I've made this recipe for my friend Kristen and her family twice, and they just love it. She asked me to post it here so if she ever stumbles upon the desire to learn how to bake (it's doubtful) she can make them on her own.
I recommend you bake these the night before and let them sit overnight before cutting and serving. These freeze well for up to one month. My favorite way to eat these is straight out of the freezer.
Peanut Butter Cranberry Bars
Source: Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens magazine
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup (4 T.) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter - do not use natural peanut butter (See Note 1 below)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup peanut butter - do not use natural peanut butter (See Note 1 below)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan; set aside. In a small bowl, combine cranberries and water. Cover and let stand 20 minutes. Drain well.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter with an electric mixer until well combined. Beat in brown sugar. Beat in flour on low speed (mixture will be crumbly). Stir in drained cranberries. (See Note 2 below.) Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture. Press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, for filling, in a medium bowl beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Add egg, 2/3 cup peanut butter, and lemon juice; beat until well combined. (See Note 3 below.) Spread evenly over crust. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over top, pressing lightly into filling with the back of a spoon.
Bake about 25 minutes more or until top is lightly browned and edges are puffed. (Do not overbake these or they will not have the moist peanut butter creaminess in the middle that makes them so good. I usually take mine out of the oven at 22 minutes.) Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars.
Note 1: Natural peanut butter is peanut butter that has oil on the top that needs to be stirred into the peanut butter before using. See picture below.
Note 2: Original recipe called for 1/2 cup chopped peanuts to be stirred in with the drained cranberries. Since I wanted a soft bar (nothing with crunch), I omitted them. If you want to use peanuts in this recipe, stir 1/2 cup chopped peanuts and cranberries together and proceed with the recipe as written.
Note 3: You can use 1 T. milk and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract in place of the fresh lemon juice.
Natural Peanut Butter and Regular Peanut Butter:
(As I mentioned above, use regular peanut butter for this recipe.)
Pictures of Peanut Butter Cranberry Bars: