Swift: Mother-in-law’s Mocha Bars the best, bar noneHere’s the weird thing about Christmas cookies. Everyone thinks their families make the best ones.
Here’s the weird thing about Christmas cookies.
Everyone thinks their families make the best ones.
Your mother could have baked Candied Eel Loaf with Prune Jelly Filling throughout your childhood and you may still declare her a holiday baking genius.
Maybe it’s just the warm memories conjured up by our family favorites. The spicy smell of those molasses cookies is a warm remembrance of Mom’s baking jags during snow days past. Or you might recall standing on your tiptoes to help your sister ladle filling into the thumbprint cookies so many Decembers ago.
Either way, our old family recipes are hard to beat.
In fact, my dad used to pitch a fit whenever Mom took part in a holiday cookie exchange.
“You give other people your homemade sugar cookies, and they give us fruitcake from the bargain rack at Super Valu,” he would grouse.
Along the same lines, my husband swears by one of his mom’s special-occasion treats, Mocha Bars.
I have no idea why they’re called Mocha Bars, as there is nothing remotely coffee-esque or chocolatey about it.
Instead, they consist of moist, white cubes of pound cake, enrobed in a powdered-sugar icing and rolled in crushed, salted peanuts. The end result is one of my favorite flavor combinations: “swalty” (salty-sweet). And they taste best right out of the freezer, with the icing hardened to a nutty, satisfying crunch.
After years of listening to my husband rave about his mother’s Mocha Bars, I decided to bake a pan for him last week. How hard could it be, right? The recipe called for just a handful of ingredients. Surely, they couldn’t be more difficult than the fussy petit fours I’d once made for a child’s birthday tea party.
But the Mocha Bar might just be the Rubik’s Cube of the carb world. That is, it looks deceptively simple, but the end result is harder to master than you might think.
My first pound cake baked up as flat and heavy as a patio paver. After a harried phone call to my mother-in-law for an emergency bakervention (was the cream-milk combo too hot? Was my baking powder too old?), I tried another one.
The second cake turned out only marginally taller than the first. Defeated, I frosted it and rolled it in peanuts anyway.
And I learned an important lesson. Anything – including a running shoe or an asphalt shingle – will taste better if you frost it and roll it in peanuts.
So here you go. The recipe for my mother-in-law’s elusively delicious Mocha Bars.
My MIL’s Non-Chocolate/Decaffeinated Mocha Bars
Warm together on stovetop until hot:
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
Meanwhile, beat together:
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
Pour hot milk-cream mixture over egg-sugar mixture and stir. Add 2 cups of flour and beat well.
Pour into a well-greased 9-by-13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for a half-hour.
Remove and cool pan on wire rack. When completely cool, slice cake into squares and frost top, bottom and all sides with buttercream icing made from the following:
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla
Roll immediately in crushed, salted peanuts. Serve or freeze.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or firstname.lastname@example.org