08 March 2010

Baking in Buenos Aires (BIBA): Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

Baking in Buenos Aires, especially when one is trying to bake something not typically Argentine, requires translating, sleuthing, and a certain willingness to improvise.

For example, last year I baked chocolate chip cookies without chocolate chips, and a few weeks ago I baked cupcakes in flan moulds. I've learned that confectioner's sugar is called azĂșcar impalpable, and that brown sugar is called azĂșcar rubia (blond sugar). And I hate to admit this, but I still haven't found real vanilla extract and have been baking with its artificial redheaded stepchild. Don't tell Martha.

On Sunday we had a potluck dinner to attend, and with all the healthy eating that's been going on around here I wanted to make something indulgent. I decided on Baked's Peanut Butter Crispy Bars and their simple and ridiculously decadent list of ingredients: peanut butter, butter, milk & dark chocolate, sugar, and corn syrup. Oh, and Rice Krispies.

It turns out, however, that in Buenos Aires, Rice Krispies are nowhere to be had. I went to three grocery stores in search of the snap, crackle and pop that, with its various flavours and box sizes, takes up half of most North American cereal aisles, but no luck. I settled for Special K (the only puffed-rice cereal I could find). The Special K flakes were much bigger than Rice Krispies, and they tasted a bit too... healthy. Then the corn syrup wasn't quite light, as the recipe calls for, and the resulting caramel was a bit cloying. And peanut butter here is mostly the super-natural no-salt-no-sugar kind, so the second layer (peanut butter and milk chocolate) didn't seem quite sweet enough and tasted almost overly peanut-buttery. Top layer notwithstanding (I have yet to meet a mixture of melted butter and chocolate that I didn't like), I had my doubts about this recipe as I was creating it.

And even when I tasted the final product, I wasn't sure. They had all the right elements for deliciousness: caramel, peanut butter, chocolate, and crunch. Despite all these wonderful characteristics, something wasn't quite right. I wasn't even sure I wanted these bars to represent at the potluck. I almost threw the whole batch in the garbage, thinking, these bars aren't worth their salt.



I grabbed a bar out of the fridge and sprinkled it with sea salt, and the sun broke through the clouds and made that salt sparkle like Sandra Bullock's Oscar dress, and lo, the much-adapted Peanut Butter Crispy Bar became greater than the sum of its parts. And North and South Americans alike loved them at the party: They were gone--devoured--within minutes of our arrival. I suspect they'd taste even more delicious after a day or two, but, yeah. Good luck with that.

The original recipe, which will withstand liberal adaptation, is at Smitten Kitchen.


  1. This is great writing. The suspense of the mediocre bars, then the salt epiphany!