Chefs : Kimberly “Momma” Reiner & Jenna Sanz-Agero
Sugar, Sugar is an innovative cookbook concept written by the Sugar Mommas (Momma Reiner & Momma Jenna) – two saucy gals who want to populate the universe with timeless sweet recipes and their family legacies.
Every recipe has a story—a creator who brought it to life. My fudge came from a family recipe, passed down from generation to generation. The most important part of the fudge was the memory of making it. After sprinkling fudge around our seaside village for a few years, a neighbor asked if she could sell it in her gift shop. In a blink, Momma Reiner's Fudge became a cottage industry. I was completely unprepared when a call came and I heard the words, "Your fudge is being considered for "The O List." Momma Reiner's Fudge skyrocketed when it appeared in the famed "O List" as one of Oprah's Favorite Things and, later, on the Rachael Ray Show. I even had the good fortune to swirl fudge and dip marshmallows alongside Martha on The Martha Stewart Show.
During that roller coaster ride, I spoke to people across the country who told me about
their favorite family recipes. It wasn't just the recipes I coveted; I wanted to hear people recount
their sugar story. The seed was planted to write this book.
I started on this quest by word of mouth. First, I approached my book club. One gal said
she ate a strawberry cake in Mississippi that was from an old recipe. So I rang that home baker
up. While I was on the phone with the host, I learned about a Pecan Pie that was believed to
have originated from a slave passed down to her granddaughter, Lucinda Bell. My heart
palpitated. Lucinda's pecan pie took me through history. The recipe had never been written
down. I knew instantly that I had begun a journey to collect old sugar recipes and their stories
before they faded away. What started as a sugar voyage turned into a documentary of American
Once the project began, I turned to my pal and law school classmate, Momma Jenna.
After Jenna relayed her story to me of inheriting her grandmother's cookbook, we realized we
shared a passion. So I said, "Hop on the sugar bus!" She became kitchen co-captain, and
together we became the Sugar Mommas. Since we are fellow sugar floozies in endless search of
sugar contentment, it became clear that this book needed to be written together.
Why sweets? The family dessert is always legendary. No one wants to brag about
Brussels sprouts! Sugar is like rocket fuel, projecting butter and flour into a different
stratosphere. It takes you to a place where people get happy. They laugh, tell stories, stash
leftovers, and guard their sacred sweets.
Why the stories? We could have just published sugar recipes, but we wanted to bring
them to life. When we discovered a recipe for Native American bourbon balls originally made
with firewater, it jumped off the page. When we heard about picking wild blueberries in Cape
Cod, we could just picture the pie bubbling underneath a trickle of homemade vanilla ice cream.
When we learned of a Mississippi woman eating her dessert in the bathtub, we perked up. The
rituals and legacies behind the recipes we chose drew us in. These stories were vignettes
providing peeks into family lives, histories and traditions. Above all though, they are about the
wonderful characters we stumbled upon along the way.
Momma Jenna and I want to introduce you to the people we met on our sugar journey,
each with a recipe to share. In Texas, we found Philip Cannon, the former headmaster of a
prestigious private school, who at first glance is Mr. Respectable, but actually is an intellectual
chocolate wild man. We met Catherine Watson, a Mississippi sister who cracked us up with
emails at midnight talking about bread pudding, why men love lemon desserts, and all the
calories that have gone out her front door. We came across Greg Rogers whose Kentucky Jam
Cake was a symbol of unconditional love and acceptance.
Our friend Helen gave us her family recipe box and from there we discovered Aunt
Bunny, one of the funniest human beings on planet Earth, who named her dog Bhagwan Shree
Rajneesh, after a new age guru. We chanced upon Irene Mangum, who is still trying to figure out
how her cookies got the name Buffalo Chips when, "all we got here is alligators and snakes." We
acquired recipes from Department of Water and Power workers, animal lovers we met at the
vet's office, new friends we encountered walking through trade shows, and many people we have
yet to hug in person.
The recession made this project more poignant. People returned to family life and
reprioritized. Recipes that stood the test of time took on greater meaning. Together, we all
lamented about the economy, but there was always laughter when we spoke about sugar. This
book became so much more than a collection of recipes.
We have included splashes of sassy narrative throughout. Whether it's our explanation of
the tart shells for Lemon Starlets, "Although the crust is delicious, we think its sole purpose is to
ensure that you don't look like a freak at parties licking the lemon filling off your index finger,"
or commentary from our contributors, "I love sugar so much, I named my dog Sugar so I could
go outside and holler, 'Come here, Sugar!'" our aim is to remind readers that baking is fun and
the result it darn delicious!
While we want to preserve tradition, and capture very old recipes that might otherwise
be lost, this is not your grandmother's cookbook! Sugar, Sugar is intended for the 21st
century and has an interactive component. Everyone likes to see a photo of the finished
product, right? Sugar, Sugar takes it a step further and offers an online "sugar society" – at
www.SugarSugarRecipes.com – where our readers can access step-by-step "how to" video
demonstrations to guide them through many recipes in the book. We want everyone who reads
Sugar, Sugar to become involved – not just by reading and baking, but also by submitting a
piece of their family folklore. The website will encourage readers to take an active role in our
sugar world, capturing old traditions and creating new ones.
Whether you are an occasional home baker or an avid professional, we believe you will
enjoy the delicacies collected here. Our hope is that if you have a cherished dessert, you'll be
inspired to contribute it at www.SugarSugarRecipes.com so that we can collectively share a bit
of our histories and rituals through sugar. These stories demonstrate that even the simplest treat
makes a lasting impression. Every recipe has a beginning, a middle . . . and our goal is to make
sure it does not have an end!
MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN 2-
INCH SQUARE BARS
(MOMMA REINER'S PREFERRED BAR)
2 cups all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 (14-ounce) bag Kraft soft caramel candies, unwrapped (about 50)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish (or use nonstick
baking spray). Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk
together the flour, baking soda,
and salt. Set aside. Place
the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle
attachment and beat on medium speed until creamy. Slowly add the flour mixture
and blend until incorporated. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to fold in the oats. The
mixture will be crumbly. Transfer half (about 3 cups) of the mixture to the baking
dish. Use your fingers to gently press and spread the mixture evenly on the bottom
of the baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes to set.
While the first layer is baking, place the caramels and milk in a small saucepan
(or see Carpool Crunch). Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the
caramels are melted. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Remove the crust from the oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans (if desired)
evenly over the top. Carefully pour the caramel mixture on top of the chocolate
chips and nuts, and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the
top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let
cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until the bars are
set. Cut into 2-inch squares.