I took peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my lunch almost every day while I was growing up. While I did get bored with the combination from time to time, I still love it to this day. There is something about the savory, sticky peanut butter and fruity jelly that is magic on your tastebuds. These Peanut Butter & Grape Jelly Bars are an ode to school lunches – which makes them the perfect bar cookie to bake for the back-to-school season.
The bars start with a soft peanut butter cookie dough. I used creamy peanut butter in my recipe and a brand like JIF or another “national” brand will give you good results in this recipe. Other styles of peanut butter should work but can sometimes be more oily, so the texture of your finished bars may be slightly different if you use another peanut butter. The dough is divided into two parts and one is pressed down to form the base of the bars. Grape jelly is spread over the base, then the remaining peanut butter dough is placed on top. The dough is soft and somewhat sticky, so you can’t “crumble” it on top of the bars. Instead, I recommend simply breaking the dough into walnut-sized pieces and placing them on top the the jelly layer until it is mostly covered.
The finished bars are a little more peanut butter than jelly, so you don’t need to worry about jam oozing out of the bars when you take a bite. You’ll taste lots of peanut butter and just the right amount of grapey sweetness in each bite. The outside pieces of the bars will have a little bit more crunch than the inner pieces, but overall the bars are tender and slightly chewy. You can mix things up by using a different type of jam, if you don’t have grape on hand or simply prefer a flavor like strawberry or apricot.
Peanut Butter & Grape Jelly Bars
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (national brand)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup grape jelly
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, followed by vanilla extract and peanut butter. Gradually blend in the flour mixture until the dough comes together.
Transfer about 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan and press it down into an even layer. Stir the jelly in a small bowl to loosen it, then gently spread it into a thin, even layer on top of the peanut butter base. Break up the remaining peanut butter dough into small walnut-sized pieces and arrange them over the top of the jelly. The jelly should be mostly covered by the cookie dough.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until bars are golden brown and set.
Allow bars to cool completely in the pan before slicing.
Makes 20 bars.