Addictions (and their more palatable counterpart, cravings) intrigue me. Once you take the first bite and your body/mind establishes a taste for something, there’s no turning back. But, if you’d never tried it in the first place, you wouldn’t even miss it. Am I the only one who finds this fascinating?
I remember watching one of the earlier Survivor series, the one in which Heidi and Jenna willingly jeopardized their shot at the $1 million prize all for a bit of peanut butter and some Oreo cookies. I remember being downright disturbed by the way their eyes lit up when host Jeff Probst revealed the peanut butter and cookies. I remember thinking that, placed in the same situation, I would certainly have a heckuva lot more willpower.
Flash ahead 5+ years. Here I am in Paris, surrounded by fabulous, intensely flavoured food and wine, hardly what you would call roughing it. And yet, after just one month, I was willing to do just about anything for even just a smidge of peanut butter. Fortunately, before I went so far as to engage in any political career-ending behaviour, I finally located a jar of pâte d’arachide (alternatively, and somewhat less appealingly, called buerre de cacahuète) during a visit to a Franprix grocery store that I don’t normally frequent.
I absolutely adore peanut butter in desserts and, because I’m reasonably confident in my dealer’s ability to keep me supplied (famous last words), I gambled nearly a whole jar of my newly-discovered peanut gold on a Peanut Butter & Jelly Bar. Having come across several recipes for such a decadence in the past, and of course being unable to locate any of them in my moment of need, I improvised using the previously posted Mrs. Larson’s Bars as a North Star and a basic peanut butter cookie recipe as a map. The result was exactly what I was craving: a dense, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter blondie with the sweet fruity relief of jam in every bite. I used a mixture of strawberry and apricot jams, but I am convinced that grape jelly would be the ultimate expression of childhood comfort food.
With this craving satisfied for the time being, I can turn my attention to uncovering what sort of unsustainable dependencies I may be developing here in France.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar (I used half white, half cassonade)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, unsweetened)
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup jam
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper an 8-inch square pan.
In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and egg. Add the peanut butter and mix until smooth.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. The batter will be quite thick.
Spread about 2/3 of this peanut butter batter in the prepared baking pan. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly even. Carefully spread the jam on top of the peanut butter base. Finally, drop small spoonfuls of the remaining peanut butter mixture randomly on top, leaving some jam showing through.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the square comes out only somewhat goopy. (Very scientific, I know, but baking in a toaster oven really throws off the baking times!)
Cool completely before cutting and serving or you will have a big mess and a burnt tongue. Speaking from experience.