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Everyone deserves a treat now and then. The other day I went to have my hair cut (a treat in itself) and stopped for dinner ingredients on the way home; I was hungry and bombarded with tempting options at the checkstand, and I caved. I don’t do it often, but I grabbed a chocolate square filled with peanut butter and toffee for a quick sugar rush bite at the bus stop. Oh. My. GOODNESS. It was literally one bite, but it was the most perfect one bite I’ve had in some time. Of course, I forgot the name of the company that makes these, despite saving the wrapper somewhere in my kitchen– you could offer me $50 to find it and I would have to just shrug my shoulders. The company may be local to Seattle, I’m not sure, but I will do some homework and report back so you, too, can experience the magic of the candy.  In the meantime, I created these cookie bars based on the flavors. Peanut butter, chocolate, toffee. I am kind of excited about these. No, I am REALLY excited about these.

I am definitely the girl you know who tries to cut down on sugar and butter in, or add fruit and whole grains to, baked goods so I can feel better about giving them (often) to my friends and family. I didn’t even consider slimming these down. They are dark, dense and chock-full of butter, and I don’t feel even a little bit bad because they are a treat. Whoa, Daddy! bars are not as sweet as other peanut butter-swirl brownies you may have had because I wanted to highlight the flavors of peanut butter and dark chocolate; I think sweetness can sometimes mask those flavors. And the truth: these are exactly what I wanted them to be. A small square satisfies in a few decadent bites.

Whether you make them for someone special on Father’s Day, a loved one graduating this month, a picnic or barbecue on the 4th of July or just an I-was-thinking-of-you dessert, they won’t disappoint. The chocolate layers are dark and rich, the middle layer is smooth and creamy and there’s just a hint of buttery crunch from the toffee. The silly clever name comes from my initial reaction to the bite of candy, what I said (for real) when I bit into my first of these bars, and because they remind me of my Dad, with his favorite flavors all present. I hope you will have a similarly happy reaction. Treat yourself!

Whoa, Daddy! Bars (makes 16 bars)

For the brownie layer:

  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 8 T. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 c. flour

For the peanut butter layer:*

  • 3/4 c. peanut butter
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 Heath bar (or about 2 oz. equivalent English toffee pieces), chopped

For the top layer:

  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 T. peanut butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 x 8″ baking pan and set aside.

Start with the brownies: Place a large glass mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water (or use a double boiler if you have one) and add to it 8 T. butter and the unsweetened chocolate. Stirring frequently, heat until both have just melted; remove the bowl from the heat and cool slightly on the counter, about 5 mins. Stir in the sugar and salt, whisk in the vanilla and egg and then gently fold in the flour. The batter will be thick, tending to ball together, which is good. Press the batter evenly into your prepared pan and bake for 20 mins.; don’t let them overcook. Cool the brownies on a rack on the counter for about half an hour; when they’re cool enough for the next stage, you’ll be able to handle the pan (please be careful!) but it will still feel warm to the touch.

To make the peanut butter layer, place another glass mixing bowl over your simmering water and melt the 4 T. butter with the 3/4 c. peanut butter until smooth; stir in the vanilla. Sift in your confectioner’s sugar and mix well. Stir in the toffee pieces, which should be small but not pulverized– you want to see them in your filling. It is easiest to assemble the peanut butter layer when the peanut butter mixture and the brownies are still warm; work quickly but carefully to dollop and then spread the mixture evenly over the brownie layer. Cool for about 15 mins. on the bench and then transfer to the fridge for about an hour before continuing.

Here’s that water bath again: in a small bowl over the simmering water, melt the 2 T. peanut butter with the semi-sweet chocolate, stirring gently, until smooth and shiny. Drizzle over the cool peanut butter layer. (If you’ve used a glass baking pan, be very cautious about touching hot chocolate to cold glass; work with the bars at room temperature if you’re more comfortable.) Spread the chocolate mixture evenly with a spatula or butter knife and add any designs you’d like, swirls and so forth. Garnish with a little extra toffee if you have it.

Now, here’s the hard part: Whoa, Daddy bars are significantly better after they have rested for several hours, preferably overnight. The layers become better acquainted and agree to work together. Cover and keep at room temperature if you can, or refrigerate if you like. Just before serving, cut into 16 squares and then treat yourself.

*If you’d like a crunchier texture here, double the amount of toffee (yum) or use crunchy peanut butter.