Introduction: Chess Bars.
Hello! This Instructable is for Chess Bars, a sweet vanilla based dessert that my family has made for some time. My understanding is that it's an alteration on Chess Pie, and that it's 50/50 on if anyone has heard about them. I enjoy making them to take to social functions, or just making some for work or home. They keep for three or four days depending on how they're cooked and can make a great sweet snack! The recipe is quite easy when separated into two smaller jobs, as is the case with any cooking. I do recommend using caution when baking as hot stuff can hurt you. Though I use a KitchenAid mixer now, this recipe is easily done by hand, it just takes a little longer.
A few general tips on cooking:
Follow all Mise en place (everything in place), it'll make your life easier in the long run. Mise en place is the action of doing small jobs before starting the main cooking process. For instance in this recipe, I sift the cake mix to remove lumps. This would be done before the main mixing to speed things along.
Stop to scrape the sides of the mixer or bowl to better incorporate all of the ingredients. This ensures all of the ingredients make it in, and that there is an even consistency. Homogeneous mixtures are a cooks friend.
When using a mixer, always keep hair up and towels away from the mixer. Never use a towel to cover the top of a mixer to prevent plumes of ingredients from dusting up. Always start from a slower speed and slowly speed up.
For this recipe you will need:
9x13 Pan, greased
Mixer with a dough hook and whisk attachment. (Or just your hands and a good wooden spoon and whisk)
Digital scale, or buy the pre-weighed box
8 ounce cream cheese
1 stick of butter
1 Butter cake mix (yellow may also be used, the more off brand the better the results)
1 lb of 10x (Powdered) sugar
Mise en Place:
Allow cream cheese and butter to reach room temperature, sift cake mix into the mixing bowl, using a spoon to break up clumps formed while packing. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Step 1: The Dough.
Step one is to begin with the dough that is the base of the recipe. The ingredients for this are as follows:
1 stick of butter, room temperature
Sifted butter cake mix
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
After sifting the cake mix into the mixing bowl, cut the warm butter into small chunks and spread around the bowl. Add the egg and begin mixing until the mixture starts to look uniform. Take the time to scrape the remaining powder and such from the bottom of the bowl to incorporate it into the dough. After you get it looking somewhat uniform, pull it out and roll it in your hands for a moment to help work it a bit. Then layer it into the pre-greased pan. Try to get it as even as possible.
If you're using your hands to mix this, start with a wooden spoon and slowly mix till it's well incorporated. I've gotten frustrated a few times and sprayed grease on my hands, using them to mix it rather than a spoon. This works too, but can be messy. What's the fun if you don't get your hands dirty?
Step 2: The Batter.
Now for the batter. This will be easier the softer the cream cheese is, so make sure it's very soft. Here are the ingredients:
1 lb 10x (powdered) sugar
1 8 oz package of cream cheese
1 tablespoon of vanilla
I used the same mixing bowl from before, without washing it out. I find this adds flavor and saves time, though I do clear the dough hook off. Cut the cream cheese into small squares and spread over the powdered sugar. Add the remaining ingredients and begin to mix with the dough hook until it gets creamy. Once it reaches a creamy consistency, switch the attachment to the whisk and finish till it reaches a consistent mixture. If you don't have a mixture, use a spoon to incorporate the mixture until you can use a whisk, and try to get it as consistent as possible. Once again, letting the cream cheese warm will make your life easier in this process.
Pour the batter over the dough in the pan and shake the pan lightly to even it out. Take a spoon and trace the edges of the pan, allowing it to tuck the sides of the batter into the pan as to not allow a crust to form above the batter line. This will prevent weird looking edges and allow even cooking.
Step 3: The Baking and Finish.
Once ready, place the pan in the oven. Bake initially for 30 min, then check them to ensure they're doing ok. I like to turn my baked goods when they're baking so that they have an even brown top. You'll notice that by now the yummy good smell of butter, eggs, and flour is filling your kitchen. Be careful not to open the oven door too many times, as the temperature drops each time you do, and this recipe does better with a constant temp. After baking for 30 min, bake for 10-15 min more to finish. While minding the amount of space in the oven, reach in to place a toothpick in the middle to check for doneness. If it comes out clean, they're done. I like mine to be a bit gooey, so I only bake them for 40 min. The gooeyer ones don't keep as long though. Keep in mind that there is some carry over cooking, and it'll take a time or two cooking this recipe to figure out where your comfort with it is.
Once done, allow them to cool for 10-15 min. I usually cut them in 1x2 inch squares, and serve out of tubs. If they're just for home, I lay a handtowel over them and they keep for 3-4 days.
I really enjoy this recipe, and plan on playing with the flavors quite a bit. Don't worry if you mess up, just be patient and realize where you messed up. That's part of the fun in cooking. As is experimentation and trying new things and new ways to do stuff. Just mind that the eggs provide your liquid content with a little help from the vanilla, and that the cream cheese and sugar provide the creamy stable topping for the whole bit.