Another journey, and simple pleasures (aka yum yum squares)

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I’m planning another trip!!! (I know, it feels like I’ve just got back from the last work trip, but this one is a real holiday)

I’m giddy with excitement.

Because, because, because, guy, I’m going to Myanmar!! Think thousands upon thousands of Buddhist temples, giant Buddha statues, rows of novice monks and nuns walking by with alms bowls, slow boats, languid horse and carts, and slower train trips on colonial railways. (See here, this, those and that, and much more. Click on the photos below to go to the original page where I took the images from.)

bagan monks 3

u bein 2

This trip will be memorable in other ways, too. Apparently, internet is slow or nonexistent, and there are no internationally connected ATMs outside the two largest cities. And, it’s monsoon season. Friends are expecting lots of selfies standing in puddles, with crazy hair from the high temperatures and 80%+ humidity, and down to my last pennies after failing to find an ATM.

Why Myanmar, you ask?

Reading Naomi Duguid’s book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor (also mentioned here and here) first piqued my interest in the country. While it is a book about food, Ms Duguid also talks about the people, culture, customs, the many different tribes. Most of all, she made me want to go there, taste the mohinga, shan noodles, thoke, tea leaf salad, curries, eat pomelos, mangoes and other tropical fruits, and have a real Burmese meal with all the side dishes.

I wish I was going with Ms Duguid, not the least because, um, I don’t speak Burmese. Instead, I’m hoping sign language will go a long way. Ones like, I’d really like some food, preferably an awesome bowl of mohinga? Or, could you drive me to the massive Buddhas that you can climb into? Or, is this a scheduled stop or are we just sitting here for a wee bit while the overnight bus gets fixed?

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I decided on this trip barely a week ago and paid for the flights on Friday. In between international flights, hotels (thank you Tripadvisor!), visa (fingers crossed….), bus schedules, train fares, calculating how much money I’ll need, and finding the perfect Colonial era hotel for the last night in Yangon, it feels like I’ve barely had time to breathe.

What does a girl do at a time like this? Make something simple, comforting yet utterly indulgent, of course. May I present to you Yum Yum Squares?

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I first found this recipe on Leite’s Culinaria 2-3 years ago, when trying to deal with a surplus of coconut and walnuts. Since then it’s become a firm favourite.

It’s one of those recipes where you press & pour a lot of glob into the pan, and what comes out of the oven is a miraculous three-layered bake: a shortbread-like biscuit base, a caramel layer in the centre*, topped by a chewy-then-crunchy top layer where macaroon-like coconuts are studded with toasted walnuts. First time, I worried the walnuts would be too bitter, but its taste is mellowed by the coconut and caramel, and mostly added toastiness and a soft crunch.

* Baking notes: sometimes, people find the middle caramel layer doesn’t set as hard as they would like. It’s happened to me, but I’m not sure why. Maybe I used extra large eggs so the topping mixture is too liquid; or the slice needs to bake for a bit longer if I try to double the recipe. If the caramel is too runny, you can cover the top of the slice with foil and put the pan back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Or (if the top layer is already a dark brown and crusty), put the cooled slices into the fridge overnight to set the caramel before cutting the slice.

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Colleagues and friends gave it a big thumbs up, some came back for seconds, thirds and fourths – !

Yum yum squares, and the pastiche of Brazilian peanut candies from the last post, have found firm places in my “last minute miracles” recipe box.

Without further ado, I’ll just bring the plateful to this week’s Fiesta at Angie’s. This should give everyone a sugar high for the rest of the weekend?

yum-yum-squares-05

Yum Yum Squares

(from Erin Bolger’s The Happy Baker, via Leite’s Culinaria)

Ingredients

1/2 cup (about 115 grams) butter, softened
2 tablespoons (about 30 grams) plus 1 cup (about 200 grams) brown sugar, packed (weight according to Traditional Oven)
1 1/4 cups (about 175 grams) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconuts
1 cup walnut pieces (optional, but good) – I broke walnut halves into smallish chunks, and then measured one cup

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2. Beat the butter and just 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the flour. Press the mixture into an 8 inch (20 cm) square pan.

3. Combine the eggs, salt, vanilla, and the remaining brown sugar and mix well. Stir in the coconut and walnuts, if using, and pour the mixture on top of the crust, smoothing the surface so it’s even.

4. Bake for 25 minutes, maybe a little longer (another 10-20 minutes if you try doubling the recipe), until the top is a rich shade of golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the pan cool slightly before slicing it into small squares (Leite’s recommends 16 two-inch / 5 cm squares, I like to cut mine smaller, around 1-2 cm, to make these suitable for morning tea and any other time of the day).

Serving: I find the slices are good either at room temperature or after about 20 minutes out of the fridge. Ours never last more than a couple of days, but it should be good for 3-4 days when kept in an airtight container, optionally in the fridge?

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70 thoughts on “Another journey, and simple pleasures (aka yum yum squares)

  1. apuginthekitchen 9 June 2014 at 1:27 am Reply

    How wonderful, it will be a memorable trip. The yum yums look and sound delicious, they look moist and gooey and wonderful. You really have to carefully plan this trip with the lack of readily available cash from ATM’s etc… Can’t wait to hear about it when you return.

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:25 am Reply

      Ahhh yes….the ATMs situation. I’m just double and triple checking my budgeting for the trip, otherwise the only solution will be taking shelter in one of the (very, very few) international five star hotels in Yangon that accept credit cards! No doubt there will be plenty of stories – and many fabulous memories – to share on this blog…!

  2. simplyvegetarian777 9 June 2014 at 1:36 am Reply

    Have a great and safe journey to Myanmar aka Burma, Saucy. And being back all the good memories, food experiments and pictures to share. These squares really look yum yum :).

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:22 am Reply

      I will – am already getting excited about all the food and other adventures awaiting in Myanmar, and all the photos I can share with the FF group! 🙂

  3. Sinfully Tempting 9 June 2014 at 2:17 am Reply

    What a wonderful trip you have planned, I don’t blame you for being excited! Lovely recipe, just looking at those pictures I know I’m going to have to make them very, very soon. Enjoy your trip and be safe! 🙂

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:21 am Reply

      Thank you for your kind comment, the yum yum squares are really good, I had to give them away! The trip will be awesome for sure!

  4. The Novice Gardener 9 June 2014 at 2:40 am Reply

    Between the yum yum squares (so yum!) and the excitement for the trip, you also forgot to link your photo! That’s okay…I’ll do it for you, professor. Safe travels! Wish I could go w/ you! ❤

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:20 am Reply

      Angie, you are an angel! 😀 By the time I remembered to link up to FF19, you’ve already done it for me!
      Right now I’m just checking off pre-travel vaccinations and wondering what to pack for a trip in a monsoon – !! Will be an adventure for sure.

  5. […] Saucy […]

  6. Michelle 9 June 2014 at 4:36 am Reply

    wow sounds like a great trip, have fun! Those yum yum squares look great too!

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:18 am Reply

      Thank you, the trip should be an adventure!

  7. Noony 9 June 2014 at 5:33 am Reply

    These look like the sort of thing that I will keep popping into my mouth each time I walk by them on the kitchen counter. Yum! So exciting about your trip…have an awesome and safe adventure!

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:17 am Reply

      Hi Noony, actually, I did end up popping the squares into my mouth every time I walked past, and had to give them away quickly!! The trip will be very exciting, just getting ready for it now, can’t wait!!

  8. Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs 9 June 2014 at 6:12 am Reply

    Oh my lovely Saucy… Welcome to Fiesta Friday!! I’m so excited for you.. Myanmar, huh? How cool is that?! I love to live vicariously through you.. 🙂 I cannot wait to hear of your travels…I know that you’ll have story after story! What a wonderful treat that you’ve brought to our table this week… Thank you so much for sharing…
    Have a lovely week… ❤

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:16 am Reply

      Hi Prudy, you are such a wonderful host, thank you for dropping by! I am getting so excited about the trip, it’s distracting me from things like …. work, oops! 🙂

  9. Karen 9 June 2014 at 8:45 am Reply

    What an exciting adventure awaits you…I know you will be making a lifetime of memories. Your squares do sound yummy and if your friends are going back for fourths that about says it all. 🙂

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:15 am Reply

      Thank you, Karen! Absolutely, a lifetime of memories, I can’t wait!!

  10. Liz 9 June 2014 at 8:45 am Reply

    why yes, you may absolutely present me with yum yum squares 🙂 Thanks! Enjoy the travels. Hoo boy–please report back. How gorgeous everything is.

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:14 am Reply

      Please, take more yum yum squares before I eat them all! 🙂 Just packing for the trip and getting the vaccinations – even that seems exciting, is that me being silly?

  11. Michelle 9 June 2014 at 12:17 pm Reply

    Looking forward to the vacation pics!

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:13 am Reply

      Thanks Michelle, no doubt I’ll end up with far too many photos!

  12. lemongrovecakediaries 9 June 2014 at 2:22 pm Reply

    I am of course green with envy and envision I will have to eat a lot of these yum yums to make up for it 🙂 can’t wait to see the photos….

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:13 am Reply

      Haha, please take these yum yum squares away from me before I eat them all!! I’m so excited about this trip, partly because it’s all so last minute (very unlike me), and also… Myanmar!! 😀

  13. Eha 9 June 2014 at 2:51 pm Reply

    I have wanted to go to good old Burma a long time ere it became [more-or-less] known as Myanmar. Hope you have a wonderful time even in the wet 🙂 ! I have been trying Burmese recipes for years now, even tho’ I do not own the Duguid book yet: their use of spices especially in many meat dishes is innovative to say the least . . .

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:12 am Reply

      The monsoon will be just another part of the adventure, right? 🙂 I agree, Burmese recipes’ use of spices and seasoning is really interesting, especially compared to some of the better known Thai recipes. Do you have other Burmese cookbooks that you can recommend?

      • Eha 11 June 2014 at 2:08 pm

        No, seem to have found one here and another there and just printed them out as the years passed! Love their use of cinnamon quills and nutmeg etc with meat dishes: oft these are nowhere as ‘hot’ as many of the Thai or Bangladeshi recipes from either ‘side’. At the moment there seem to be a couple of other books besides the Duguid one floating around or so ‘Booktopia’ is trying to tell me most days 🙂 !

  14. Ngan R. 9 June 2014 at 3:26 pm Reply

    Wow, I wish you lots of fun in Myanmar, Saucy! It sounds fabulous, much as these yum yum squares do.

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:10 am Reply

      Thanks Ngan! I’m super excited about Myanmar, and about these yum yum squares! 🙂

  15. thepaddingtonfoodie 9 June 2014 at 3:54 pm Reply

    Those photos won me over. I have a batch of these baking in the oven as I type. Ready to be road tested by a horde of hungry teenagers this afternoon. Whipping it up kind of reminded me of a more sophisticated impossible pie. Enjoy your holiday Saucy. Myanmar sounds divine

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:09 am Reply

      The squares also reminded me of impossible pies, or a Marion Cunningham breakfast cornbread that ends up with a layer of custard in the middle. I hope the recipe worked out for you? (I am so, so excited about Myanmar, it should be a real adventure)

      • thepaddingtonfoodie 12 June 2014 at 4:17 pm

        The recipe was divine. Worked perfectly first time. Big thumbs up. Posted a photo on instagram.

  16. birgerbird 9 June 2014 at 3:57 pm Reply

    What is not to love here — butter, coconut, walnut, brown sugar. Good lord! You really got some beautiful shots of the squares, too, showing the different layers. I hope you have a fantastic trip to Myanmar . . . and bring back more goodies to share with us at FF! I have the Burma book, too, but have not cooked from it yet. Thank you for bringing these little delicacies to the party!

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:08 am Reply

      Thank you – the squares are awesome, especially since they are easy to make. I’ll probably end up with way too many photos from Myanmar, am so excited about the trip / adventure!!

  17. nancy@jamjnr 9 June 2014 at 4:17 pm Reply

    How exciting! There’s a country I’ve always wanted to go to so I can’t wait to read how you navigate your way around. I bet those yum yum squares don’t last too long in the kitchen I think I’d be going back for thirds and fourths too.

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:06 am Reply

      The yum yum squares go pretty quickly, lucky it’s quick to make another batch. I’ll definitely report back on the trip, travel arrangements and such, it sounds like travelling around Myanmar will be an adventure in itself! 🙂

  18. lapetitepaniere 9 June 2014 at 6:01 pm Reply

    Your squares look delightful 🙂 Have a nice trip, Saucy.

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:05 am Reply

      Thank you – and I’m *so* excited about the trip!! 🙂

  19. Gather and Graze 9 June 2014 at 6:26 pm Reply

    Such exciting news Saucy – what an adventure, to be heading off to Myanmar! I too, look forward to seeing lots of photos and hearing all about it on your return. Wishing you safe travels and a wonderful time away!
    Yum Yum squares sounds vaguely familiar from my youth for some reason – will have to ask Mum! They look awesome… love anything that has caramel tucked away in the middle! 🙂

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:04 am Reply

      Yum yum squares seem to be an old and tested recipe, like those impossible pies or other bakes that magically end up with caramel or custard in the middle. I must say I fell for the name! 🙂
      And….yes, am so excited about Myanmar, it’s a country that many people have wanted to visit, but is still a bit off the beaten path compared to Vietnam or Thailand. I can’t wait!

  20. thehungrymum 9 June 2014 at 8:27 pm Reply

    best.name.ever – these look superb.

  21. Kloesunny @ Kloe's Kitchen 10 June 2014 at 2:11 am Reply

    These really do look yummy! Have fun on your trip!!!

  22. eatmunchlove 10 June 2014 at 9:07 am Reply

    these look delish!

  23. cookingwithauntjuju.com 10 June 2014 at 9:13 am Reply

    Enjoy your travels as I sure do remember mine. So much to see and experience! Yum yum squares just sound yummy 🙂

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:01 am Reply

      Traveling is so exciting, so much to see and experience indeed! I’m glad you like the yum yum squares – they are just yum! 🙂

  24. FireBonnet 10 June 2014 at 9:34 am Reply

    Have a terrific trip!!!!! And the yum yum bars look and sound yum… yum… yummy.

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:00 am Reply

      Thank you, and thank you! They are yummy!

  25. chefjulianna 10 June 2014 at 11:53 am Reply

    Well, what can I say about the squares? Yum! Yum! Now about Myanmar – I am so very envious! I have been wanting to go there for some time now and have drooled over Naomi’s cookbook for many hours! I have all of her other cookbooks too. I am really looking forward to hearing your stories about the country and the food! Take LOTS of pictures!! Have fun! 😀

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:00 am Reply

      Yum yum is the word! I’m just getting ready for the trip, am so excited!! Myanmar is a country that many people have wanted to visit, and it’s just getting a little easier to go there as a tourist. I will take lots of photos and share the stories. I was even thinking about upgrading to a DSLR before the trip, but may not have time to do that….so maybe my trusty point + shoot will have to do….

      • chefjulianna 11 June 2014 at 4:44 am

        Well, if you have the time, a DLSR is really worth it – so many more options for amazing photos!! Bon Voyage!

  26. Coffee and Crumpets 10 June 2014 at 3:42 pm Reply

    How exciting for you!! I love impromptu trips, they are the best kinds. Hope you have a lovely time and experience lots of great food. These bars are def yum yum! Sound a bit like pecan pie bars but with walnuts and coconut…mmmm……coconut. Delicious!!

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 12:57 am Reply

      Thanks Nazneen, these bars are a bit like pecan pie bars, a bit like ‘impossible’ pies, and plain yum! Am just packing for the trip now, very excited….!!

  27. Jhuls 10 June 2014 at 9:26 pm Reply

    Wow! Could you please take me with you, Saucy? 😀 Can’t wait to hear your stories regarding the trip.

    These yum-yum bars are really yum! Thanks for sharing them. I’d love to bring home some if you don’t mind. 😀 Hope you are having a good time. ❤

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 12:56 am Reply

      Jhuls, I’d love for you to come too! But if you can’t jump on a plane at 1.5 weeks notice, I’ll post lots of photos – am so excited! 😀 And yes, plenty of yum yum squares for everyone! 😀

  28. eclecticoddsnsods 10 June 2014 at 11:15 pm Reply

    you know i loved your pics they were amazing x

  29. A Home Cook 10 June 2014 at 11:32 pm Reply

    I think we could get into making these. They look so good. Have fun on your trip.

  30. Loretta 11 June 2014 at 1:33 am Reply

    OOoooo anything with coconut has got to be good. Yum yum, you ain’t kidding! have a holy, safe and blessed trip.

    • saucygander 11 June 2014 at 1:54 am Reply

      Thank you Loretta! Life is good when it has yum yum squares and travel! 🙂

  31. Stephanie @ The Cozy Cook 11 June 2014 at 6:22 am Reply

    These look SOOOO good and your upcoming travel plans sound WONDERFUL!!!! Good for you 🙂 Enjoy!!!

  32. deliciouslynell 11 June 2014 at 11:00 am Reply

    I am green with envy! 😀 I hope we’ll get to see lots of photos of your trip, and I hope you have an amazing time! 😀

  33. sarahpie13 11 June 2014 at 11:46 am Reply

    That trip sounds absolutely amazing! And the pictures on this recipe are gorgeous 🙂

  34. MB @ Bourbon and Brown Sugar 11 June 2014 at 12:24 pm Reply

    Wow… I love the squares!! And your travel plans sound incredible! Take lots of pictures, so we can live vicariously through you!

  35. Mary Frances 12 June 2014 at 8:04 am Reply

    Your trip sounds so exciting! I hope you have a great time.

  36. illcookyouwash 13 June 2014 at 12:30 am Reply

    That sounds so great! I own Burma and absolutely love the book as well. The trip sounds amazing and I love the spontaneity of it all. Safe travels and enjoy for all of us! Also make sure you eat to your heart’s content! 🙂

  37. Tea with Erika 15 June 2014 at 6:59 am Reply

    I love this kind of magic! It looks so labour intensive but when you read the recipe it’s so simple!

  38. lapetitecasserole 16 June 2014 at 12:07 am Reply

    That’s great! I wish you have an amazing trip, I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience!

  39. Sally 16 June 2014 at 4:02 am Reply

    Burma is high up on my wish list. It’s on the brink of so much change so glad you are getting the chance to go now….. soon I think it will be changed forever (good and bad). Enjoy.

  40. chefceaser 19 June 2014 at 12:09 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.

  41. Cteavin 25 June 2014 at 11:14 am Reply

    I love your photography. The story behind these was a great read, too. 🙂

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