Grape ExpectationsPosted: October 2, 2012 | |
You might remember that last fall, my cousin Kevin’s wife Wendy and I had an apple bake-off. She made an apple cake, and I made apple oatmeal cookies. The winner … is still up for debate. So rather than spend another year taunting each other, we decided to combine our baking efforts to create one awesome dessert. Our special ingredient this time: grapes! This made sense when we were supposed to visit a grape festival in Naples, New York, but at the last minute we decided not to go. However, we did get some fresh Naples grapes at a local (ie: closer to their house) farm, where we also rode a tractor and ate pumpkin fry cakes and orange & black half-moon cookies. The only hitch: the grapes we got had seeds, but more on that later.
What’s the perfect companion for fresh grapes? Peanut butter of course! Who didn’t love PB&J as a kid? Or as an adult for that matter? If you don’t love PB&J, well, then you won’t like these blondies. They literally taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, only in bar form. And if you put them in the fridge to chill — wow! — even better.
Oh, so back to those seeded grapes. You could use boring store-bought grape jelly for these blondies, or go the extra mile and make your own sauce using fresh grapes. Just cook them down with a little grape juice, butter, sugar and lemon juice. As for those pesky seeds? They’ll pop right out of the grapes as they cook, and then you can strain the mixture to easily separate them and some of the tougher skins from the amazingly grape-y sauce you end up with. Really, it’s awesome. So grape-y and flavorful, and not sticky-sweet like jelly. Wendy & I actually stood over the simmering grapes for a bit, picking out the seeds with a small spoon before we smartened up and opted for the much simpler strainer method. But it made for some fun bonding time, which is always grape. I mean, great.
Peanut Butter & Grape Jelly Blondies
For the grape sauce:
– 1 ½ cups of Naples grapes
– 2 tablespoons of sugar
– 2 tablespoons of grape juice
– 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
– 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
– ¼ teaspoon of vanilla
– Pinch of salt
For the blondies:
– ½ cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter
– ¼ cup of creamy peanut butter
– 1 cup of brown sugar
– 1 large egg
– 1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla
– 1 ¼ cups of flour
– ¼ teaspoon of salt
– ⅓ cup of creamy peanut butter
– ⅓ cup of grape sauce
To make the grape sauce, put the grapes, sugar, grape juice, butter, lemon juice, vanilla and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring, until grape skins fall off, the seeds pop out and the liquid thickens. Pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl and discard any remaining skins and seeds. Cover and let chill in the fridge until ready to use.
Heat your oven to 350º.
Line an 8×8 pan (or similar) with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the butter, about 45 seconds. Add ¼ cup of creamy peanut butter and heat for an additional 45 to 60 seconds to soften. Stir together until the mixture is smooth. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Whisk in the egg and vanilla, and then add the flour and salt and stir until just combined. (Do not over-mix.) Pour the batter into the baking dish and lightly smooth out with a spatula.
Top the batter with tablespoon-sized dollops of the remaining creamy peanut butter, and tablespoon-sized dollops of the grape sauce. Using a knife or spatula, marble the peanut butter and grape sauce in a zig-zag pattern, lightly moving back and forth until they’re dispersed across the top of the batter. (Do not over-do it or it will look muddy rather than marbled.)
Bake for 22 to 27 minutes, or until the edges begin to slightly pull away from the edge of the pan, the center is set and golden, and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving. Drizzle with the remaining grape sauce for more grape flavor.