Chocolate peanut butter birthday treat

I had a birthday last month and I decided to make a birthday treat for myself. Now I happen to think that chocolate and peanut butter is the best flavor marriage ever, so with that in mind, I began my search for the perfect birthday indulgence.

I had criteria, though: it had to be simple, and I had to have all the ingredients on hand. No last minute rush to the store.

After searching, I found a number of what sounded like delectable chocolate and peanut butter concoctions. I landed on a recipe that met my criteria from one of my favorite cookbook authors and food blogger, Deb Perlman of the Smitten Kitchen.

It was called a chocolate peanut butter tart. The only thing that made it a tart instead of a pie was that it was made in a tart pan, one of the very few pieces of kitchen equipment I don't have.

The recipe included suggestions for a number of easy variations, too. You could make it in a pie pan instead of a tart pan.

You could substitute graham cracker crumbs for shortbread cookie crumbs. Or and the version I chose make it in an 8-by-8 pan.

One of the things I liked about the recipe, in addition to all the variables suggested, was that it didn't require any baking, except for the crust. Easy-peasy, I told myself.

So I set to work. I started to make the graham cracker crust and put it into the oven to bake. Then I started to whip together the peanut butter layer.

And that's where I ran into trouble.

I violated one of the cardinal rules of baking and didn't set out all the ingredients first and found out I was missing one of the staples I'm never without confectioner's sugar.

I always have confectioner's sugar on hand, just like flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and butter.

But not today and here I was, right in the middle of it.

So I did what we all do these days: I googled to find a substitute for confectioner's sugar.

I learned all I had to do was put granulated sugar in the food processor for a couple minutes along with either cornstarch or arrowroot, both of which I had.

And it worked. So after a little bit of stall I finished my chocolate peanut butter tart, which really turned out to be a bar cookie.

The recipe creator said that this was similar to the Girl Scout's Tagalong cookie, but all I know was that it was good.

I wanted the opinion of my resident taste tester, though.

"You like it?" I asked my husband.

"Yeah," he said. "It's pretty good. But it ain't no Reese's cup."

Oh, well, happy birthday to me.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

For the crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

1/2 cup (130 grams) creamy peanut butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

A pinch of salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

When making the crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line an 8-by-8 inch square pan with parchment paper, making two sides longer, making a sling that will make the bars easier to remove.

Mix the crust ingredients together and press firmly into the prepared pan. Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Make the filling: in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar, peanut butter, salt and vanilla together until fluffy with an electric mixer.

Scrape the mixture on top of the cooled crust and smooth the surface. Put the pan into the freezer for about 15 minutes while you make the chocolate topping. (A cool surface will make the chocolate topping easier to spread.)

Make the topping: heat chocolate, pinch of salt and cream together in a microwave until the chips are mostly melted. Stir until smooth.

Let sit for five minutes to cool slightly then pour over peanut butter filling and gently spread smooth. Chill until firm. Cut into squares.

(Wolbert is a former corporate communicator and English teacher, now indulging in her two loves, writing and cooking. She can be reached at rdwolbert@gmail.com or at her Sprigs of Rosemary Facebook page.)

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