Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let the Baking Begin

When I was a child, my mother churned out seemingly endless batches of cookies between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  She was a cookie-baking machine.  The cookies weren't all the same, either.  She must have had 30 different recipes.  She made drop cookies and icebox cookies and bar cookies, rum balls and fudge and divinity.  She painted sugar cookies and covered pretzels and cornflakes with melted chocolate and molded flower- and leaf-shaped mints.  For weeks the house smelled like heaven and all our Tupperware containers were filled to bursting.  Even more than the decorated tree and the ceramic nativity set, those cookies said "holiday season" to me. 

Last December Barry and I were just beginning our low-fat and low-sugar diet.  It was the first winter of my adult life that I didn't bake Christmas cookies myself, and it left me feeling a little bereft, as if I'd misplaced a favorite possession.  Now that we've reached our target weights, though, we've eased up a little on our original eating guidelines, and I'm planning to make just a few of my favorite cookie recipes, starting with this one.  It's too rich to eat more than one or two at a time, which should help keep our consumption down.

I believe this is another recipe that my mother originally copied from our local newspaper, but I've modified it to eliminate the raw egg that was in the original and to use dark rather than milk chocolate and instant rather than cooked pudding.

Prayer Bars

Layer 1
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup cocoa (I use Scharffenberger)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups crushed graham crackers
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Grease a 9" x 13" pan; set aside.  Melt the butter and cocoa together over low heat or in a microwave.  Pour them into a large bowl.  Add sugar, egg substitute, and vanilla and mix well.  Add the crumbs, coconut and nuts and mix again.  Press the mixture into the greased pan and chill.

Layer 2
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt the butter and remove from heat.  Add cream, vanilla, and pudding mix and blend well.  Add the powdered sugar and mix thoroughly. Spread a small amount at a time over the first layer.  Chill.

Layer 3
9.7 ounces of semisweet chocolate (again, I use Scharffenberger)

Melt and spread carefully on top of the second layer.  Chill and cut into small rectangles.  Store in the refrigerator.

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." ~ Charles M. Schulz

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