Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Monkey Bars (Pillsbury Bake-Off Recipe!)

Hello hello! It's time for the long-awaited recipe for the bars I submitted to the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest! Oh boy. :) I am really excited and happy with how the final recipe turned out...let's just hope Pillsbury is too! Oh, and have I mentioned that the grand prize for this is $1 million?!? It would obviously be amazing to win the grand prize, but I'd be really pleased if I even make it to the top 100 finalists! Check out more details about the Bake-Off contest here. I have always wanted to enter a recipe, so I'm glad I finally got around to it this year!

It took me three tries to get to the final recipe. Each recipe was very good (I had friends and coworkers taste test for me along the way! I didn't have to twist their arms too much ;-)), but I think the final version was definitely the best. Even if I don't win, I'm proud of coming up with my own original recipe! The whole process was so much fun. It took some time to figure out just the right proportions of different ingredients, and it was interesting to really analyze the flavors and textures of each rendition of the recipe. My friends and coworkers didn't seem to mind that I kept "bothering" them to taste with me. :)

Love the layers you can see there!

Alrightie, enough babbling... Time to share my original recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Monkey Bars! You'll notice that for some items, I've mentioned brand names. This is because as part of the contest, you have to use at least one ingredient from two different lists, A and B, that contain many different items that fall under the umbrella of General Mills products (which Pillsbury is, along with many other brands!).

One of the ingredients from List A was this here box of brownie mix. :)


-1 box (19.5 oz.) Pillsbury milk chocolate brownie mix
-1 large egg
-1/2 cup Crisco pure vegetable oil
-12 graham cracker squares (or, 6 whole graham crackers)
-1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (equals approximately 1 large banana)
-1/2 cup Jif creamy peanut butter
-1 can (14 oz.) Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
-1/3 cup Hershey's semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 teaspoon Crisco pure vegetable oil

You certainly do not have to use the brand names I've included here. Any brand will do just fine.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 baking pan with cooking spray.

Place the graham cracker squares in a large food storage plastic bag. Seal tightly, and using a rolling pin or the back of a spoon, crush the crackers (they should be coarsely crushed, not finely crushed). This will equal approximately 1 and 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs.

In a large bowl, mix the brownie mix, egg, and 1/2 cup vegetable oil with a spoon or spatula. Add 1 cup of the graham cracker crumbs to the brownie mixture, and mix well. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture to use later, and firmly press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the greased baking pan with your hands or the back of a spoon.

In a medium bowl, combine the mashed banana, peanut butter, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir by hand until well-incorporated and smooth (although there will likely still be some banana lumps in the mixture). Pour the mixture evenly on top of the bottom brownie layer already in the pan.

Next, in a medium bowl, combine the reserved 1 cup of brownie mixture and remaining 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs. Once combined, stir this mixture with a fork to make it more crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture evenly across the top of the peanut butter layer. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the middle peanut butter layer does not "jiggle" if you shake the baking pan slightly.

Cool completely, about 2 hours.

In a small microwaveable bowl, microwave the 1/3 cup chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil on high at intervals of 15 seconds, stirring in between each time. Continue until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Put the melted chocolate glaze into a small food storage plastic bag and cut off a small tip from one corner of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate glaze on top of the bars, and let stand until the chocolate is set (you could also just drizzle the chocolate glaze with a fork or the end of a spatula if you don't want to "fool" with the ziploc baggie method).

Cut into bars of desired size (makes 24 to 32 bars, depending on how you cut them!).

See how these are not finely crushed, but rather "coarsely" crushed? That's key. I don't think finely crushed graham cracker crumbs would work as well in this recipe. The bigger crumbs add a slight crunch to the texture of the bars, and that's what I was going for.

This banana wasn't super ripe, but it still worked great and lent just the right amount of banana flavor. Feel free to use a more ripe banana when you make these!

This is the banana, peanut butter, and sweetened condensed milk mixture. There will be some lumps in it, so don't worry about mixing it to make it completely smooth.

This is the first, bottom brownie layer in the pan. Notice it's not nearly as liquid-y as a typical brownie mix! I decreased the liquid amount that you'd normally add to a brownie mix by quite a bit.

Here's the peanut butter layer next...

And the final "crumbly" layer!

A view after the bars are baked...

Here they are, drizzled with chocolate and cut for all to enjoy!

Yummmm. A quick synopsis of my impressions of the final product (other than they're delicious! you already know I think that :))... 

I really enjoyed the different textures going on in these bars. The bottom layer served more as a crust and was solid and sturdy (although not crunchy, per se). The middle layer was softer and just slightly gooey. It had a subtle banana flavor that wasn't too overpowering. I even think that people who do not care for banana would like these bars! I think the peanut butter and chocolate flavors are more pronounced, whereas the banana flavor plays an important, yet more subtle role. The top layer had a very slight crunch to it, thanks to the extra graham crackers I added to that layer. And then the drizzle of chocolate on top just made them more fun!

The inspiration behind these bars came from the fact that so many of us enjoy peanut butter and banana as a combination, as well as chocolate and banana as a combination. Yet there are few food items or recipes I can think of that combine the three! I had a fun time naming these bars. I had come up with a few ideas on my own, but some friends and coworkers participated in a poll to determine the final name that I'd submit. Chocolate Peanut Butter Monkey Bars was created by my friend Lindsay. Thanks, Linds, for the final winning name! A couple other ideas included Bananorama Graham Bars and Chocolate Peanut Butter Bananagrams, which are both fun as well!

Thanks for sticking with me to read this lengthy post. Please keep your fingers crossed that I get some good news from Pillsbury later this spring or early this summer!! And in the meantime, go make these Chocolate Peanut Butter Monkey Bars! You're going to love them, and that's a Barbershop guarantee. :)


  1. Ummm...these are obscenely seriously amazing. And are going to ruin any plans i had on "dieting" this week. C'est la vie.

    Good luck with the contest!

  2. Going to try these this weekend along with those reindeer cookies and snowman cookies you posted. I have a helper who will enjoy I think. :)

  3. Awesome, Maggie! I hope you enjoy everything - happy baking!! :)