A rainy day experiment: a peanut butter chocolate cookie bar

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of autobiographies by famous chefs and industry people. I find their lives fascinating and of course, I love reading about food. I blitzed through David Lebovitz’s A Sweet Life in Paris months ago. Then I moved onto Jacques Pepin’s charming account of growing up in the kitchen, becoming a chef and eventually a teacher in The Apprentice. I’m currently devouring Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires. Her writing is fluid, inventive, hilarious and honest. I can’t get enough of all the kooky personalities she donned in order to fool the restaurants she was reviewing, all the amazing meals she ate and the creative reviews that she reprinted in her book from the New York Times.

Along with some fabulous food blogs I’ve discovered lately, reading all these wonderful works has inspired me to keep writing and to really pursue what makes me happy. I used to write all the time when I was younger. I dreamed of becoming a published author and was always coming up with new story ideas, writing the synopses that I imagined would grace the back covers of my books. All that fell to the wayside as I graduated from high school and went to university, abandoning silly youthful dreams of writing, cooking or starring on Broadway for something more realistic, attainable, respectable (if I could give it all up right now, I’d be a triple threat on the Great White Way…with my own bakery on the side of course!).

I commented to the Husband recently that it seems we have to work so hard to be happy in the face of all the stresses in our lives. That struck me as extremely sad. In the past two years, the stress that we both encounter from work has affected us physically, to the point where we’ve been at times debilitated from illness. The pathetic part is that we’re only 31-years-old and we’re not the only ones afflicted by the maladies of modern working life. We have several friends who are going through the same thing. What’s happening to us? This certainly isn’t something that I ever saw my parents going through and they had it rough – they immigrated to Canada from mainland China 32 years ago. They couldn’t speak English, they had no money, but they worked damn hard to pay the mortgage and raise four daughters.

I know, I know, you’re pulling out your tiny violin for my first world, middle class problems.

But in all seriousness, sometimes I feel like I’m struggling to keep it together. So, should I suck it up and live with it? Because this is what I’m supposed to be doing – holding down a good job, saving money for old age and rainy days, and being responsible? I would’ve thought so a few years ago, when my mentality was still: keep working no matter what. When I believed that admitting I had a problem was admitting failure.

I realize that a fear of some supposed failure is all in my head. And that, slowly and surely, I need to change the way I think about my life and take an active role in it, instead of letting it pass me by in the same manner it always has. It’s so easy to get trapped by the seductive comfort and predictability of routine.

Well, I can start by improving this rainy, gloomy July day. I really need to bake something. Something sinfully good. With flavours that I love and savour.

Something good’s happening in my kitchen!

I turned to my absolute favourite chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe of all time, courtesy of Cathy Lowe. I’ve been baking this cookie since I was 16-years-old. I have no idea who bestowed this magical recipe on me but whoever you are, wherever you are, you changed my life. This is seriously a no-fail cookie. It’s simple, I always have the ingredients at home, and it can be whipped up and enjoyed in no time.

Download the recipe and bake this cookie today. You won’t be sorry! It’s crisp on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside, with a deep dark chocolatey flavour. I always omit the nuts and have experimented with all kinds of chocolate chips. I’ve also made a mint version by substituting the vanilla with peppermint extract and using mint chocolate chips.

Today, I want to adapt the recipe further. I turn to chocolate’s perfect partner in crime – peanut butter.

Make sure to scrape up every last peanut buttery drop!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Bar (adapted from Cathy Lowe)

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup peanut butter (I used chunky)
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 360 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix together flour and baking soda. In another large bowl, stir together butter, peanut butter, both sugars, eggs, vanilla and cocoa. Gradually pour the flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined (it’s going to be thick).

Add chocolate chips and store to distribute evenly.

Hmmm…my dough is looking awfully crumbly. Definitely not the smooth, cohesive batter that I always get when I faithfully follow the recipe. So, is this experiment falling into the Epic Fail category?

So dry, so crumbly!

You gotta roll with the punches, my friends.

I whipped out my 8X8 square baking pan, buttered it up, and pressed half my dough into a bar cookie, about an inch and a half thick. I popped it into the oven for about 20-25 minutes and held my breath, waiting for it to cool enough to slice.

Pressed into the pan like a shortbread cookie crust. Look at all those delicious chips dappling the surface.

Verdict? This ain’t a bad bar cookie. Because it looks and smells like a brownie, my brain keeps expecting that moist, dense, fudgey flavour and texture when I bite in. Instead, my mind registers each bite of a crispy, crumbly cookie, rich with a buttery, chocolate taste and subtle peanut butter undertones.

It helps that I packed it full of chocolate and peanut butter chips, which are still molten from the oven (because God knows I can never wait long before gorging on tasting what I’ve made).

This wasn’t quite what I set out to make but I guess it’ll do on a rainy day off from work.

This is a typical July day in Vancouver. Mother Nature hates us. At least I’ve got bar cookies!

The other half of my dough I rolled into logs and put in the fridge to chill. Maybe I can cut and bake ’em like shortbread cookies. That’ll have to wait for another day though so into the freezer my logs go!

The bar is much better as time passes – I had another piece tonight and it was perfect. It just goes to show that you can’t go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter!

4 thoughts on “A rainy day experiment: a peanut butter chocolate cookie bar

  1. yummmm would love a piece of this right now. what a delicious baking experiment! i’m trying to figure out where you guys live. i grew up in richmond but don’t recognize where you are! i think living in vancouver is tough because it’s so expensive (and thus stressful to pay off the mortgage. and dreaming of having a bigger place but it’s not close to where you work so you have less time in your day and more stress in your commute etc). :/ i hope you can find a good work/life balance in your new job! i need to take a more active role in my life too.

    • Thanks Ashley! This cookie is insanely addictive – I ate about a quarter of the pan yesterday. Even the Husband, who doesn’t eat chocolate, loves it. As for the stress, some days are better than others and I know I’m not the only one going through it. That’s why I medicate myself with cakes & cookies 🙂

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