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Butterscotch Squares – Mennonite Community Cookbook style

September 30, 2020

Butterscotch Squares

I feel embarrassed, chagrined, and sheepish.

In the cookbook I published in 2010, my recipe testers and co-authors provided an excellent recipe for “Blondies” or what my mother called Butterscotch Brownies or Squares. I’ve made them for years (as did the person who shared the recipe) and usually they get rave reviews, according to both of us, even if they are bit crumbly as they get older (even when I keep them in the freezer), and chewy. The dough is also a bit hard to spread out in the pan, and our recipe writer encouraged spreading the dough by hand because otherwise it sort of stays in clumps.

Well. My mother at 96 realizes she has a right to say nix to baking, and even though she tries now and then, it ends up being a big headache and mess to clean up after. So, she put in a polite request wondering if I could bring her some Butterscotch Squares/Brownies on my next visit.

“Sure,” I agreed. She hated to ask Nancy who is the oldest daughter who lives nearby and the rest of us depend on Nancy to help mother out as she needs it. My mother would be very alone if not for Nancy and we all know it. (Thanks, Nan!)

I knew from past experience that the brownies I made were not as soft as what Nancy made. Mom had even talked about how good Nancy’s were/are. I compared what I thought was a recipe I had gotten from Mom, to the recipe we printed in the Whatever Happened to Dinner book (WHTD).

Ta da!! I have some tweaks to announce and if you have a copy of the above cookbook, you might want to make notes in it, or just use the version now posted here. Next, I was also shocked to find I had never shared this recipe at all on my blog. I’m flabbergasted (mother’s word) but also pleased to share a really great version now!

The secret appears to be margarine. This old recipe from the long-heralded Mennonite Community Cookbook (MCC) says to use butter. I use butter for almost everything. So today I subbed margarine for butter because that’s what my oldest sister said to do. You can always trust your older sister with cooking hints, right?? I usually don’t even have any margarine on hand but happened to have some on hand but that’s another story.

The other small difference is that MCC says to use 1 teaspoon baking powder while the recipe in WHTD says to use ¼ teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon baking soda. I now think that was an error. What do you think? Wikipedia says something that makes sense here: “Baking powder is used to increase the volume and lighten the texture of baked goods. It works by releasing carbon dioxide gas into a batter or dough through an acid-base reaction, causing bubbles in the wet mixture to expand and thus leavening the mixture.” adds regarding margarine: “Margarine, which can contain more water and less fat, may make thin cookies that spread out while baking.” So … I’m guessing that both items together made the difference for this batch.

The blondies or butterscotch brownies shown here are delightfully soft. My sister’s other secret, which I’ve long followed, is to put a piece of bread crust into your storage container to keep them softer, and she specifies white bread crust. I’ve used both white and whole wheat type bread, when I freeze sweet treats like this. (Mom says she never did this. Hmm.)

Below, is the recipe doubled, as my sister does, originally from Mennonite Community Cookbook. I would advise using it rather than the one in Whatever Happened to Dinner. (And then maybe you won’t have to ask, “whatever happened to my dessert?”)

Butterscotch Squares

½ cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts
2 teaspoons vanilla

Melt butter and blend with sugar. Add egg and beat vigorously. Measure flour into sifter, add baking powder and salt. Sift into egg and sugar mixture. Mix well.

Add chopped nuts and vanilla. Spread dough in a greased 9x 11 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cut in squares or bars while warm. Makes about 24 squares.  

Original recipe by Barbara Stutzman, Kalona Iowa

And please, please, if you try them, tell us here how they turn out, and also inform me if you ever run into recipes from me that don’t work out like you wanted!


Do you use butter or margarine or both?

Mennonite Community Cookbook/65th Anniv

And here’s the cookbook where this recipe came from. I was privileged to write the history of this cookbook, published in this 65th Anniversary Edition, published in 2015. It can be purchased here.

  1. I have both the old and the new cookbooks. Even though the recent edition is spiral-bound and lies flat, I prefer the old one because of the familiarity, including grease marks–and because my mother gave it to me in 1972.

  2. Yum! They look delicious! (Not delicious enough to actually make me go in the kitchen and BAKE them, mind you…)
    We’re a butter household here. I switched from margarine to butter years ago. (After the advice from my favorite doctor – Dr. Weil, in 8 Weeks to Optimum Health.)
    Thanks for sharing your yumminess with us!

    • Thanks for commenting, Trisha, and it was nice to see a photo of you on FB of you and your sons (I think it was). I know I switched for health reasons too and it was years ago, probably at least 10 or so. I used only margarine for years and years!

      • Yes, that was me and my sons and three grandsons. I don’t usually post personal photos on FB…but being Son’s Day and all…

  3. Nancy ketxham permalink

    Thanks for all the references to me, as inNancy!! Especially since I am the sister who hates to cook and you love to cook!😍

    • I guess I didn’t know you hate to cook. You make some wonderful dishes. But I guess that doesn’t mean you like to do it. I don’t know if I’d say I love to cook, it depends on the situation. I don’t mind cooking for a big group if that’s what you mean. Cooking for me and Stuart gets to be a bit of a drag. 🙂 But we’re grateful anyway, aren’t we, Nan!

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