What do you do when you make something and it just doesn't turn out right? Do you serve it anyway? Do you tell anyone?
I'm not talking about undercooked chicken or a pie that fell face-down on the floor when no one was looking. I'm talking about dishes that are still perfectly edible, just not exactly what you hoped for when you read the recipe or saw an inspiring photo of it online somewhere. Disappointing, but still totally safe for mass consumption. Like my chocolate peanut butter crispy--er, soggy--bars.
After seeing several drool-worthy posts about these bars, I printed out the recipe and saved it for my friend E's Super Bowl party. It would be just the perfect thing to follow up chili dogs and a number of other gut-busting foods. And who doesn't like chocolate and peanut butter? No one, that's who. I made the bars the day before and the recipe was easy enough: you make a crust of sugar- and butter-coated Rice Krispies, then top the crust with a layer of peanut butter melted with some milk chocolate, then top the peanut butter with a layer of dark chocolate. It sounded like the candy bar of my dreams.
And it was. Except for the layer of sticky, mushy cereal that formed at the bottom. I cut a square to sample--purely for taste-testing purposes, of course. It was great, like the best-ever Reeses Cup. Cereal mush doesn't add a lot of flavor or texture, especially when you scrape most of it off with your fingernail but, still, it bothered me. I was bringing the bars to a party, not just eating them by myself at home. Could I give them to people without a disclaimer? They would surely see the unappealing soggy crust and never read this blog again. Or would I have to just fess up right away, like my wonderful, kind mother-in-law who hands me a birthday present while simultaneously telling me the receipt is attached inside and that I might not like the gift anyway?
So I gave squares to Dan and our friend Julie to try. They agreed that the cereal wasn't a plus, but the chocolate-peanut butter combo more than made up for it. Then Julie suggested rolling the squares in a fresh layer of cereal, just to add more crunch. Brilliant.
So I chilled the bars overnight, then cut them into individual squares and scraped off the soggy bits. Each one got a quick dunk in plain cereal and then went into a paper muffin liner. They looked a little girly in their pastel wrappers, but whatever. My plan actually worked. I didn't say anything at the party, and neither did anyone else. The bars were snapped up by almost everyone. Except for a few people who expressed serious concerns about salmonella in the peanut butter. Which, of course, hadn't occurred to me at all. Sigh.
Chocolate peanut butter crispy bars
These bars are adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, a new cookbook by the owners of Baked, a very cute bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I must go there soon to investigate the original source of these "crispy" bars to figure out where I went wrong. And also eat more bars.
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
5 oz. milk chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 oz. dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter
Make the crust: Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray (or vegetable oil) and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan. Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.
Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. [Note: I would do this gradually, as to not soak the cereal, like I did. Add a little; stir. Add a little more; stir. Do this until the cereal is coated but not saturated.] Working quickly, stir until the cereal is coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands or a spoon, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.
Rinse out your metal bowl, then combine the dark chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.
Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the topping hardens. (*If transporting these bars, I do recommend using the muffin liners because the chocolate gets a little melty at room temperature.)