Church cookbooks are awesome. Especially the ones from the church circle heyday, back in the 50's and 60's. My mom has a cookbook from my grandma's church that's probably 40 years old, at least. But those recipes from the ladies' group (I think they were Martha's Circle or Miriam's circle, something like that) represent real comfort food from my childhood. If you've ever been to a church potluck, you know what I mean. No one could make potato salad like Minnie, and the meal wouldn't be complete without Ruth's chocolate cake. Because I'm from the Midwest, Jello salads were also popular. Those I could do without, to be honest.
Anyway, I hope to someday own that book when my mom doesn't have a use for it anymore, but there was a recipe in it for my favorite bars that I used to make when I was a kid. Last time I was home, I finally remembered to copy down the recipe, so I could make them any time I wanted. Which I will probably regret, because they are so rich and addictive! They're not called Heavenly Bars for nothin'!
A chocolate-coconut-almond crust topped with a buttercream filling, then a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate. I was surprised my boys actually liked them, but my oldest son ate four and my youngest's eyes rolled back in his head with pleasure at his first bite. So the legacy continues.
The steps may seem fussy, but I guarantee that it's all worth it, especially for the crust, which has a chewy-crunchy texture that is so unique and delicious!
Ingredients for crust:
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
6 tsp cocoa
1 egg, slightly beaten
10 (double) graham crackers (about one package), crushed fine
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup coconut (you can use sweetened or unsweetened -- I've used both and it's all tasty)
1/2 cup nuts, chopped fine (I used slivered almonds)
Ingredients for 2nd layer:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon milk
4 Tbsp. semisweet chocolate
1 Tbsp. butter
For the crust: blend butter, sugar, cocoa and egg in the top of a double boiler set over warm water. No particular order. As you can see, I just dumped everything in and started stirring. Note that in the first picture, I have two packages of graham crackers, but for the recipe you only need one. Didn't want anyone to be confused.
Stir until combined. Continue stirring over the hot water until warm and thick (you want to heat the mixture because of the egg, but not too much heat too fast, or the egg will cook and separate). Take chocolate mixture off heat and add the crushed graham crackers, vanilla, coconut and nuts. Pat into a buttered 8" square pan (I lined my pan with foil to pull them all out at once, but you don't have to do that). Chill crust while you make the second layer.
Second Layer: Mix the butter, powdered sugar and milk and beat until smooth. Spread over crust and chill.
Chocolate topping: Melt chocolate and butter together and stir until smooth. Pour on top of bars and spread (I just swirled the pan around until the top was covered so it would look smooth). Return to the refrigerator to chill until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
Cut into small pieces (they are rich) and enjoy! I usually get about 25 (5 rows by 5).