Raisin Cream Bars

     My dad loved raisin cream pie so when Margaret Shouse shared this recipe with me for my monthly cooking column (Feb. 27, 2007, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle), I immediately went home and gave it a try. The bars are reminiscent of raisin cream pie with a crunch . . . they are easy to make and delicious.

For just two of us, I cut the recipe in half (I’ve included the halved measurements in blue). I also add chopped walnuts – like the taste and also the added crunch.

Raisin Cream Bars    Makes a 9x13” pan or cut in half for and put in a 9x9” pan

2 cups raisins -- cook in 3/4 cup water until raisins are plump and most of the water has  
been absorbed; set aside to cool.  (1 cup raisins / 6 T. water)
Crust:  Place in a mixing bowl . . .
1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal  (I've also used old-fashioned oats) / 3/4 cup
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour  / 3/4 cup
1 teaspoon baking soda  / 1/2 t.
1 cup (or 2 sticks) margarine (I use butter)  / 1 stick
1 cup packed brown sugar  / less than 1/2 c.

1.     Mix crust ingredients until crumbly and put 2/3 of this mixture in a greased or sprayed pan, bringing it up the sides of pan (reserve the rest to use as a topping).
2.     Bake 10 minutes in a preheated 350° oven.
4 egg yolks -- beaten well  / 2 egg yolks
2 cups half-and-half cream (or use whole milk or even evaporated milk) / 1 cup
3 tablespoons cornstarch*  / 1 1/2 T.
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar  / about 1/2 c. or less
1/2 teaspoon salt / 1/4 t.
1 teaspoon vanilla / 1 t.
Chopped walnuts –add as many as you want

1.    In a saucepan -- beat egg yolks slightly with a whisk, then add half-and-half, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Place on medium heat and cook until mixture is thick, stirring constantly. Add vanilla, then prepared raisins. 
2.    Spread filling mixture over crumb crust. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over filling and bake 20 minutes at 350°.

About Starch Thickeners:
Starch thickeners, such as cornstarch, often lump if not added to the liquids properly. To avoid lumps, try one of these methods: 
1.     If the recipe also calls for sugar, thoroughly whisk the cornstarch and sugar prior to adding to the liquid. 
2.      Mix the starch with an equal amount of cold liquid until it forms a paste, then whisk it into the remaining liquid.   If you do end up with lumps in your sauce, blend it in a blender or food   processor until it's smooth or strain it through a mesh sieve.

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