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Sweet and Savory Parmesan Grits Bars – A New Southern Classic

Grits Bars

Think of these sweet and savory Parmesan grits bars as a hand-held Southern grits breakfast.  Although this is a recipe I developed, it feels like it should have been around when the massive oak trees I saw in Charleston providing Sunday supper shade were just saplings.   Both the bars’ base and topping contain cooked grits – the bottom being just solid enough to support the looser top (think cheesecake consistency here).  Parmesan cheese covers the top of the bars like a field of cotton, adding tang to the rich, buttery grits.  Serve warm with milk, sweet tea, or, better still, sweet tea cupcakes.

Before I share the recipe, I must share how these bars were born.

The Back Story / Food Blog Prop Swap

As a food blogger, I’ve become a food photography prop collector: barn wood in many colors, plates and bowls galore, single forks, knives, and spoons long lost from their peers, and enough fabric swatches that someone might mistake me for an interior decorator.  When I heard that Alyssa of Everyday Maven and Faith of An Edible Mosaic were hosting a food blogger prop swap, I was all over it!  I entered my name in the pool, and I was told to send my box to Faith (I got paired with one of the hosts – no pressure there!).  Everyone participating in the swap is posting today, so if you head to An Edible Mosaic, you’ll see her post about what I sent her way.  Also, since she is the event host, she’ll be sharing links to everyone who participated in the swap.

If you’ve never been to An Edible Mosaic before, you’ll be impressed by Faith’s artful food photos and appealing recipes.  I’ve got my eye on her Savory Rosemary Shortbread Cookies + Creamy Whipped Feta with Rosemary (I didn’t even know you could whip feta!).

An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair [Middle Eastern Cookbook, 80 Recipes]

She’s also written a book on Middle Eastern cuisine and just announced that she has a new smoothie book coming soon!

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Faith, however, was not the person who sent me my box; it wasn’t a simple trade.  I wouldn’t know who my box was coming from until it arrived in the mail.  It turned out Jennifer at Kitchy Cooking sent props my way.  I adore blogs that introduce me to new ingredients and Jennifer’s blog has done just that.  I’m totally fascinated by her post on Gomme Syrup (who’s heard of it?).

Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup - 8.5 oz

Gomme syrup or gum syrup is a sweetener that was used in cocktails throughout the nineteenth century instead of simple syrup.  “While simple syrup sweetens up the drink quite nicely, the gomme acts as an emulsifier and adds a silky texture that makes the drink so smooth and velvety.”

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Jennifer is a huge fan of vintage and she even choose to send me some vintage magazines along with my prop box.  So fun!

Here are the complete contents of the box she sent me.

Food Blog Prop Swap Box

It was so sweet of Jennifer to think to include cupcake liners!  Surprisingly, they weren’t the first prop I decided to use.  Do you recognize the plate from the photo at the top of this post?

Betty Crocker Sphere Magazine April 1973 (Vol. 2 No. 4)

The grits bars were inspired by page 52 in the magazine on top of the pile – the April 1973 edition of Sphere, The Betty Crocker Magazine.  The version I received must have lost its cover over the years, but it was otherwise intact.

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Betty Crocker Magazine

Sphere’s homage to the kernel inspired me to try my hand at baking with grits.  In case you wondering, my best guess from the list of recipes that follows is that the items in the photo are: skillet egg bread (made with cornmeal), Virginia spoon bread (made with grits), Bacon-fried grits, and my personal favorite, grits ring with creamed chicken.

Vintage Betty Crocker Cupcakes

Although I didn’t choose to do the project, the same magazine also had a whole spread on baking a cupcake garden.

Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make

It’s just this sort of idea that later made Hello, Cupcake! such a wildly successful book.

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Products Related to Sweet and Savory Parmesan Grits Bars Recipe

Bob's Red Mill White Corn Grits / Polenta, 24-ounce

These are the grits that I used.  Bob’s Red Mill actually has two different products that they call grits.  I went with the ones that they call “Southern-style”.

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Grits Bars
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5 from 1 vote

Sweet and Savory Parmesan Grits Bars

Think of these sweet and savory Parmesan grits bars as a hand-held Southern grits breakfast.
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Southern
Keyword grits bars, parmesan grits
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 12 bars
Calories 456kcal
Author Stef

Ingredients

Grits Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grits

Bottom Layer Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cooked grits from above
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Top Layer Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • Remaining cooked grits from above
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Grits Instructions

  • In a medium-sized saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil.
  • Lower heat to medium low.
  • Add grits and cook, stirring occasionally, until water is fully absorbed into the grits (about five minutes).
  • Remove saucepan from heat, cover, and let sit for another five minutes.
  • Remove lid, give one final stir to fluff a little, and set aside.

Bottom Layer Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Use your hands to mix all bottom layer ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. The result will be a sticky dough.
  • Lightly grease a 12.8" x 9.5" x 2" baking pan.
  • Press the entire mixture into the pan.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. While baking, work on the top layer.

Top Layer Instructions

  • Add butter to the pot of remaining grits and return the pot to the stove.
  • Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until all of the butter is melted.
  • Remove from heat and set aside until cool enough to touch.
  • In a small mixing bowl, mix together sugar, flour, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  • Add contents of mixing bowl to buttery grits and stir to combine.
  • Spread grits mixture evenly over bottom layer.
  • Bake (still at 350 F) for thirty minutes or until top layer fully sets.
  • Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over the top of the bars.
  • Bake for another fifteen minutes.
  • Cool slightly, cut into squares or bars, and enjoy.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Sweet and Savory Parmesan Grits Bars
Amount Per Serving
Calories 456 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 11g55%
Cholesterol 89mg30%
Sodium 292mg12%
Potassium 113mg3%
Carbohydrates 61g20%
Sugar 29g32%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 665IU13%
Calcium 159mg16%
Iron 1.4mg8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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