One of the only downsides of loving to bake — and therefore baking A LOT — is not having enough taste testers. Not that Johnny doesn’t have a sweet tooth (because he totally does) but a man can only eat so many sugary baked goods in a week. I probably could take the time to cut the recipes down to recipes for two… but that takes the fun out of it for me!
So instead, I’ve recently started looking for new taste testers and, for the moment, have landed upon my man’s work buddies. And since they’re a bunch of manly men, I thought what better dessert to start off with than Cupcake Project’s Cowboy Bars? As soon as I saw the description “sweet, smokey, buttery, salty, and earthy” I just knew I had to give it a try.
I made a few tweaks of my own – like using almond milk and swapping the pecans for peanuts (and, speaking of peanuts, adding peanut butter to the shortbread) – but I didn’t have to do much because it was such a great, inventive recipe already!
TO PREPARE THE SHORTBREAD:
1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 ½ cup AP flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the ingredients, which should produce a nice crumble.
Bake for about 20 minutes (just until the shortbread starts to look golden brown).
TO PREPARE THE BBQ MAPLE FILLING:
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup honey BBQ sauce
3 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup almond milk
dash of vanilla extract
1 ½ cup chopped peanuts
Heat the maple syrup, BBQ sauce, butter, almond milk and vanilla in a saucepan until it just barely boils (be careful not to burn it!). Then, after removing your shortbread from the oven, you can assemble.
I split my assembly process in half, which means I poured half of the filling on top of the already cooked shortbread, topped with some peanuts, topped with the remaining shortbread dough, and then repeated the process with the other half of my filling and peanuts…
…but you can do it however you want. You might want to keep all the filling/peanuts in between the shortbread or maybe you like the crumbly crumbs on top.
It’s all personal preference, which is why Cupcake Project was kind enough to provide two recipes for either method of preparation. Whatever you do, bake the shortbread for 30 minutes and then kick it up to 375 degrees for another 15 minutes.
Let those puppies cool for a bit before cutting and serving.
And then, obviously, enjoy!