Life is Sweet |

Life is Sweet

Special to the DailyVera Dawson

Living in Summit County is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the high country successful. Each recipe has been tested numerous times in my home kitchen in Frisco and, whenever necessary, altered until it works. Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day.This easy-to-make recipe for rich, sweet chocolate chip bars is a winner! I’ve made these at least 20 times, shared them with folks aged two to eighty, used them on fancy dessert trays and as a snack for hard-working landscapers who devoured them with their work gloves on. They’re every bit as good as the best chocolate chip cookie without the worry of sticking, spreading, or turning out overly dry, as drop cookies often do at our altitude. But don’t take my word for it; I left a plate of these at the H&R Block office in Frisco where Joe O’Malley, owner of the tax service, declared these cookies to be “yummy to the tummy.” His wife, Fran, agreed, saying “This bar has all the flavors I love.” They found the bars so rich that they recommend you check with your tax professional before consuming them because you may end up in a higher tax bracket. I found this treasure on the internet a couple of years ago where it was submitted to by Hershey’s Kitchens. Chocolate Chip Bars

I’ve successfully cut this recipe in half, using an 8X8 pan.Batter11/2 cups all purpose flour1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter1 egg, beaten

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans1 teaspoon vanillaGlaze3 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (optional)11/2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil (optional)OR1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)

2 teaspoons unsalted butter (optional)Step 1: Heat oven to 350, with the oven rack in the center position.Step 2: Stir together flour and brown sugar; using two forks or your fingers, cut in cold butter until crumbly. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chips. I do this entire step in a food processor. Process the flour and sugar until combined, add the butter in about 8 chunks and pulse until crumbly. Then, add the chips and process briefly, being careful not to over process. You don’t want this to come together in a ball.Step 3: Press this mixture in the bottom of an ungreased 9×13-inch pan. I line it with aluminum foil for quick clean-up and so that I can remove the cake easily. I am crazy about Reynold’s Wrap Release aluminum foil and use it as a pan liner for almost everything I bake.Step 4: Bake about 15 minutes until firm.Step 5: While the crust is baking, mix the sweetened condensed milk, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined. Stir in the remaining 11/2 cups chips and the nuts. Spread this evenly over the baked crust when you take it out of the oven; don’t wait for it to cool. Bake 25-29 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely and, if you are not going to glaze them, cut into bars.Optional Step: I like to pretty these up by drizzling a chocolate glaze over them when they are completely cool. It makes them much more appealing, and looks ARE everything when it comes to cookies. Most people, adults anyway, pass on sweets that don’t look at least as good as they taste.If you want to try it, choose from either of the two following ways:

Chop and then melt about 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate*, either in the microwave for about 2 minutes at power level 4 or in a small saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until melted and smooth. If you use the microwave, check it often and stir. Don’t let it burn. Let it cool until it is barely warm to the touch.Stir in 11/2 teaspoons of vegetable oil (I use canola because it is so mild and it’s supposed to be good for you) and drizzle it in streaks over the cooled, uncut cake.ORMelt 1/4 cup of chocolate chips with 2 teaspoons of butter. Let cool slightly, and glaze as above.When the glaze is set, cut the cake into bars. If these aren’t gobbled up immediately, they keep for several days covered in the refrigerator and freeze beautifully for at least a month. To freeze, wrap them well in plastic wrap or put in a plastic storage bag and make it air-tight (close it almost all the way, put in a drinking straw and suck out all the air). Then, wrap again in aluminum foil or place in a plastic container. I leave the bars uncut if I am going to freeze them; I think it helps prevent them from drying out.ENJOY!*It used to be hard to find good semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate in Summit County. Hershey’s Dark Chocolate is now available in the candy section at Safeway and City Market and it’s great. Ghirardelli semi-sweet baking chocolate and bittersweet baking chocolate are both good, too, and are in the baking section of both markets. If your group or business would like to sample and review a baked good that will be featured in this column, please contact Vera Dawson at recipe courtesy of the Hershey’s Kitchens and reprinted with permission of the Hershey Foods Corp.

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