is placed on top. The filling mixture is actually quite stiff, so you can handle it in much the same way that you would handle cookie dough. The stiff filling is very flavorful and it holds its shape well during baking, so you don’t have excess oil from peanut butter running through to the bottom of your bars. Another layer of cookie dough is placed on top of the filling and a topping of cinnamon sugar and honey-roasted peanuts is sprinkled on top.
The bars are rich and deliver loads of peanut butter in every bite. The creamy filling makes them feel decadent and gives them a wonderfully intense peanut butter flavor. The bars are crisp on top and have a bit of crunch, thanks to the topping of cinnamon sugar and peanuts. be sure to press down lightly on the nuts to help them stick into the cookie dough before baking!
Peanut Butter-Stuffed Peanut Butter Bars
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp coarse sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp chopped, honey roasted peanuts
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter (national brand, pref. smooth)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 or 9×9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and lightly grease.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat together peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt until thick and smooth. Mixture will be stiff. Set aside.
Make the topping: In a small bowl, stir together sugar, ground cinnamon and nuts. Set aside.
Make the cookies: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light. Blend in peanut butter, egg and vanilla extract, then gradually incorporate the flour mixture until the dough is well-combined. Transfer half of the dough into prepared pan and press into an even layer.
Take the filling mixture and break it up into several small pieces with your fingertips. Press each piece between the palms of your hands to make it into a flat sheet, then use these flat pieces to cover the cookie dough base in the prepared pan.
Repeat this process with the remaining cookie dough, forming a top layer over the peanut butter filling.
Sprinkle topping mixture generously on top of the bars.
Bake for 30-34 minutes, until the bars are lightly browned around the edges and the bars spring back in the center when lightly pressed.
Allow bars to cool completely before slicing.
Makes 24 bars.