In praise of the bar

The bar cookie, that is.

Courtesy Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Click photo for recipe!

If you have kids, there are two words that  immediately kill the pleasant glow you experience from the magical combination of your pre-dinner drink, a glass or three of wine and the after-dinner brandy. And no, since you asked, I do not generally imbibe to this extent on a daily basis, but I have dreams just like everyone else. Anyway, the two words that strike fear into the heart of any parent are, as you might have guessed, BAKE SALE, quite often accompanied by that third horseman of the apocalypse, TOMORROW.

Now, since I make it a policy never to attend PTA meetings (last time my snoring was deemed “disruptive”), only venture forth for evening performances that feature my offspring, and never buy anything during the crap-sale drive (though I do write a check, which to my way of thinking saves everyone a lot of bother and tearing around), I am left with one contribution to the general welfare of my pride and joy’s academic life. The bake sale.

Though somewhat slatternly in matters domestic, I am fairly adept at baking, having been schooled by my Grammie Sue, who was herself unsurpassed in the pie arena. But pies are not suited for bake sales, whereas cookies, brownies, cupcakes and whoopie pies are. With adequate notice I can rise to the challenge and produce these treats, and have even been known to do so. But it’s not the well planned bake sale challenge that I want to address here, because really, when was the last time you were completely sober and had more than about thirty minutes to bake, cool and package five dozen dessert units? I’ll tell you when, never. Lead time and planning are not the way kids roll, and since I had the genius idea to label PTA emails as junk five years ago, neither do I.

This bake sale is such a BLAST! Thanks for asking me to help out! Courtesy Hugo90 @ Flickr.com

This is where the bar cookie comes in. If you look on the back of the chocolate chip bag (when pressed I use the Nestle recipe, though Baker Bettie offers far better ones), you’ll see instructions for opting out of the individual cookie method and just dumping the dough in a pan and baking it all at once. This enables you to make a double batch in less time than it would take to make a regular quantity of individual cookies, which bolsters your standing with the Class Mom, the most canny and dangerous of mammalian predators.

This approach offers the added benefit of producing a uniformly sized product, or it would if you weren’t half lit by the time you cut the damn things up. And by “you” I mean me. Uniform size is of particular importance for the primary school bake sale as it deters whiny arguments over who got the bigger cookie and endless indecision about which bag to select. Though I have not actually manned a table during one of these events, I am told that the quest for the biggest fifty-cent cookie can take on grail-like proportions. Dads and expectant mothers are legendary for being particularly tiresome in this regard.

Courtesy Mortsan @ Flickr.com

Now if you happen to keep all manner of candy around the house, you can always substitute M&Ms, or Heath Bar bits for the chips. In addition to making your treats more visually appealing and providing vital market differentiation, this will make the other parents think you planned ahead, which is a strategic advantage when they start sniffing around for volunteers to man the bake sale tables. This is to be avoided at all costs. “Oh my goodness, I am SO sorry, but I already took a day off to bake and I am just out straight at work right now.”

Let me tell you, once you plunk your ass behind that table, they’ve got you right where they want you, and before you know it, you’re selling raffle tickets at the Spring Fling and cleaning vomit off your Manolos backstage at the Holiday Pageant. If you thought you needed a drink after churning out all those baked goods…

PS: For the more virtuous among you, check out the recipe for whole grain white chocolate butterscotch blondies over at insatiably. That’s a trip to the bar you can feel good about!

About WSW

Writer, wife, mother. Toiler in the bottomless, black, soul-sucking coal mine of domestic life. Thank God for the portable bar.

Posted on February 26, 2012, in Baking, The easy way and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Great blog…thank God I have grandchildren and I do not have to contribute to the PTA…those days are gone and good riddance. I now can have a drink before dinner, wine while having dinner and an after dinner drink of choice….Loved the picture by the way.

  2. I have a soft spot for cookies and brownies, so having a cookie in a bar form is never a bad thing for me. :-)

  3. thanks for this take on bake sales. i don’t have offspring yet old enough to ask me to bake for a sale, but i will get there one day, and when i do, i will remember these great words of wisdom. i have a mother-in-law who is betty crocker and june cleaver rolled into one, and your blog is pretty much the polar opposite to her way of thinking. it does me good to see that there are other ways to approach life as a mother and in general. thanks for writing!

    • I am your mother-in-law’s id come to light, make no mistake. Anyone who tells you she enjoys contributing to a bake sale is either lying or has a bad Martha Stewart habit.

      Thank YOU for reading!

  4. Oh, the PTA (or as they’ve started calling it here, the PTSA, as if they Students have been clamoring to get involved with the bureaucratic end of things).

    And, I never usually do this, but I’m including a link to a post I did about a bake sale, even though no one else seems to think it’s funny. Sorry for the self-promotion.

    http://thebyronicman.com/2011/04/26/operation-dessert-storm/

    • PTA, PTSA, PTSD — it’s all the same to me. 200 cranked up adults in an overheated room without a bar. Welcome to hell.

      You get a free pass on self promotion. And you are correct in drawing the obvious parallels between PTA moms and drill sergeants. I thought the post was a stitch.

  5. You are the best kind of a PTA mom!

  6. Holy crap what an info packed post. Cookies, pie, Katherine Hepburn’s brownies and rice pudding too. Baker Bettie rocks (almost as much as you) But I do have one question. Is there a trip to the bar you’re not supposed to feel good about?

      1. Thanks! We’re nothing if not sticky here in the slattern’s test kitchen. As for illicit bar visits, I’d have to say that the six to ten AM slot is at the very least problematical, unless of course you happen to be in an airport where, as everyone knows, the laws of time, space and common decency do not apply.

        Glad you stopped by! Love your site — I’m still working my way through the recipe index, but am very much looking forward to Christmas Cake, tequila.

  7. Excellent! Iaughed all the way through!

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