Payday Peanut Clusters

Chocolatier magazine, October 2003

Cover recipe – Chocolatier, Payday Peanut Clusters: October 2003

When I was in my early twenties, I lived across the street from one of my good friends. I thought I loved chocolate, but I have nothing on her love of chocolate. Back before she was a blogger, she wrote mostly for print and online magazines. One day she told me she had press passes for The Chocolate Show in New York City and asked if I would go with her. New York City was just a short train ride away at that time and I could not think of anything I wanted to do more than go to the city to The Chocolate Show. This was in the days before blogs were popular and everyone shared every minute detail of their day on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Or you can bet I would have Instagrammed the heck out of that day! I got to meet Jacques Torres and try fancy chocolates that blew my mind. The only fancy chocolate I had growing up came in cellophane-wrapped boxes from the pharmacy. (And wasn’t really fancy.) It was the first time I tried chocolate and chiles together. I was so hooked. We each received complimentary copies of the October 2003 issue of Chocolatier. I’ve held onto that issue all these years! The pages are dog-eared, the cover disappeared a few years go. I packed it across the country when I moved. I’m not ever throwing it away! Why do I love this issue so very much? The recipes are fantastic! The cover recipe, Payday Peanut Clusters is one that I’ve never gotten around to making. So as I was rummaging around in a drawer and found my beloved magazine, I decided to give it a try. I figured it would be a great Halloween (or anytime) treat to make. Read my notes below to see what I thought of the recipe.

payday peanut clusters

Print Print Recipe

Payday Peanut Clusters

Yield: 20 squares

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 15 min

Total Time: 45 min

"There are two things that are difficult about this peanut butter cluster dessert: deciding who love them more - adults or kids - and not eating them all yourself. These crunchy squares are great to take along on an informal picnic or to a friend's house. To dress them up, top them with a dollop of whipped cream." - Chocolatier


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Payday candy bars (1.85 ounces each)
12 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup salted peanuts


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 8" square baking pan with vegetable spray. In a bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter, margarine, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar, and egg. In another bowl, combine flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Add to peanut butter mixtures and stir to combine.
2. Press dough into prepared pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until center is set and edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
3. Cut Payday candy bars lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2" pieces. Place on top of peanut butter crust.
4. Place milk chocolate into a medium bowl. Microwave heavy cream on high for two minutes or until it boils. (Watch carefully so it does not overflow.) Pour over chopped chocolate and let stand 30 seconds. Stir until chocoalte is compeltely melted. Pour over candy bar pieces to cover crust completely. Spread chocolate to edges using an offset spatula.
5. Sprinkle top with cocktail peanuts and cool completely until chocolate is firm, placing in refrigerator, if necessary. Cut into small squares and serve.


*I used gluten-free all-purpose flour from Trader Joe's. If you want to make your own, I recommend this recipe. (link)
*I used fun size Payday bars. Eight fun-size are equal to 4 regular size bars.
*Don't use natural peanut butter for the crust. It will turn out oily.
*I used all butter.

*The bars are much, much easier to cut and benefit from about 15 minutes in the freezer.
*Keep the bars either in the fridge or someplace cool so the ganache doesn't melt.
*The recipe says it makes 20 bars, but I think they're better when they are bite-sized.

Recipe source:Chocolatier, October 2003

The results:

Wowzers! These bars are very rich and very sweet. I think I knew that as I was making them, but they were much sweeter than I imagined. We definitely liked them a lot though…in very small squares. They taste like what they are – candy bars turned basically into another candy bar. The peanut butter crust is chewy and the perfect base for the candy bar and milk chocolate ganache topping. I did have a bit of trouble with the crust. I suspect it’s because I used gluten-free all-purpose flour. They rose up and browned nicely, then promptly fell. If I make these again, I’ll bake them for about 5 minutes more than it says in the directions. I’m sure the recipe works just fine when made with all-purpose wheat flour. I really loved the contrast of the salty peanuts and the sweet chocolate. Yum!

Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?

Honestly, no. Don’t get me wrong – the bars are very good. However because I have made so many other recipes from the same magazine, I have something to compare them to. There are a few recipes from the same issue that were outstanding and have become family favorites. One of them would have been a better cover recipe. But don’t let that stop you from making them!

Lori is the founder of She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at

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13 Responses to “Payday Peanut Clusters”

  1. 1

    Tieghan — October 14, 2013 @ 6:26 am

    Oh my gosh, these look and sound incredible. Peanut butter and and chocolate is my families all time favorite combo. These are just so our thing!

  2. 2

    Pam — October 14, 2013 @ 11:45 am

    I SOOOO miss Chocolatier magazine!!!

  3. 3

    Lindsey Johnson — October 14, 2013 @ 11:46 am

    Me too! It was the best!

  4. 4

    Lindsey Johnson — October 14, 2013 @ 11:47 am

    It’s one of our favorite combos too. They were gone in a flash!

  5. 5

    MaryB — October 14, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

    These sound delicious. I am wondering if I could cut back on the sugar a little bit? Would it adversely affect how the crust sets up?

    • Lindsey Johnson replied: — October 14th, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

      Mary, that’s a great question! I think you could probably cut back by a 1/4 cup on the white sugar without it affecting the crust too much. I can’t say for sure until I have tried it myself. But I wouldn’t reduce the brown sugar because that’s what makes them chewy. I think if/when I make them again, I’ll use bittersweet chocolate instead of milk. That might help with the ultra-sweet factor too.

  6. 6

    Deborah Harroun — October 14, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

    Maybe it’s good that they are so sweet and a little square goes a long way – portion control?? ;) I’m sure I’d find myself stealing a little square here and there, though. They sound wonderful, and now I’m wanting to come steal your copy of this magazine so I can try some of the other recipes!!

  7. 7

    Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) — October 15, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

    Deborah, you can totally borrow it! The recipes are fantastic.

  8. 8

    Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie — October 16, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    I used to have a mild obsession with payday bars. I still love them though just not quite as obsessed. However I might become obsessed again after seeing these.

    • Lindsey Johnson replied: — October 23rd, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

      I always forget how much I like them. Baby Ruth too!

  9. 9

    Averie @ Averie Cooks — October 22, 2013 @ 11:33 am

    I’ve made a Payday copycat recipe before and yes, no matter what recipe you use, they’re going to be pretty rich! I didn’t use any milk chocolate in mine though. I love the looks of yours and for your totally candid assessment on the recipe:)

    • Lindsey Johnson replied: — October 23rd, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

      Thanks, Averie. :) I actually just saw your recipe today when I was searching for something.

  10. 10

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