i made a dessert yesterday as a special treat, because my family is kind of sick of easter candy. that's not to say we're anywhere close to eating all the easter candy in the house, but every time anyone wants a sweet snack, i push jelly beans and gummy bunnies on them. and so, to change it up a bit, and because i've already picked through everybody's basket and eaten the stuff i liked, i made something new.
let me share a bit of background on these fantastic bars first before i really get into talking about them. a few days ago, my hubby was pestering me to make him chocolate peanut butter fudge. and though i like to try and please him by making the treats he has a hunger for, i couldn't make that because i didn't have the necessary ingredients, and i really didn't feel like going to the store. i didn't feel like going to the store yesterday, either, but i knew my pantry was well stocked enough to churn out at least something special. i was not wrong.
i started with a basic brownie as the base of these bars. and though i could have gone with the homemade, totally from scratch route, i decided to keep this layer simple and easy. the only change i really made to the box mix i used was that i ran out of oil, so i used only half the oil called for and i used leftover coffee for the rest of the liquid, something i've done in the past.
while the brownie layer was baking, i knew i wanted to create a peanut butter layer. there are some very simple ones that just mix peanut butter with powder sugar and a little milk and graham cracker crumbs, and it creates a filling very similar to that of a reeses peanut butter cup (my hubby's favorite candy). initially i toyed with going in that direction, but then i decided to go all out and made peanut butter fudge instead. still, i wanted these bars to be simple and easy, because i was feeling lazy, so i went with the best microwave fudge recipe i knew of, from my hero alton brown. i timed it so that, just as the brownies came out of the oven, i finished the fudge and spread it on top. the fact that everything was still hot really helped it to spread.
while the first two layers were cooling in the fridge, i thought about how to finish these bars. i could have just used sprinkles for a festive touch. or i could have melted chocolate to drizzle over top for something fancier and more decadent. instead, i took inspiration from this post from the lovely blog cookies and cups, and made the topping that she used on her bars. because i liked the idea of a crunchy contrast to the smooth fudge and cakey brownie, i made her recipe but changed the peanut butter from smooth to crunchy, so not only was the top layer crispy from the cereal, but it also has bits of peanuts inside.
these bars were everything i hoped they'd be, and they were a huge hit with my family. all of the layers stacked together make for a very high and impressive treat. i made them in a 9x13 pan, and ended up cutting 20 pieces, but i know i could have made them smaller and nobody would have complained about not getting enough. they're definitely something i'll try to make again sometime, they'd be perfect for a party, dramatic and delicious and easily transportable. these chocolate peanut butter crunch bars are nearly the perfect treat.