I’ve made it no secret lately that I am in love with Savannah, Georgia. Well, to be more accurate, I can’t wait to fall in love with Savannah, Georgia.
I’ve been once for about three hours on a stop-over during a trip down from Charleston to Jekyll Island last spring. My oldest little loaf loves Forrest Gump, so did Chippewa Square and pigged out at Paula Deen’s (you just gotta once). I knew I had to get back there as soon as possible. History, natural beauty, FOOD. This city is made for foodies and is famous for that fact.
I’ve also missed no opportunity lately to express how obsessed I am with a fresh, new cookbook coming out of a little bakery-that-could that just so happens to be in Savannah. I’m looney for this book.
It’s fine. I’m okay.
Now, at the height of planning Project PB&J I was also plotting Savannah, round two (and yes, I will be eating my way through and sharing with you all). While researching best dinner spots, bread and cupcakes – I discovered the Back in the Day Bakery. Concurrently, I tweeted the Savannah CVB re: the city’s best bread. They immediately replied, “Back in the Day Bakery.” Hmm? Had never heard of it, but here it is, crossing my path twice in one day. Something’s going on here.
Indeed: further investigation revelas that the ever-sweet dynamic duo owners, Cheryl and Giffith Day, have a new cookbook publishing in just a matter of days with Artisan Books. And guess what? Among their delicious, anecdotal, entertaining and literally and visually inspriring pages is…a recipe for PB&J Bars.
Gimme that book, RIGHT NOW!
Of course, I asked, and Artisan sent me the book and agreed to give a copy to each of our grand prize winners of PPB&J. Good thing, because I cannot put this thing down. When it’s not in my oh-so-ginger grasp, I walk by it on the coffee table and see the Days smiling at me, while holding cookies -and each others’ hands – from the painted-red floor of their way hip retro-styled bakery. And I smile, myself.
The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook reads like a Sunday morning paper used to: leisurely. It’s full of widely-varied recipes (and useful baking tips), injected with commentary on the recipes as the Days present them, which are culled from customer faves and their own passions.
The book’s layout encourages you to linger and take in the whole package – enticing, huge retro-flavored photographs, a narrative style to the recipes and a conversation on every page combine to serve as an invitation, rather than an intimidation, as some cookbooks can come across as, no matter how they try to chat you up.
BITDBCB successfully communicates ‘yes, you, too can create any of their offerings and be an instant success. It’s not hard, come on and give it a go.’ From Cheryl’s Brownies to Pumpkin Crunch Bars to Vegetable Pot Pie and Panchetta Bread Pudding (!!), and oh yeah, Drunk Blondies, there is absolutely something – or everything – for everyone here.
I suggest, of course, a careful recipe read-through prior to heading to the grocery once you’re inspired, as the Days, true devotees of the art of scratch baking, like to use their own tried-and-true best ingredients. You may not be used to all of them (Dutch process cocoa is not a habit of mine, nor is herbes de Provence). Meals of Heroism abound inside this book. Mix and match. (Oh wow, I almost forgot about the Irish Soda Bread with Black Currants I’ve made six times already.)
The book tells me that Cheryl and Griff – who are from California and Minnesota, respectively – have more than successfully melded into this southern community and hotbed for exceptional food, and are furthering that reputation via their bakery. These bars that I’m sharing with you today shall go untouted. It’s unnecessary. Just make them and see.
The book also says one more thing, in a big way: community. As in, come, be a part of our family.
Twist my arm.
Excerpted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl Day & Griffith Day (Artisan Books). Copyright 2012. Photographs by Squire Fox.
Approx prep: 20 minutes Bake: 35-45 minutes Yield: 12 large or 24 small bars
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp baking powder (preferrably aluminum-free)
1/2 lb (2 sticks) UNsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs (also at room temperature, I suggest)
1 12-oz jar of strawberry jam, or your fave flavor (I rocked concord grape)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 TBSP hot water, or as needed
1. Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350° F.
2. Grease a 9x13x2-inch baking pan, line with parchment (allow two sides of parchment to hang over sides of baking pan)
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.
4. In a stand mixer bowl with paddle attached, or in a large mixing bowl with hand mixer, cream the butter, sugars and peanut butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Turn speed to ‘low’ and add flour mixture until just combined. The mixture will resemble cookie dough.
5. Press 2/3 of the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Spread jam evenly over dough. Drop the remaining 1/3 of the dough in dollops evenly over the jam.
6. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown. The edges will be firm and the center should be set. Remove bars from oven and cool to room temperature.
7. For the glaze: in a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, vanilla and hot water, stirring until it reaches a glaze consistency. Add more water if too thick.
8. Drizzle bars with glaze, cut into squares. These bars will keep for up to one week in an airtight container stored at room temperature.