“Baking and love go hand in hand, for as one bakes a tasty treat and fills the room with its sweet aroma, the true joy is to take what has been made and share it with another.” - Heather Wolf, Kipnuk has a Birthday
It's true, baking is no fun if the final result isn't going to be shared with anyone. Over the weekend we took a long road trip from our home in Colorado to visit our son who is at the University of Nebraska. He is playing club rugby for UNL and we hadn't had a chance to see him play yet. This past weekend was our opportunity, and we'd been looking forward to it for weeks. I'm firmly in the "food is love" camp, and so I wanted to bring him a treat that would survive the car ride, have a good shelf life and be conducive to sharing. Gooey Peanut Butter M&M Oat Bars fit the bill perfectly. This recipe is an adaptation of one I have been making for a long time. It originally appeared in a little cookbook I bought at a Southern Living at Home party years ago but called for regular Milk Chocolate M&M's. So feel free to make that substitution if you prefer. Each variation is pretty outrageously good!
Gooey Peanut Butter M&M Oat Bars- makes 1- 9x13" pan
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted (you could use dry roasted unsalted peanuts, too) but I prefer pecans)
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (einkorn flour or gluten free flour may be substituted)
2 cups Old-Fashioned (Rolled) oats (use gluten free , if desired)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled*
12 ounces (approx a full 1 1/2 cups) Peanut Butter M&M's , divided (or a mixture of Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate, per your taste)
1- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter (I like Jif)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9x13" baking pan with aluminum foil; lightly grease or spray with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine pecans, flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and oats. Mix on low to combine.
3. On low speed stir in butter until mixture is crumbly. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of crumbs. Press the remainder evenly into the prepared 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 10 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
4. Meanwhile, place 8 ounces (approx 1 full cup) of Peanut Butter M&M's in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 30 second intervals, pressing on candies with back of wooden spoon to mash between intervals, until candies are pretty much all melted with pieces of the candy shell speckling the mix). Stir in sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and peanut butter. Stir until well combined. Pour mixture over cooled base, leaving a small border around all sides.
5. Combine reserved crumb mixture with remaining 4 ounces (approximately a full 1/2 cup) M&M candies.
6. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over chocolate-peanut butter mixture. Press lightly to adhere. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until bars are set and nicely golden.
7. Let bars cool completely before cutting (to cut, remove bars from pan using foil ends. Peel off foil and cut bars into desired size). Bars keep well for 3-4 days, wrapped tightly in foil, at room temperature. They freeze beautifully, too, wrapped air-tight in foil and placed inside zip top freezer bags for up to 2 months.
* Note: if using Einkorn flour reduce butter to 7 ounces. Proceed as for bars above.