This vintage Dream Bar recipe has lovely depth and complexity thanks to my new favorite sugar…muscovado sugar.
The 1930’s…again. Four of the six vintage recipes I’ve shared have been from that decade. I’m not certain why, because life was full of despair back then.
Prohibition was still in effect (some people, like Harry Craddock, left the states because of it), an extreme drought caused the Dust Bowl in the Great Plains, and the stock market crashed in 1929 plummeting the country into the Great Depression. [note]"American Experience: TV's Most-watched History Series." PBS. Accessed February 15, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/rails-timeline/.[/note]
Life was far from fantastic for the over 3.2 million unemployed and food was often a struggle to come by.[note]"American Experience: TV's Most-watched History Series." PBS. Accessed February 15, 2016. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/rails-timeline/.[/note]
Even though that struggle was so real, The Detroit News decided it was a good idea to publish a cookbook. Yes, just like last week’s Salted Hot Chocolate, this 1930’s inspired Dream Bar recipe comes from the 1933 The Detroit News Menu Cook Book.
Truth be told, I can’t hate on them for publishing this book. I haven’t done enough research to tell you what the demand was like for cookbooks during that time. It’s possible books like this were written for the people who were fortunate enough to be well off.
Even if the demand was laughable, as a vintage recipe enthusiast, I’m glad The Detroit News Menu Cook Book was published. It’s full of some great recipes, like the Dream Bar.
According to the lovely people at foodtimeline.org, bar recipes have been published since the 1930’s. They go by many names and are versatile. Do a Pinterest search and you’ll find rhubarb dream bars, magic bars, and the most popular of the bunch…the lemon bar. [note]"The Food Timeline: History Notes--cookies, Crackers & Biscuits." The Food Timeline. Accessed February 18, 2016. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcookies.html#hellodolly.[/note]
With all the dessert bar varieties in recipe land I decided it would be nice to keep this Dream Bar recipe close to the original. My main change was the sugar and it made a huge difference.
Sweet, deep, molasses flavored muscovado sugar is the hero of this recipe. Traditional Dream Bars can be sickeningly sweet. So. Much. Sugar. While I didn’t reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, the complexity of the muscovado helps blanace the sweetness.
Unlike standard grocery store brown sugar, muscovado does not have any of the molasses removed during its processing. This creates a deep, slightly bitter, complex deliciousness. It’s fantastic in these gooey, rich, pecan pie-like Dream Bars. You should give them a go for your next party...they are perfect bite sized treats.
Do you have a favorite variation on the bar cookie? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to find a vintage version to share!
-If you don’t have parchment around, you can try using foil and spraying it well…especially the edges of the pan. I advise against cooking them without any foil or parchment though…I think it will be extremely difficult to remove them from the pan.
-If you don’t have or can’t find dark muscovado I’m certain this recipe will work with standard light or dark brown sugars.
-I used India Tree brand dark muscovado. It can easily be found at whole foods.
- ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour divided
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups firmly packed dark muscovado sugar divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 ½ cup pecan halves divided
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a 10-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Lightly spray the paper with non-stick cooking spray.
- Combine 1 cup flour, ½ cup muscovado sugar (breaking up any large clumps), softened butter, and 1 teaspoon salt into a large bowl. Mix until the dough forms a large ball.
- Press the dough evenly into the baking dish. Pierce with a fork and chill for 15 minutes.
- Once the dough has chilled, bake until the dough no longer looks wet, about 20 minutes. Place on a cooling rack.
- Once the dough is out of the oven, whisk the eggs well. Add the muscovado sugar (breaking up any large clumps) and the vanilla extract. Whisk until fully combined. If any large clumps of sugar remain, use the back of a spoon or rubber spatula to break them up.
- Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons flour, remaining 1 ½ teaspoon salt, and baking powder. Roughly chop 1 cup pecans. Add chopped pecans and coconut flakes into the sugar and egg mixture and evenly pour and spread over the cooked crust. Evenly top with remaining ½ cup pecan halves.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into 36 squares.