Ol’ Faithful

Maple Walnut Bars

Utility player...with walnuts

I’m a New Yorker. I grew up in the Boston area. My name is Michael. Funny, I could be describing the current Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, or myself. We have all those things in common, so let’s also play a little game I like to call “Let’s Compare Bank Accounts”. Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire. I’m…hey, did you watch the World Series?

Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols. What: did the guy invent baseball? Do I have a chip on my shoulder? A couple. Yup, enough for a cookie.

I have always had bad eyesight. I remember being taken to the movies as a kid and thinking, “Jeez, what a crummy theater. This movie is totally out of focus!”

Of course, bad eyesight translates into being picked last for team sports. (That’s a real pat on the back.) I’ve never figured out why they thought this was a good idea, but they always stuck me in the outfield. A nearsighted kid with no depth perception. In the outfield. The ball would “hang” in the sky then suddenly be on the ground behind me and my gloved, outstretched hand.

(This inevitably reminds me of the joke about the bad actor: the director keeps telling him to move up stage. “Farther up, please…no, even farther please…” to which the bad actor objects, “But, if I move any farther up I’ll be off the stage.” To which the director replies, “Yes! Just a few more steps please!”)

Oh, well. I couldn’t catch a baseball. I can bake. Can Albert Pujols? (Don’t answer that. I saw him on Paula Deen’s show. )

That’s life. There’s always a “star.” Everyone else? The trusted “utility players,” those stalwart, dependable folks who really form the underpinnings of any organization, whether it be sports or show biz or the hard-scrabble world of department store perfume spritizing, are always appreciated yet ignored. Love ya baby, now, hit the showers.

What always amuses me is when the “stars” don’t quite live up to expectations. (I don’t want to mention any names because Alex Rodriguez reads this blog. Madonna turned him on to it, now he’s got Cameron Diaz reading it. I understand she makes my Fleur de Sel Chocolate Caramel Cookies with canned Dulce de Leche. Not cool, Cammie.)

When a star ballplayer isn’t reaching their potential, the fans can be vehement in their dismissal. C’mon folks, be nice. Just because an underperforming player still gets to take home all of his multi-million dollar salary doesn’t make him bad people. It just means he’s like the rest of us but wildly overpaid. Wait. I think I lost the thread of my logic.

The thing is, sometimes you don’t want a star; sometimes you want that solid utility player who you know can get the job done every time. Nothing fancy, maybe not a whole lot of style, but also less worrisome for you. The Maple Walnut bars in the picture above are like that. If you’re having a couple of chums in for coffee, dessert after a movie, or a card game, you aren’t going to serve Profiteroles. But this bar cookie is simple to make and plain in a welcoming, reassuring way.

(Listen, go ahead and serve Profiteroles. Just be sure to invite me.)

During the fall I am sucker for anything flavored with maple. These bars also have a touch of warmth from some added cinnamon, and the rich crunch of whole walnuts. As an option I have added a generous sprinkling of demerara sugar on top, which adds a pleasing but subdued crackle to each bite.

The recipe is written for a stand mixer, but is just as easily made using a large bowl and spoon. Just make sure to soften the butter to room temperature or you won’t be able to cream the butter and sugar together.

The bars are not sticky-sweet, so feel free to serve these early in the day—no need to wait for dessert. I used Extra Dark Amber Maple Syrup which is best for cooking. I found it at Whole Foods, but if you can’t find syrup that dark, just read the labels and chose the darkest amber syrup you can find. (Don’t use fake syrup. Mrs. Butterworth is not welcome at this party.)

Did I mention how they smell while they are baking? These are another one of those items that I will mimic when the big rollout of the Butter Flour Eggs scented candle collection happens.

The other candle is Shrimp Cocktail. Go ahead and laugh, but wait until you light that one. Your house will never be the same.


Click here for the recipe for Maple Walnut Bars.


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One Response to “Ol’ Faithful”

  • Dori Rosenthal:

    Ahhh the good ole days of being able to have nuts in baked goods…. Those days are gone now with my first born’s nut allergy! Why do so many kids have them nowadays anyway? That’s what I want to know! After I eat one of the maple walnut bars…

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