Friday, March 16, 2012

Greek-style Sour Cream Raisin Bars

Al requested oatmeal raisin cookies and it was my full intention to make them.

I got the recipe card out and set the directions on the counter. I began assembling the ingredients. And there I stopped.

We were low on raisins. The cookies couldn't be made just now. And as things go I got busy with other things. Then we were away for a couple days.

Another couple days passed. There was no ambition to turn on the oven. I'm not a procrastinator by nature. But this had the clear signs of procrastination all over it.

Al wasn't languishing because the cookies didn't appear. That eased my conscience somewhat. Because I really did plan to bake them.

The beautiful weather was partly the culprit. Seventy degrees and your head is in summer no matter what the calendar says.

"Spring me from the house." I said to no one in particular. Inside stuff deflates in importance when gorgeous days roll into town.

Al and I were the ones watching the breakup of lake ice (which is dark and about ready to open from one end of the bay to the other), picnicking in the park and taking coffee outside at the local Dunn Brothers.

These were among the restful, lovely outdoor pastimes we embarked upon. In spring break weather you do spring break activity we figure.

Today, with raisins on the shelf, my resolve was to get at cookie baking. I started right away. I brought out the recipe box to retrieve the cookie recipe, filed away when the first effort fell through.

Raisins and oatmeal. Raisins and oatmeal. The roll call of main ingredients, requisite to the outcome, caused me to think of a bar recipe that seemed even better than the cookies to make. I flipped through the bar section of my index cards and located it.

The recipe is for Sour Cream Raisin Bars. It dates from the early years of our marriage. We lived in a small town where Al's job placed us. Through work we became good friends with a couple considerably older than us.

With our wedding bands shiny and new, and John and Bernice's family grown and gone, we perhaps filled the bill for each other. They brought experience into the relationship. We had the new thinking and youth which complemented the other set very well.

Al liked John immediately. He was sold on them as a couple with a sample of Bernice's baking. Food is such a bond.

The guys enjoyed woodworking. They had this, and many other interests, in common. Many winter evenings were spent together. The men worked on their wood creations (John was building a grandfather clock). Bernice and I visited.

Sometimes it was at our house. Mostly we were at their place. They were homebodies who loved to socialize.

While the husbands puttered away in John's workshop Bernice and I visited at the kitchen table.

She poured for us the first cups of coffee of the evening that would see many more cups poured. It seems almost unbelievable now but one could and did sit and visit an evening away in those more leisurely times.

They were night owls. We picked up their nocturnal habits as we kept company with them.
They taught us to be excellent coffee drinkers.

The guys came in for coffee and refreshments later. They reported on progress on their projects. Ease and enjoyment was in the air as we seated ourselves as a group at the table.

Bernice set out a plate of delicious bars (or cake or pie) to go with her strong brewed coffee. "Coffee" was shorthand for coffee, dessert (almost always something freshly made) and conversation that could go on to midnight.

Coffee was typically served at about the hour of night that, at this stage of our lives, we're thinking of retiring to bed. Looking back we laugh thinking how impossible it'd be to do now.

This couple, with their country-bred kindness, helping ways and the continual treats from Bernice's stove, made those months of being newcomers feel instead like being ensconced within the heart of hospitality.

As I began making Bernice's bars I was sure Al wouldn't object. His cookies will be made. But the good sour cream filling and raisins in this recipe have the upper hand.

When I read down to the part in the recipe that lists sour cream I thought, Here we go again. First there's not enough raisins. Today too little sour cream.

The sour cream, most recently used as topping on baked potatoes, wasn't (as I peered into the container) going to extend itself to one and a half cup as needed.

Fortunately, Greek yogurt is also in the refrigerator. It'll have to do I thought. This was decided with the half-doubt, half assurance of one often caught in a pickle or a jam.

As I mixed, measured and stirred it came to me. Bernice's bars have been translated into Greek. As it turns out, she did some substituting of her own (see P.S. on her recipe). She would savor this new twist.

Enjoy! Recipes (my adaptation and the original) are below.

Greek-style sour cream raisin bars

Crust: Blend together 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed,
1 3/4 cup flour, 1 3/4 cup Quaker oats, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted. Press 3/4 of crumbs into bottom of lightly greased 9 x 13 pan. Save remaining crumbs for topping.

Filling: In medium saucepan stir 2 beaten eggs into 1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (Fage Total 0% in 17-oz. container works well) until smooth. Add 1 1/2 c. raisins, 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons cornstarch and dash of cinnamon. Cook over low heat until thick. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, stir. Pour over crust. Top with crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees about 20 minutes.

Sour Cream Raisin Bars (source recipe as written out for me ) 1 c. brown sugar, 1 3/4 c. oatmeal, 1 3/4 c. flour, 1 tsp. soda, 2 sticks margarine, melted. Mix together with a fork and press 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Don't bake yet. Save the rest for topping. Make a filling of 1 1/2 c. raisins, 1 1/2 c. sour cream, 2 beaten eggs, 1 tsp. salt, 3 tbsp. cornstarch, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 1/2 cup sugar. Dash of cinnamon. Cook raisins in covered pan with small amount of water a few minutes. Drain. Mix remaining ingredients and cook till thick. Add raisins. Pour over crust. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top. Bake 350 oven 20 min.
P.S. I use whipping cream and sour it with vinegar about 3 tbsp. Hope you enjoy these as we do.

Ro Giencke - March 16, 2012

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