Peanut butter fudge bars

A simple recipe that uses cake mix as its base.

The Pastry Chef's Baking
These bars topped off with chopped Hershey Kisses are like eating a soft peanut butter cookie with a layer of chocolate in the middle.
"Cake Mix Cookies" by Camilla V. Saulsbury ($16.95, Sourcebooks, Incorporated)

"Cake Mix Cookies" by Camilla V. Saulsbury is the type of baking book that if you wanted to bake with kids or you're a novice baker and want to make simple things without a lot of fuss, there are a lot of recipes in here that would be up your alley.

I must have gone through a use-cake-mix-as-an-ingredient phase as I have several baking books with this theme. Which is a little baffling since I don't normally like cake mix flavor unless the other ingredients can overcome it and make it taste like something more than a box mix. But the recipes aren't bad and their simplicity can't be beat.

I always recommend this type of baking book for people with kids who like to help them bake or are starting out in the kitchen since there's nothing easier than using a cake mix as a base. If you find the right recipe, you're not sacrificing much on taste (says the baking snob). Paired with measuring cups or spoons or little aprons for tykes plus a boxed mix itself to get them started, these make good gifts for busy parents and/or newbie bakers.

This recipe was super easy to put together. Strain the cake mix first to get rid of any lumps then follow the directions.

The peanut butter batter was more like a stiff cookie dough batter than a cake batter but it wasn't crumbly. I did "crumble" the topping by pinching off bits of the batter and dropping them randomly over the top. The topping bits didn't spread out but stayed how I crumbled them. I also added some chopped up Hershey kisses on top for additional texture and chocolate.

Overall, this was pretty good and didn't taste like cake mix. The peanut butter and chocolate combo help with the disguise. This is like eating a soft peanut butter cookie with a layer of chocolate in the middle. I'm glad I added the Hershey kisses and could've probably added even more. If you're a peanut butter lover, feel free to add peanut butter chips. There's no going wrong here.

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
From "Cake Mix Cookies" by Camilla V. Saulsbury

1 18.25-ounce package yellow cake mix
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position oven rack in middle of oven. Spray the bottom only of a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray (I line with foil then spray).

In a large bowl place the cake mix, peanut butter, eggs and oil. Blend 1-2 minutes with an electric mixer set on low speed until well blended. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of the mixture. Press remaining mixture into bottom of prepared pan; set pan and reserved mixture aside.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan set over low heat, melt the chocolate chips with the condensed milk and butter, stirring until blended and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract; pour over crust. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and topping is firm to the tough. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely; cut into bars.

Carol Ramos blogs at The Pastry Chef's Baking.

Related post: Snicker-ized Brownies

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