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Rolls start day sweetly; Spanish Bar Cake is A&P favorite

Thursday, February 28, 2002


What's for breakfast? Maple Pecan Rolls. What's for dessert? Spanish Bar Cake. What's in between? Check out Kitchen Mailbox next week for a fantastic entree.

If there were ever a reason to get out of bed on a cold winter's morning, it's freshly baked pecan rolls. The rolls are a yeast dough with a brown sugar and a butter filling. They're baked in three 8-inch-square pans coated with a maple flavored sauce and chopped pecans -- the rolls are also topped with pecans. We'll make these delicious rolls again.

Judy Lackner of Sheraden sent the recipe and this tip: "For an early breakfast, I sometimes freeze these after shaping the rolls. I place them in the refrigerator the night before they are to be served and bake them the next morning."

The second recipe is Spanish Bar Cake, requested by Len Sciullo of Freedom, Pa. Here's a portion of Len's letter: "I would like to challenge your department to find a most elusive recipe that I have been searching for. The recipe is for an old A&P grocery store item called Spanish Bar Cake."

Our readers were up to the challenge -- not only did they remember this cake, but they sent us the recipe. Here are a few of their comments:

Linda Parkinson of Pleasant Hills: "I, too, loved the Spanish Bar Cake made by A&P. This recipe was published several years ago in either the Pittsburgh Press or the Post-Gazette. It is very close to the original -- wonderful!"

Sylvia Englert of New Kensington: "Just read the request for the A & P Spanish Bars. What a coincidence! I walked into our daughter's home today and she was making them. It was always one of our favorites. My stepfather would walk down to our local A & P and bring one home, then we would all sit around the kitchen table and have it with coffee. What good memories!"

Mary Hamilton of Murrysville: "This was a favorite of mine as well."

Most of the recipes were similar, although pan size varied. They called for a 9-by-13-inch pan, a jelly roll pan or loaf pans. We chose the 9-by-13.

As far as the cake goes, it's a winner.

Maple Pecan Rolls

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup margarine or butter
2 packages dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
3 eggs, room temperature
5 1/5 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

6 tablespoons soft margarine or butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

Maple topping:
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
6 tablespoons margarine or butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Scald milk; stir in sugar, salt and 1/3 cup margarine or butter. Cool to lukewarm.

Measure warm water into large warm bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and 3 cups of the flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough (we used about an additional 2 1/2 cups). Turn onto lightly floured board. Knead by hand until dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes, or place dough in an electric mixer with a dough hook.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

While dough is rising, make the maple topping.

Maple topping: Sprinkle pecans into three ungreased 8-inch-square pans. Combine brown sugar, maple syrup and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Immediately pour the syrup over the pecans; set pans aside.

Punch dough down; divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece to a 9-by-7-inch rectangle. Spread each with 2 tablespoons softened margarine or butter and sprinkle with about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Roll each up from long side as for jelly roll. Seal edges firmly. Cut into 1-inch slices. Place, cut side up, in prepared pans. Cover -- let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees about 25 minutes or until done. Invert rolls immediately onto plates to cool.

Spanish Bar Cake was sent in by Lavisa Ward of Upper St. Clair who told us: "This was a favorite treat of mine also."

Spanish Bar Cake

1/2 cup soft shortening
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup molasses
1 cup boiling water
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
1/2 cup cut-up raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream together shortening, sugar and egg. Blend in molasses and boiling water. Sift together remaining ingredients except raisins and stir into batter. Stir in raisins.

Bake in a greased and floured 9-by-13-inch pan for about 40 minutes or until tested done. (Begin testing after 30 minutes.)

Remove cake from pan. Cool on wire rack. Cut cake in half and frost as a two-layer cake.

Here's Sylvia Englert of New Kensington's version: "Everyone who remembers the cake from the A&P thinks this is pretty close."

A&P Spanish Bar Cake

4 cups water
2 cups raisins
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
2 eggs, beaten

Add water to raisins and simmer for 10 minutes. Add shortening and allow to cool. Sift together spices and flour, salt, sugar and baking soda. Add cooled raisin mixture and blend well. Add beaten eggs and nuts and stir well. Place into a 9-by-13-inch pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, or until tester comes our clean. It can also be baked in a jelly roll pan for 25 minutes.

Frost when cool.

1/3 cup shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat till smooth and creamy.


Jack Fardo writes: "Any chance of getting Andora's Restaurant's [North Hills] recipe for coconut shrimp? The sauce was fabulous!"

Carol Belfiori of Merrill, Wis., is searching for a Finnish bread recipe called "synoda." It's made at an Italian bakery in Virginia, and they do not give out their recipes.

An interesting request from Philomena Novitt of Longmedow, Mass.: "My mother (she would have been 102 this year) used to make 'cookies' from basic cookie dough every Easter. She made wonderful (edible) Easter baskets from this dough. She braided the handle and placed 'flowers' at the ends of the handle where it attached to the basket. She made a lattice-work look to the basket and she cut the bottom of the basket into strips and folded every other strip up, so it looked like a real basket. She would place two or three eggs in the basket (uncooked) and when the cookie was baked, the eggs would become hard-boiled. She also cut out dolls, Indian dolls, horses from the same cookie dough. Have you ever run across this type of cookie? My mother was from Avellino (Naples), Italy. Those Easter baskets are probably Neapolitan specialties."

Writes Gerry Johnson of McKees Rocks: "In the early '70s we used to order the best steak and cheese hoagies at the Wooden Keg in Oakland. We haven't found anything to compare them with since. We'd be so grateful if someone could tell us how those hoagies were made so that we could try to replicate them. The hoagie consisted of lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, cheese (not American) or cheeses. And they probably used those thin sandwich steaks, but when I tried to make them myself, they weren't nearly as good. Maybe it was a combination of the types of meat, cheese, mayonnaise and bread they used, but we all agreed that they were heavenly. Also, in the '60s, my late father used to buy frozen sandwich steaks that were round or square, and as thick as or thicker than a hamburger. Do you know if there's anyplace in the area that sells these? A grocery store employee from the meat department said that those are sold to restaurants but are not available for purchase otherwise."

Dee Baroni of Bridgeville writes: "Our family dined at the South Park Inn in the '70s when they served an Italian Mushroom soup. It was a thick red soup with fresh mushrooms, and it was wonderful. Recently my daughter asked if I could duplicate the soup -- I can't. Can anyone help?"

Jim Huryan of North Lauderdale, Fla., is searching for these recipes: A butter cake that is baked in a small 6 -by-12-by-1- inch pan. It has either a shortbread cake bottom or doughnut dough bottom with a gooey butter topping. And a cheese pie that's baked in a small flat pan, maybe with a pineapple or cherry bottom. Both are sold in a bakery in Philadelphia -- can anyone help?

Former Pittsburgher Bernadette Coppola from Sacramento Calif.: "The last time I visited Pittsburgh I went to Kennywood and had one of their candied apples, which were wonderful. I do know that the coating is a fairly simple recipe, but there must be some secret to getting a crisp, thin coating, because I just can't find the same quality elsewhere. I've tried my hand at making them but never can match it."

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood/city/borough/township and state and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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