Thursday, April 17, 2008

a staple of Minnesota baking:

Bars. Or as we say in Bemidji-barrrrssss.

They are like magic in a pan. They usually don't take much time to whip up, don't require multiple baking sheets and an hour in the kitchen, and many times you already have the ingredients on hand. Not to mention, they make enough to feed a crowd.

Having a baby shower? Bars. The church called and needs something for a funeral? Bars. Graduation party? Bars. Cub Scout pot luck? Bars.

The varieties are endless, so you can always bring something different. And most any cookie recipe can be converted to a bar. (except for Chocolate Malt Sandwiches....that would be tricky.)

This year Charlie's group, the Webelos, was selected to bring dessert, so I whipped up some caramel Rice Krispie bars for the kids, and am making my standard, most requested, easy yet very yummy bars for the grown ups. And the next time you need some bars, you can make these too. They are from a Pillsbury bake-off from years ago. It wasn't the winner, but still made it into one of their little grocery store endcap cookbooks. I have modified it some.

French Caramel Pecan Bars
3/4 c butter, melted
1 Pkg French Vanilla cake mix (or Butter Recipe, or just Yellow)
1 egg
2 1/2 c quick-cooking oats
1 can Caramel frosting (or Coconut Pecan, unless you are Tracy M)
1/4 to 1/2 c. Caramel ice cream topping
1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Heat the oven to 350, grease a 15 x 10 baking pan. Reserve 3 Tbsp. of the cake mix, combine rest of cake mix with the melted butter in a large bowl. Add egg, mix well, then stir in oats. Press 2/3 of the cake mixture (about 2 1/2 c) into the baking pan. Put the frosting in a bowl and microwave on high 1 minute to melt, add reserved cake mix and stir until big lumps disappear. Drizzle 2/3 of the frosting mixture over the the cake mix in the pan. Sprinkle the choc. chips and pecans over that, then drizzle the ice cream topping over that. Make sure to lick your fingers, but for heavens sake, wash them before this last hands on bit. Crumble the rest of the cake mixture over the top, and bake about 30 min. You can tell they are done when the top is golden brown and it is all bubbly around the edges. Cool completely before trying to cut them.

And you will want to try them before they are cool, it's just kind of a fact of life. But just cut along the edges, because you aren't going to bring the edges out in public anyway, are you? At least, that is how I was many rules.

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