A few weeks ago, one of my best friends from uni celebrated her birthday with a night out in her home town.
Obviously this is a fairly normal thing to do, but for me it was a pretty special occasion, as despite having been friends for 7 years I have never managed to visit her for her birthday.
I know that makes me sound like a bit of a bad friend, but every year something has come up that’s stopped me being able to go – for example, last year I was all set and looking forward to it, until my car decided to die on me a few days before. Perfect timing!
Anyway, this year I was determined that nothing would stand in my way, and although horrific traffic did it’s best and made me several hours late, I was there, and all was good.
Considering I effectively had 6 missed years of birthdays to make up for, I needed to make sure I had a good birthday present to give, and in my mind there’s no better gift to give than something baked with love.
I was a bit restricted by knowing that whatever I baked would have to survive a 5-hour car journey – so no towering layer cakes that could fall over, delicate cupcakes that could get squashed, or icings that could melt.
Based on a vague inkling that my friend liked peanut butter, I decided that either peanut butter cookies or peanut butter brownies were the way forward. I then spotted these incredible looking bars on Averie Cooks, and knew I was on to a winner.
The peanut butter blondie base of these bars is great on its own, and you could pretty much add whatever you like into the mix – as Averie suggests, it’s a great way of using up whatever half bags of add-ins you have lying around in the cupboard.
I wanted extra peanuttyness (I know that isn’t a word, but it should be) so I bought some mini peanut butter cups to go with the dark chocolate and m&ms I already had. I used plain chocolate m&ms, but if you’re a real nut lover I would definitely throw in some of the peanut ones as well, or even the peanut butter ones if you can get your hands on them.
I kind of intentionally bought a gift box that was too small to fit the whole batch of blondies in, meaning a few were left over for sampling – what a tragedy!
My new chief taster (my dad) was a big fan, despite regularly telling me how much he doesn’t like peanut butter, and I really liked them too – the base is chewy, sweet and nutty, the m&ms bring texture contrast with their crunchiness, the peanut butter cups and dark chocolate add nice bursts of slight saltiness and bitterness to counter all the sugar, and I think the brightly coloured m&ms also make them look a bit more ‘birthday’.
Another plus is that they kept really well for about 5 days, not drying out at all, so they’d be great if you need to make something a few days in advance of being eaten.
Whether you have 6 years of missed birthdays to make up for, or just want to treat yourself, I would highly recommend you give these a try!
Peanut butter m&m blondies (recipe adapted from Averie Cooks)
- 125g butter, melted
- 1 large egg
- 200g light brown sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 135g smooth peanut butter
- 120g plain flour
- 50g dark chocolate, chopped
- 100g m&ms
- 100g Reeses miniature peanut butter cups
Beat together the melted butter, egg, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the peanut butter and beat again, then sift and fold in the flour. Finally, fold in 2/3 of whatever chocolate bits and add-ins you’re using and spread the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin, then sprinkle the rest on top (this will make the bars look prettier!)
Bake at 170 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until golden and just set. Leave to cool in the tin for an hour or so, then remove and leave to cool completely before slicing into squares.