Not your typical Little Debby bar, but two thousand times better… and not to forget better for you (I mean ingredients you can name here – not health food). I made some bar cookies for our second Tea and Tales Book Exchange, and they happened to be loaded with nuts. It seemed appropriate to call them “Nutty Bars” and think back to my slight addiction to the Little Debby version in my childhood. We didn’t have the healthiest snacks in the pantry (our neighborhood friends loved visiting the kitchen), which may pinpoint my chubby phases, but none the less, these cookie bars topped with your choice of nuts, puts peanut butter and wafers to shame.
My friend Joey and I throw a mean tea party. Joey is in charge of the savory and I’m in charge of the sweet. Our guests usually bring a good assortment of supplements as well. At our first tea party, we had so much food you couldn’t see the counter. We did a lot better this time, and still had fantastic foods. Joey made Sausage Rolls with Sweet Hot Mustard, a surprisingly delicious combination, and I made cookie bars. We also served some left over tarts that Joey filled and decorated. We had fresh fruit, pear and brie sandwiches on tiny pumpernickel bread, and assortment of pastries that our friends brought over.
We had a smaller group than last time, but I still ended up with about 20 left over books on the coffee table to deliver to our neighborhood bookstore. Since we had a manageable group, we actually sat around and discussed some of the books, rather than relying on the blurb on the back written by some witty critic. A bunch of 20-30 something women are much better critics…. We also, left to our own measures, will offer scrunched facial expressions and hmmms when we read the first line of books like, “Before my life started properly, I was doing the usual mewling and sucking, which in my case occurred on a pair of huge, soft black breasts.” from The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay. After we are all confused to what this book might be about I took the liberty to read the first 10 pages. No, its not what you think, its about a child growing up with an African wet nurse among an Afrikaans speaking people who himself only knew english. Apparently as the title suggests, he learns the Power of One at some point. I may keep this one around just to see….
I had a lot of nutty bars left over that I will probably contribute to the Bake sale at M’s office. I switched around the recipe a bit, hopefully you are no longer surprised by this revelation. The recipe called for a 9 x 13 inch pan but I didn’t want massively thick bars, so I used my 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan instead. I mentioned before you can use whichever nuts make you happy, and I used chopped Pecans, Walnuts, and Almonds in a 2, 2, 1 ratio. I also reduced the sugar a bit, but it probably could be reduced even more. They freeze exceptionally well, and since they make so many this is a good thing. The addition of buttermilk provides a nice balance to the sweet crust and nuts. The options are endless you could also add coconut which would crisp nicely, and drizzle them with chocolate or a dusting of powdered sugar. Maybe you will should make them for your next summer party.
Nutty Bars – or – Mixed Nut Bars
adapted from The Biggest Book of Cookies, Better Homes and Gardens
2 C flour
3/4 C butter
1/3 C brown sugar
1 C sugar
1 C buttermilk
1/4 C butter melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C coarsely chopped mixed nuts (no peanuts though)
To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, mix butter, flour and brown sugar until fine and crumbly. Pat it evenly into an ungreased 10 x 15 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from oven.
To make the filling:
Dust out the mixer bowl, and add to it eggs, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla. Mix on high for 2 minutes, then add the nuts and mix to coat. Pour over the partially baked crust and spread out the nuts evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, or until the center is set and it is beginning to turn golden brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack until the pan is cool enough to grab by your hand. Then stick it into the freezer for about 20 minutes. This will make it much easier to cut. cut into 3 inch by 1 inch bars. Stack them up like jenga blocks to serve.