There are three things I do well in this world; cursing, leopard, and peanut butter bars.
The first two came by me naturally, the third by way of this book. I made these bars for a party ten years ago and people liked them so much they started requesting them for other occasions. Weddings. Funerals. Bar Mitzvahs. Baby showers. One time, at a wake, a man, who I never even met, bit into one of these bars and it took hold of him so forcefully that he grabbed his wife’s arm and yelled aloud, “DEBBIE, HOLD ME DOWN!”
He ate half the pan standing up. Considering the somberness of the occasion, I took that as a compliment and have kept the name ever since.
Before we go on, let’s just be clear –this is not an original recipe, nor is it healthful or innovative in any way. This is an old-fashioned Cake-Mix-Gone-Off-The-Deep-End type of recipe, and you are going to love the living bits out of it.
Mind you, I usually don’t do recipes on this blog because I think the interweb has that corner covered, but, I told myself I would start blogging one recipe a month in 2014. Nothing too exotic. Strictly tried-and-true old favorites that I have made/loved/experienced 10 times over. At least. Those are the sorts of recipes I love reading from other people, so likewise, those are the recipes I feel comfortable sharing here.
These bars are funny because they always come out good but they never come out the same way twice – sometimes chewy, sometimes crunchy. One time they came out half-cooked because the oven quit on me, so I popped them in the freezer and served in chewy frozen slivers of peanut butter deliciousness. Ain’t nobody complained.
And here is a thing – these bars contain coconut, yet I have served them to vehement anti-coconut constituents who have all agreed on their tastiness, one even go so far as to say, “Damn, these do not suck.”
People, well there you have it.
The only people who don’t like these bars are people who do not like the chocolate and peanut butter combo*, which says more about that person’s character than it does about these bars. Likewise, if you are one of the poor souls who is allergic to peanut butter; 1. I pray for you, and 2. You can swap in almond butter but chunky almond butter isn’t easy to find and I don’t know that these are worth the trouble if you can only use smooth. Tough call. If you try you go on and tell me how it comes out.
*Sidebar: Do you remember when my chocolate peanut butter cup cake, aka “Liza Minelli cake,” was held responsible for a marriage? That was pretty cool.
These are good too.
- 1 package yellow cake mix (18.25 ounces)
- 1 cup peanut butter (MUST BE CHUNKY. Major store brands work best. If you use the all-natural stuff, I suggest you add a little extra salt and make sure it’s well mixed).
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted or room temp
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (one bag – the dark chips work especially good)
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14oz)
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
- Parchment paper
Heat oven to 325f.
Line 13×9” pan with parchment paper (not wax paper – not foil – parchment).
In a bowl, mix the cakemix, butter, peanut butter, and eggs. Should come together looking like silky sorta play-dough thing
In a large sauce pan on low heat, heat sweetened condensed milk to a simmer, stirring constantly. As soon as it starts to bubble in the middle, turn off heat, pour in the bag of chocolate chips, and stir more. Once it’s all melted in, mix in the coconut, vanilla, and hot sauce. Will be warm, thick and gooey.
Divide the yellow stuff in half and use your fingers to smoosh it along the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. If you need to borrow a bit from other half of the dough, that’s cool, just get the bottom of the pan covered. Then pour the chocolate stuff on top and use a spoon or spatula to spread it until it reaches the sides of the pan. Then go back to the remaining yellow stuff and crumble it in your fingers, sprinkling all over the top.
325 for 30 minutes.
Cool thoroughly before cutting. This is the one thing I hate about this recipe – if you cut into it before it cools, it ruins the whole mojo and the whole thing ends up like sloppy. You have to let it set up in the pan at least two hours before cutting into it. Maybe more. If you must, must, must cut into it early, expect it to be warm and flopsy, so have the common decency to serve it over ice cream.
- You can omit the hot sauce, but I suggest adding a pinch of some sort of spice – cayenne pepper, etc…just to pump up the jam. In small quantities, you won’t taste the spice, you will taste the contrast between the spice and the super sweet and rich chocolate/coconut mixture, which will make it taste even chocolatiyer (–yes that is a real word).
- You can up the volume on these by mixing Rice Crispies or corn flakes into the chocolate mixture – they come out extra crunchy.
I can’t decide if they taste better stored on the counter or in the fridge, so I suggest you try both. If you have it in you to do a double batch, they freeze beautifully, but I have never had occasion to let them sit around long.