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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Bake Sales

April 2, 2007

Bake Sales

Many of our childhood school activities fall by the wayside as we grow older.

Today I don’t play tetherball or box hockey. I haven’t roller skated in years. I don’t think I’ve played an all-out game of dodge ball since the Carter administration, and I haven’t played tackle football since I was in my early twenties, though I’d love the opportunity to go back out there and tear a few of my tendons, pull some muscles, and break a few of my bones.

Some activities I miss, others, not so much. If I never attend another pep rally, or work on an algebraic equation, I’ll be O.K.

One school activity that played a fairly important role in my youth is: the bake sale. Nowadays, I never happen upon a bake sale and I am a lesser man for it.

I loved a bake sale. It seemed like there were two or three a week in my school. The thing that made bake sales in my junior high and high school so memorable were the mothers who baked the product. I grew up in a neighborhood filled with excellent and dedicated cooks. They baked well and they baked often

The bake sales of my youth were held in the hallways of my school. They were mostly low-key affairs. All one needed was a card table, poster board, magic markers, a shoebox for the money, and the store was open. The table was always filled with homemade sweets of all types.

Caramel apples were available but they tended to stick to braces and headgears. Cakes and pies were not popular bake sale items as one needed a fork and plate to eat them and most bake-sale foods needed to be eaten on-the-run between classes. The Rice Krispie treat was the most popular item at my school’s bake sales and they were always the first to sell out. Brownies were a close second, cookies came in third, but nothing ever surpassed the goshamighty Rice Krispie treat.

I was on the road last week, returning home late from a speaking engagement, and stopped in a convenience store to load up on caffeine and a snack. I didn’t want a candy bar, chips, or a microwave sandwich, and I’m not quite dedicated enough to eat a protein bar, granola, or mixed nuts. As I browsed the aisle, there it was— the zenith of the high-school bake sale— a Rice Krispie treat. I didn’t know they packaged them for sale in stores.

I read the nutritional information on the back of the package and was surprised to learn that it was relatively low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar. Who knew we were eating fairly healthy at bake sales in the 1970s?

I bought one.

As I drove home, the Rice Krispie treat took me back to the days at my school. One bite and I was instantly dusting erasers, sharpening pencils, and nervously waiting outside the principal’s office.

We need more bake sales in our adult lives. We tend to gravitate towards black-tie galas, draw-downs, and wine tastings; but I would gladly trade them all for a rickety card table loaded with sweets.

If I were holding a bake sale today, I would sell nothing but Rice Krispie treats and sweet potato brownies. The sweet potato brownie recipe was in my most recent cookbook. It was one of the most popular recipes in the book.

A famous New Orleans restaurateur once said, “Do you know why kids love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? It’s because peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are good.” Ditto Rice Krispie treats.

Four guys who never met a bake sale they didn’t like.
Stan, Chris, Robert, and Forrest– well-fed members of the Class of 1979, Beeson Academy. Home of the world’s greatest bake sales

Sweet Potato Brownies

If you don’t like sweet potatoes, don’t worry, you’ll love these. If you don’t like brownies, have no fear, you’ll love these. If you like sweet potatoes and brownies… get ready for an amazing treat!

1 /2 pound butter
2 cups sugar
1 1 /2 cups flour
1 tsp Salt
4 eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
2 cups potatoes, grated
1 cups pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350.

In an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients in order, stirring after each is added.

Pour into a buttered and floured 9×12 inch baking sheet.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting.

2 Tbl butter
1 /4 cup orange juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Melt butter and add remaining ingredients. Let cool. Glaze brownies after they have been cut.

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