These Peanut Butter Grape Shortbread Bars are a surprisingly easy and unique treat that’s gluten free optional and great for kids! Buttery Shortbread topped with creamy peanut butter frangipane and sweet, juicy grapes for a combination that tastes like peanut butter and jelly, only better!
Fall is finally in the air and baking season is upon us! It’s time to put on your coziest sweatpants, tie that worn-in apron around your waist and let the butter start softening on the counter.
This recipe is a unique take on one of America’s signature flavor profiles: peanut butter and jelly. It’s nostalgic, it’s iconic, and it walks that beautiful line between salty and sweet that makes it addictive in the most wonderful way. Kids love it. Adults love it. Even foreigners love it!
I took German back when I was in high school and got to know some of the German exchange students in my class. One of their favorite things about America was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was so unlike anything they had ever tried before, and they couldn’t believe this sweet tasting treat was actually considered a nutritious lunch by Americans. In reality, they’re right – it is a bit ridiculous to call it anything other than what it really is – dessert.
These Peanut Butter Grape Shortbread Bars, however, are unmistakably dessert. I’m swapping out the white bread for buttery shortbread, and in lieu of grape jelly I went for whole, unprocessed grapes instead. The layer of peanut butter is a riff on frangipane, the sweet almond pastry cream used to fill many French and Italian desserts. It’s sweet, peanut buttery, a little bit salty and so incredibly creamy.
The grapes are a familiar but unusual choice for this recipe since they’re so rarely featured in baked desserts, which is surprising considering how sweet they are. They get soft and slightly dehydrated in the oven, which concentrates their flavor, but still retains the juiciness. Concord grapes would be ideal for this as they have a bit more flavor, but they can be hard to find without seeds. If you can find those elusive seedless concord grapes, go ahead and use them, but if not the red variety will do ya just fine. Just make sure they’re seedless!
Not a huge fan of grapes? Try this recipe with literally any other fruit you desire. I think raspberries, in particular, would be awesome. Of course it wasn’t until after I snapped these photos that I realized a sprinkling of roasted, salted chopped peanuts over top at the end would add a nice bit of added texture and even more peanut flavor. But they’re totally fine as is. The choice is up to you.
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Buttery Shortbread bars with creamy peanut butter frangipane and sweet, juicy grapes! A surprisingly easy and unique treat that’s gluten free optional and great for kids!
For the Crust:
- 1 cup all purpose flour or a cup-to-cup gluten free blend *(see note)
- 1/4 cupgranulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoonkosher salt
- 1/2 cup(1stick) butter, cut into pieces, plus more for buttering the pan
For the Filling:
- 3/4 cup natural peanut butter (no sugar or oils added), well stirred
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour or a cup-to-cup gluten free blend
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 35 seedless red or concord grapes, halved
- 3 tablespoons roasted salted peanut, coarsely chopped (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8″ pan with parchment paper.
- To make the crust, add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse once to combine. Add the butter, then process until the mixture comes together and forms large clumps, about 30 seconds to one minute. Distribute the dough around the pan and press it evenly around the base and up the sides. Use the bottom of a glass to help even it out if needed.
- Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before filling.
- To make the filling, don’t bother cleaning out the food processor and add the peanut butter, sugar, flour, salt, butter, eggs and vanilla, then blend until smooth.
- Pour the filling into the cooled crust (it’s okay if it’s still a little warm, just not blazing hot) and spread it out into an even layer. Arrange the grape halves cut-side-down on top of the filling. You can create a pretty pattern if you like, just be sure to get them in an even layer. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.
- Bake for approximately 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean. Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. I prefer them chilled (they’re easier to cut that way too).
*Results will vary with different gluten free flour blends. I use the Cup4Cup brand of gluten free flour with excellent results. (This is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase, which I am very grateful for).
Keywords: frangipane, bars, cookies, baked, shortbread, peanut butter, dessert, grapes, fruit, kids