Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Better than Trader Joe's PB & J Bars

If you like Trader Joe's Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars, I promise you will LOVE these! They are wholesome, gluten-free, surprisingly filling, and downright YUMMY. 

Not to bag on Trader Joe's bars. They are good. My kids will eat them, as will I. But in a side-by-side comparison, these are tastier.

One thing I LOVE about this recipe is that it makes a TON, so you get a big reward for your relatively short time investment. They will fill a large cookie sheet or 9x13 AND 11x15 baking dishes. These bars keep for days (if you can keep hands off), and they are tasty served cold, medium or warm. 

The recipe involves an oat-based peanut-butter cookie dough on the bottom, your choice of jam, jelly or preserve in the middle, and more of the peanut-butter cookie on top! 

A couple of notes for the preparation process. This recipe has baking soda in it, which is the spreading leavener (baking powder is the rising leavener). So when you put the top layer of peanut-butter cookie dough on the jam layer and you see a ton of holes, no worries!! The dough will spread a it cooks.  (Before-baking pictures above; After pictures below)

Now, on to the recipe!

Better than Trader Joe's 
PB&J Bars
Makes 72 bars

3 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1.5 cups natural peanut butter
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups oat flour (4 cups oatmeal pulsed in blender or food processor until smooth)
3 cups oatmeal
2 cups jam, jelly, or preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spray large cookie sheets or baking pans with cooking spray. (This recipe will make thick bars on a 14"x18" cookie sheet, or thinner bars on more pans. I like to use one 9x13 and one 10x15 baking dish.)
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add peanut butter and mix until smooth. 
3. Mix baking soda into wet mixture. Stir in oat flour, then oatmeal. Dough will be thick, but still sticky. 
4. Spoon half of the dough into prepared pans. Dip the back of a spoon or your fingers in cold water and spread the mixture so it is covering the bottom of all your pans in an even layer.  Set the other half of the mix aside. 
5. Spoon the jam on to the bottom layer in small spoon fulls all around. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it in an even layer. 
6. Cover the jam layer with the remaining cookie dough by spooning small amounts all over the top. (See the pictures above for reference)
7. Bake 30-40 minutes, until edges are brown and top is light brown. Middle will still look wet and bubbly, but will settle as it cools. Cool completely before cutting into bars.