What a coincidence: Paula Deen was the guest of honor on "Top Chef" last night (fellow Georgian Richard Blais greeted her with deep-fried mayonnaise, which I think should become a tradition in my native state).
And I made a Paula Deen recipe this week. The reason: Bake sales.
The bake sale obligation does not end when your child leaves elementary school. When you are a known cook, you will be asked to cough up a few dozen of something on quick notice. It's wise to always have a few easy, crowd-pleasing recipes that people will pay for like it's gold coated with crack. And is there a better description for a Paula Deen recipe?
I had an office bake sale coming up (a good cause, raising money for the very fund-worthy Arts & Science Council) when I spotted Paula Deen's Homemade Kit-Kat Bars making the rounds on a couple of Web sites. Club crackers coated with boiled sugar and melted chocolate goop? I am so there.
Paula Deen's Homemade Kit-Kat Bars
75 Club crackers (about 1 1/2 sleeves)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 butterscotch chips
Line a 13-by-9-inch rectangular baking pan with crackers. (The original recipe called for breaking crackers to fill in the edges. But I later realized it wasn't necessary. I'll explain later.)
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, dark brown sugar, milk and granulated sugar. Bring to a boil. (Because the graham cracker crumbs make the mixture sort of thick, I never saw it actually boiling. It was more a question of listening for bubbly boiling noises. Just keep stirring so it doesn't burn.) Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Pour half of the sugar mixture over the crackers and spread out with a flat or offset spatula. (This is the one place I had trouble. The sticky sugar goop made the crackers shift around like cracked sidewalk pavers. It would have helped to have a little room to push the first cracker layer back into place, and broken pieces of cracker made that more difficult.)
Arrange another layer of crackers over the sugar layer. Top with the other half of the hot sugar mixture. Top with a third layer of crackers.
Combine the peanut butter, chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a small saucepan. Melt, stirring, over medium-low heat. Spread evenly over the top cracker layer, scooching a little melted chocolate into any open edges.
Let stand two hours (I cheated and went for one hour, which worked fine). Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. Cut into long pieces. (A good tip for protecting your baking pan: Use a bench knife, a long, straight-edged cutter, to press down through bars cookies without sliding a knife and scratching your pan. In this case, I cut straight down through the middle long-wise, then cut each half into thin sticks about 1 1/2 inches wide.) Package 2 bars in sandwich bags or wrap in plastic and seal to strangers or your closest co-workers.