When I lived in Italy last year, it’s probably safe to say that I lived off of crackers, pasta, and pocky sticks. Oh, and pizza. And gelato. (As you can tell, it was a pretty low-carb diet.) But back to the crackers. When I didn’t pick up overpriced Ritz crackers from the supermarket, I got saltine-ish crackers (they didn’t actually have salt) that came in a 36 pack. I won’t say how many 36-packs I went through during those 4 months because I honestly can’t even count that high. It’s safe to say I was a cracker addict. I’m glad to say I’m recovered, but there have been a few times since then that crackers have snuck into my shopping cart. And when they do, I make cookies.
Let’s start off with the bottom layer. It is a simple cookie dough that you spread into a jelly-roll sized pan and layer with crackers. Because jelly-roll pans are so large, the cookie dough layer is thin, resulting in a shortbread-like layer. Because we aren’t using baking soda to fluff up the dough, the dough looks under-baked after it comes out of the oven. But after chilling, the dough sets to create a soft base for the rest of the layers. The crackers give the bars a little crunch to combat the peanut butter flavor that sits above it.
Remember when I mentioned my favorite peanut butter frosting recipe in the soft baked peanut butter bar post? Well, here it is. But instead of it being used as a frosting, it’s being used as a peanut butter creme layer. After chilling these bars in the fridge, the peanut butter layer becomes 10x better and adds a sweetness to the salty layers below.
Throw some melted chocolate on the top, and you have a treat that gives Reeses a run for their money. I prefer these bars after they have been chilling in the fridge for a while, since it allows the flavors to meld together and allows the layers to set. There’s just nothing like half-frozen chocolate.
Layered Shortbread Crunch Creme Peanut Butter Bars
A layered sweet & salty shortbread bar perfect for holiday cookie trays!
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened (1.5 sticks)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 35 crackers I used Ritz
Peanut Butter Layer:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened (1 stick)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
- 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
To make cookie layer: In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar with electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add egg and stir until combined. Slowly add in flour and mix for 30 seconds, or until dough is combined. Press the dough into a even layer into a greased jellyroll pan (10"x15"). You may need to lightly grease your hands in order to get the dough pressed down completely. Once pressed down, layer the crackers on top of the dough in a grid format. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the dough may look underbaked, but remove from the oven anyways. Allow to cool completely.
While it's cooling, make the peanut butter layer by beating the butter, vanilla, peanut butter, and powdered sugar with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Evenly spread this mixture on top of the cookie/cracker layer. Once spread, place the pan in the freezer for 20 minutes or until peanut butter layer is hard. Remove from freezer and layer with chocolate layer. (To make chocolate layer, simply melt the milk chocolate chips & the semi-sweet chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1.5-2 minutes on 50% power). Once melted, spread this over the frozen peanut butter layer.
Once all layers are complete, place the pan in the fridge or freezer until chocolate is set. Cut into squares and serve. I prefer these bars when they are slightly chilled, and the layers are half frozen.
These little morsels will for sure make it onto this year’s holiday platters. With all these new creations lately, I’m not sure how everyone’s going to accept all this change (the contents of holiday trays don’t vary often around these parts). But I know one thing for sure. These bars won’t last very long, as my family tree is full of true peanut butter cookie bandits.