I have a new best friend, and his name is Spencer. Want to know how we became BFFs? It’s all about the magical break room upstairs at King Arthur Flour.
On days when you’re blogging or baking in the kitchen, it’s always a bit tricky to go into the break room upstairs next to the test kitchen. Sometimes there are one or two folks getting coffee and, spying your apron, they’ll inevitably ask, “Whatcha makin’?”
It isn’t bad to explain your current project to one or two people, but often by the time you’re done sharing, a third and/or fourth person has wandered in, catching only part of the conversation, and they’ll ask you to start again.
The next thing you know, it’s 20 minutes later and your test kitchen teammates are wondering why you aren’t there to shut off your golblasted timer as your cake in the oven starts to wisp smoke.
Back to Spencer, though. I wish you could meet him. He’s a little shy, but has the best sense of humor, and lovely sparkling eyes. I’ve known him in passing for years, and we’ve had a few short conversations in the above-mentioned break room before. But this day was different.
Spencer and Molly, two key merchandising team members, were in the break room as I was headed to the freezer to get out a batch of cookies. As soon as the words “Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookie Bars” were out of my mouth, Spencer turned those big trusting eyes to me and said simply, “You are my new best friend.” It was like being on the playground again, when you offered to share your juice box, or your Matchbox cars. No muss, no fuss, just a genuine offer to be friends based on a mutual love of the good things in life.
How could I not be charmed? Once the bars were sliced I headed over to Spencer’s desk with the first piece on a plate. Despite the fact that there was a casual meeting going on I slipped in, handed Spence the plate, and bid my buddy enjoy. Don’t worry, there were plenty of other samples headed back to the break room, so no one in the meeting missed out.
As a group, we pretty much devoured the panful of these salty sweet goodies in just a few minutes. I’m always happy to share with my co-workers but for me, these cookie bars will always have a special place in my mind, a reminder of good food bringing folks together.
Ready to make a batch for your BFFs? Let’s make Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookie Bars. (Honestly, I think it take longer to say the name than to actually make the bars!)
In a medium-sized mixing bowl place 1 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar and 3/4 cup ground hard pretzels, the snacking kind. I used the salted ones, but brushed off most of the salt.
Sift it through with your clean fingers, then pour in 1/2 cup melted butter, cooled. Use a spoon or your hands to mix everything together until you have a cohesive dough. It shouldn’t be too sticky, nor too dry. Think shortbread dough, which is what it really is.
If the mix is a little dry, add a few teaspoons of water or milk until it comes together.
Press into the prepared pan, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The crust won’t really brown, but will firm up a bit. Set aside to cool.
For the filling, melt 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave. Remember to stir frequently to avoid scorching.
Add 1 cup peanut butter to the melted chocolate. Doesn’t this look like the most glorious lava flow in the world? Or a choco-peanut-alanche.
Stir until velvety smooth.
Pour the chocolate-y goodness over the crust and spread evenly. Tapping the pan on the counter a few times will settle the filling and cause any bubbles to rise to the surface.
Sprinkle 1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels over the warm chocolate. Tap again to set them into the chocolate.
Place in the freezer for 45 to 60 minutes to firm up completely.
Use your parchment paper handles (aka sling) to remove the entire tray full of bars from the pan. Use a very sharp knife to cut into squares, rectangles, or just random pieces.
Now, go give Spencer and me a call. We’ll be there with bells on to meet you, our new BFF. And if we can’t make it in person, you know we’ll be there in spirit.
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