Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Bars (A.K.A “To-Die-For Bars”)


Jun 01

Inspired by the Death Bars at Orlando’s Valhalla Bakery, these peanut butter chocolate brownie bars are absolutely to-die-for. With a chocolate brownie crust, whipped peanut butter filling and an Oreo topping, there’s no way you can only take one bite.

A couple weeks ago I was in Orlando for work. Thanks to one of my Instagram followers, I was told to make a stop at Valhalla Bakery for some incredible (vegan) baked goods.

Now, there are those who may get turned off by “vegan,” but not me. In the past, some of the best desserts I’ve eaten have been vegan, including the ice cream at Van Leeuwen’s in New York. “Vegan” is not a word that scares me when it comes to food. It gets me excited!

So, with a recommendation in hand, my colleague and I left the airport and headed straight for Valhalla’s. It’s not easy to spot from the road. In fact, there’s not even a sign outside. Instead, look for a building that says “Market,” with an ivy covered arch leading to a patio of table and chairs. Inside that building, you’ll find the goods!

Before ordering lunch at the restaurant sharing the space with Valhalla, we went straight for the sweets and ordered nearly one of everything in the case – donuts, cookies, an assortment of bars, mini pies and cupcakes. Among the smorgasburg that filled our table, was the Death Bar: a brownie based bar, topped with a whipped peanut butter filling, crushed Oreos and chocolate. It was the first dessert I tried and after having one bite, I wasn’t even interested in anything else. This bar was amazing! In fact, it was so good, I ordered another one to take with us for later. Had I thought of packing a cooler, I would have bought them out and taken them all home with me too.
Instead, as soon as I got home, I started working on my own version of the bar. I’m not a vegan baker, so I wasn’t going to attempt a vegan version.

In my first round, I used a brownie base that ended up being too dark in flavor and too crispy in texture. The peanut butter filling, on the other hand, turned out exactly how I hoped it would. That was a keeper! In my second round, I decided to go with a chewier brownie by Cooks Illustrated that I saw on A Bountiful Kitchen’s blog. It turned out to be the perfect pairing to the peanut butter filling and Oreo topping.

While I won’t claim that these bars are identical to Valhalla or even a true copycat, they certainly fill my craving for the Death Bar, and I’m pretty confident they’ll knock your socks off!

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Bars (AKA "To-Die-For Bars")

Yield 20 Bars

Inspired by the Death Bars at Orlando's Valhalla Bakery, these peanut butter chocolate brownie bars are absolutely to-die-for. With a chocolate brownie crust, whipped peanut butter filling and an Oreo topping, there's no way you can only take one bite.

Ingredients

For the Brownie Crust (recipe from A Bountiful Kitchen by Cooks Illustrated)

  • ⅓ cup Dutch processed cocoa (I use dark cocoa powder)
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoon boiling water
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2½ cups sugar
  • 1¾ cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

For the Whipped Peanut Butter Filling

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Skippy)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream

For the Garnish

  • Crushed Oreos
  • Melted chocolate, about 3 tablespoons

Instructions

For the Brownies Crust

  1. Place rack on middle rack in oven. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Make a foil liner for a 9x 13 pan by turning the baking pan pan upside down. Tear a piece of foil the length of the pan, leaving extra (about 2 inches) hanging down on both ends. Form the foil over the outside of the pan, Then flip the pan over, and place the molded foil to the inside of the pan. Spray the foil with cooking spray.
  3. Whisk cocoa and boiling water together in a large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. Mixture may look curdled at this point. Add eggs, egg yolks and vanilla. Continue to whisk until smooth. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Using rubber spatula, fold in flour, and salt all at once, taking care to not over mix.
  4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30-40 minutes. (Mine took 33 minutes). Do not over cook. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 to 1½ hours.

For the Whipped Peanut Butter Filling

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, cream cheese, and peanut butter. Mix on medium-high until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix for another 3 minutes, until smooth. Transfer the mixture to another bowl and clean out the bowl for the stand mixer.
  2. In the now clean bowl, combine the whipping cream and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Using the whisk attachment, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
  3. Fold the whipping cream into the peanut butter mixture until no white streaks remain.
  4. Once the brownies are completely cooled, spread the peanut butter filling evenly over the brownies, followed by the crushed Oreos and melted chocolate.
  5. Refrigerate the bars for about an hour to set.

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