Friday, March 09, 2012

Peanut Butter-Pretzel Shortbread Bars...

It's been just over two months since our last post - I think this is the longest delay we've ever had! I wish I had lots of news to share with you, but frankly, life has not been all that exciting. You know I've been dealing with this darn gut issue for a long time, but for whatever reason it had gotten worse last year. I've been through a barrage of tests (one doc called it the million dollar medical spree! Not quite, but it felt like it), food allergy testing and celiac testing, along with several months of heavily restricted diets to look and see if this may be a dietary issue. That is the main reason for the inactivity here - not much to talk about when you can't eat the majority of the food you used to!

What do we have to show for this? Sadly, not a whole heck of a lot. After being sent to the gastroenterology specialists at the University of NC, the conclusion so far is that my issue is most likely not dietary related and may be a problem of hypersensitivity of the nerves in my gut and a problem with how the muscles in my abdomen react when food is introduced. Where we go from here is not all that clear - I'm not big on taking medication, but we've decided to give their recommendation a go. It'll take 4-6 weeks to see if it works, but we figured I might as well - I've already done everything else!

The dogs have been doing well through all of this though. Here's Gus in his favorite spot - smack dab in the middle of the yard where the sun shines the most.

Dora, on the other hand, would rather explore every nook and cranny the great outdoors holds, rather than be lazy like her pal.

I've occasionally taken pictures of foods we've made for the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day, which I have diligently continued to keep up. It has been tough not being able to sample the majority of goodies Jeff would bring into the office, but I was still able to enjoy the process of making them! One of those were these killer Peanut Butter-Pretzel Shortbread Bars.

While the combo sounded astounding, I admit the main reason I wanted to make these was to give my rectangular tart pan some love. The pan is a favorite, but I don't use it nearly enough!

Salty-sweet snacks are an irresistible downfall for me and thought it was ridiculous that I kept having to remind myself I wasn't allowed even a nibble. Thankfully, I knew they were transported into the office the next morning and wouldn't be sitting on the counter teasing me for the next few days.

The crunchy pretzel is introduced in three ways into this buttery shortbread cookie - ground into a pretzel powder to cut the flour-y base, chunky pieces mixed into the stuff dough and a handful pressed onto the top let you know exactly what you'll be diving into. The original recipe did not call for the peanut portion, but I had the refinements of an already opened bag of peanut butter chips languishing in the pantry, last used to make that layered two-toned fudge over Christmas.

Jeff nodded in agreement when I asked if I should toss a scoopful into the dough - mainly, I think, because I've caught him more than once sticking pretzel sticks into a jar of peanut butter before dinner! Another change I made was to use half brown sugar and half regular granulated, along with a splash of vanilla for good measure. Use entirely granulated if you like, but I fancy the mellow molasses undertones from brown sugar.

These take about a half hour to bake, rendering them a pale golden around the edges, with the center being firm to the touch, but not hard. You'll be left with cookies that have a crisp perimeter, yet are still melting-ly tender as you munch your way through the groovy individual rectangles. Can you still make this if you don't have this type of pan? Sure - I encourage you to do so because you shouldn't miss these! I would have to guess an 8" square pan would be just about right - you'll just have to watch the total bake time.