Sitting on my cookbook shelf, between Mollie Katzen's The Heart of the Plate and my dependable Betty Crocker Cookbook, is a comb-bound copy of The Fruit of the Spirit Bethel Lutheran Church Cookbook. For those unfamiliar with the genre, a Midwestern church cookbook is not where one turns for healthful plant-based eating. Salads are molded from Jello or drenched in mayonnaise, and the slim chapter of vegetable recipes involves lots of cheddar cheese. Entrees include every possible combination of condensed cream soup and meat, baked together in a casserole dish at 350 degrees. Fully half of the cookbook is devoted to desserts. Ingredient lists can be maddeningly vague, calling for a "small" can of evaporated milk or a "large" package of breadcrumbs. Recipe titles are often picturesque but less than illuminating: Pearl's Hot Pot, Preachers Casserole, Impossible Pie. There are lots of processed ingredients, instant pudding and Cool Whip and Velveeta and onion soup mix. Basically, a Midwestern church cookbook is the opposite of my blog.
But I keep one on the shelf anyway, partly because Mike needs a recipe for tater tot hot dish (actual ambiguous ingredient list: 1 pound ground beef, 1 small onion, 1 box vegetables, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1 bag tater tots) and partly because I need the chapter on bars--the baked sugary kind, not drinking establishments. This is, after all, a church cookbook.
I think that the term "bars" is an upper-Midwest thing--most American cookbooks lengthen it out to "bar cookies" or "dessert bars", while they're called "traybakes" in the UK and "slices" in Australia. But whatever the name, I don't think anyone does bars quite as well as we do them here. Exhibit 1: my church cookbook contains 49 unique bar recipes, from Apricot Bars to Turtle Melt-Aways. When I need a dessert for a crowd, my church cookbook is my Bible.
In this case, I wanted a basic recipe for an 8 inch by 8 inch pan of blondies. These came out short and dense--if there was chocolate involved, you would call them fudgy--with a warm depth of flavor from the brown sugar and vanilla. I used margarine, because that's what the original recipe called for (actually, the recipe specifies "oleo" which is how elderly Midwesterners refer to margarine). However, butter is listed as an alternative, so that would work just fine.
Adapted from the recipe by Doris C. Glonek in The Fruit of the Spirit Bethel Lutheran Church Cookbook
- 1/3 cup stick margarine, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 inch by 8 inch pan.
In a medium bowl, mix the margarine, brown sugar, egg and egg yolk, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are browned and pulling away from the pan and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool completely before slicing. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.