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County Fair winner: Peanut Butter and Jam Bars

by Kelly Brant | May 4, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Peanut Butter and Jam Bars (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

I found this bar cookie recipe in "County Fair: Nostalgic Blue Ribbon Recipes From America's Small Towns" by Liza Gershman (Images Publishing, 2021).

It is one of two included from Arkansas. The headnote reads: "Inspired by Gloria Rankin's sweet twist on the American staple, PB & J sandwiches, these Peanut Butter and Jam Bars are perfect to pair with a glass of milk," and it cites Rankin as a Best of Show winner at the Conway County Fair.

I was puzzled by the phrase "inspired by," so I did a little digging. According to a story by Janna Virden at 501lifemag.com, Rankin's recipe for Peanut Butter and Jam Bars won Best in Show at the 2013 Conway County Fair. Virden's story included Rankin's winning recipe. Comparing them side-by-side, I noticed Gershman increased the jam by ¼ cup and reworded the instructions. Rankin drizzles her recipe with a basic glaze made with butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and water. Gershman's optional glaze offers bourbon or brandy as substitutes for the vanilla. I used vanilla.

(The other Arkansas recipe in the book was inspired by Lawana Whaley's Raspberry Cream-Filled Cake, which won Best of Show at the Garland County Fair in 2007.)

I think this recipe would work great with any kind of jam you like with peanut butter. I used low-sugar strawberry jam I made last spring because I didn't have any raspberry, and strawberry is what I prefer on my PB&J. Blackberry would be excellent as well.

PEANUT BUTTER AND JAM BARS

Makes: about 36 bars

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup shortening

½ cup peanut butter

1 egg

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup raspberry jam

For the glaze:

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons hot water

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix sugars, shortening, peanut butter and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda and baking powder. Reserve 1 cup dough. Press remaining dough evenly in a 9-by-13-inch pan (I lined mine with parchment paper). Spread with jam. Crumble reserved dough and sprinkle over jam. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cool and drizzle with the glaze.

For the glaze, heat butter in a 1-quart saucepan over low heat until melted. Mix in confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat in hot water, 1 teaspoon at a time until smoother and of desired consistency.

Cut into small squares.

Print Headline: Front Burner: County Fair winner: Peanut Butter and Jam Bars

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