Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

This winter is close to breaking me. It seems like every time it warms up enough to melt the snow off the roads, it’s just in time for the next round of snow. Even this week has been no exception. We had a blizzard that originally was supposed to skate by us, but dumped a couple inches and blew them around. Yesterday we got another inch. And tomorrow? Another 1-2 inches. Have you ever read the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper? That’s about what South Dakota winters do to me. It’s an oppressively slow descent into madness. There are other things that have contributed to my sinking even further into seasonal depression this year, but the biggest is the lack of consistent sunshine. I have relatives who don’t seem to grasp the fact that depression, even seasonal depression, is not just a bad mood, but is a chemical imbalance, so this isn’t something I can just “snap out of.” Last year I was given a prescription anti-depressant, but after a couple of days of feeling really medicated-loopy on it (that drowsy-but-wired feeling), I stopped taking it. My daydreams involve me getting in the car and driving until I find a sunny coastline, but I can’t really do that. Instead, I try and combat the sadness and lethargy by baking things like these Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

I actually made these about a month ago–During another depressed spell. Sometimes it helps just to force myself to do something else. There are times when I need to just sit and write or cry, to get it out of my system and get to a point where I can stop feeling as bad. Baking helps me with that.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

And I know that if I were to get off my duff and start working out again, exercise would help as well. That’s a never-ending loop I get stuck in, though. I don’t have the energy to work out, so I don’t, but I feel better when I do. But I’m too tired to bother, so I don’t.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

And while sugar isn’t exactly the best thing to combat depression, sometimes I feel better myself when I bring a little smile to Jay’s and the bambino’s faces. The bambino comes home from school, runs into the kitchen proclaiming his hunger, and I surprise him with a homemade treat. That IS something that cheers me up immensely.

Yield: 24-36

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes


[b]For the Bars:[/b]

  • 3/4 C (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 C creamy peanut butter
  • 2 C packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 C quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 2-1/2 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

[b]For the Filling:[/b]

  • 1/2 C creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 C butter
  • 1/2 C Hershey's Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

[b]For the Drizzle:[/b]

  • 1-2/3 C (10-oz. pkg.) peanut butter chips, divided
  • 1-1/2 tsp shortening


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and peanut butter until well-combined. Add in the brown sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until well-combined. Mix in the vanilla.

On low speed, gradually add the oat mixture. The dough will be extremely thick. Set aside 2 cups of dough. Press the remaining dough into an ungreased 15-1/2x10-1/2x1-inch jelly-roll pan. Set aside while you make the dark chocolate filling.

Melt the peanut butter and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in the cocoa and sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly, then spread over the dough in the pan.

Set aside 1/2 C peanut butter chips for drizzle. Add the remaining chips to the reserved 2 cups of dough (you can work these into the dough with clean hands), then crumble mixture over the chocolate filling.

Bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown (chocolate will be soft). Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Once cooled, combine the remaining peanut butter chips and the shortening in a small bowl. Microwave for 20 seconds, then at 10-second intervals. Stir after each interval, until the mixture is completely smooth. Allow to cool slightly, then pour into a small zip-top plastic bag. Snip off a tiny corner, then drizzle over the cooled bars. Allow the drizzle to set before cutting into bars.


Recipe Source: Hersheys.com

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And if nothing else, it hopefully won’t been too much longer until the days are sunny and warm again, and the snow is gone for awhile!

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