Eating one of these bars is like childhood, and summer trips to the fudge shop, and memories of that perfect crunchy-on-the-outside and gooey-on-the-inside chocolate chip cookie all colliding in your mind. Frozen, the bars are cold and oddly refreshing, though your brain knows that chocolate and dough are not supposed to be this way. The smooth-as-a-Slip 'n Slide fudgie interior cozies up to the rough-hewn oatmeal dough and cold, crunchy walnuts so a bite feels like fireworks in your mouth and tastes supremely sweet on your tongue.
Probably like many Americans, I am not particularly patriotic. I like the classic American holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July largely for the same reasons the rest of us do: I have an excuse to cook and eat way more food than I really need (there are whole books devoted to Thanksgiving leftovers), I get to spend time with my in-laws and extended family (Although many people complain about this, I bet they secretly love all that chaos as they realize that hey! That's why I'm so crazy--I'm part of a loud, Italian family! I'm not the only one!), and I can buy things I really don't need and claim the rational part of my brain was momentarily shut down by the holiday urge to consume, consume, consume, when my husband asks why in the world we have ten pounds of potatoes or 50 cookie tins (for the 1300 Christmas cookies I made--duh).
At Thanksgiving, no one thinks it's weird if I spend several evenings after work planning what to make, take two too many trips to the grocery store because I absolutely have to have sage, which is the focal point of my stuffing, which is the whole point of Thanksgiving and which the store has been out of for a good 8 hours now, or stay up until midnight two nights in a row making green beans, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving makes what I do regularly seem normal because everyone else is doing it too. If you turn on the radio, people will be talking about how they will make their turkey or what sides they will bring to the feast, or how many times and with whom they will eat Thanksgiving dinner. It's food, food, food, all the time.
The Fourth is no different. Suddenly you see throngs of people buying hot dogs and hamburgers like Obama is signing an anti-CAFOs bill into place and stocking up on red, white, and blue paper plates like it's Y2K. Although I am not usually this way, during holiday times I am one of those suckers who will swoon at the sight of pumpkin-handled mini spreaders, grab heart-shaped cake pans, and allow too-cute-to-resist red and blue pails with star shapes punched into them to leap into my shopping cart. Patriotism? Not really.
Which is why I'm re-naming these cookies "Patriotism Bars." Hopefully, as I'm eating one out in the woods somewhere and hoping a bear doesn't have the same idea in mind, I might think about my country, the people who are fighting for it right now instead of enjoying a campfire and s'mores, our President, who I secretly believe is a Superhero, and about how lucky I am to have grown up in the United States. So let's just say I'm sort of patriotic. Let's just say that with each little bar I munch, I'll be working on it. It will give me just one more excuse to eat up.
"Chocolate-Walnut Patriotism Bars"
(otherwise known as Supremes)
My family has been making these bars for years. They hold up well, especially when frozen, and are good eaten straight out of the freezer, particularly on a hot summer day. They seemed the perfect thing to take on our Fourth of July camping trip to Acadia National Park this weekend.
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 cups old-fashioned oats (you can also use quick-cooking, but not instant, if necessary)
7 ounces (2 cups) walnuts, cut or broken into medium-size pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 by 1 inch jelly roll pan (I actually use a 9x13 pan.)
2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
3. In a mixer, cream the butter. Then add the coffee, vanilla, and sugar and beat well. Add the eggs and beat well. On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients. Then mix in the oatmeal. Finally, mix in 1 cup of the walnuts.
4. Remove and reserve 2 cups of the dough. Place the remainder by large spoonfuls on the bottom of the greased pan. With well-floured fingertips or a spatula, press the dough all over to make a smooth, even layer. Set aside while you prepare the chocolate filling.
For the chocolate filling:
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces (2 cups) semisweet chocolate morsels
2 T butter
A pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1. Put the sweetened condensed milk, the chocolate, butter, and salt in the top of a double boiler and let soften and melt. Stir to form a smooth mixture.
2. Remove from the stove and stir in the vanilla.
1. Pour the chocolate mixture over the bottom oatmeal layer and spread evenly.
2. Place the reserved oatmeal dough by large spoonfuls on top of the chocolate layer so that some of the chocolate shows through.
5. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of walnuts.
Baking and Cutting Instructions
Bake the bars for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely in the pan at room temperature for several hours or overnight. Do not cool in the refrigerator.
After the cookies are completely cool, you may refrigerate or freeze them. This makes it much easier to cut them and will result in smooth, even cuts. Once the cookies are frozen, run a knife along the sides to release the large bar. Cut the large bar into eights and remove each eighth from the pan. On a cutting board, cut each eighth into 4 or 6 pieces. Wrap in wax paper and then in aluminum foil. Then place in a plastic Ziploc bag and store in refrigerator or freezer.