HOMETOWN FLAVORS: Miss Emma Lou’s Honey Bars

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Liberty Hill mom Evin Cooper was the youngest in the hospitality group for her former church, where she obtained the mostly-secret honey bars recipe from Miss Emma Lou.  (Courtesy Photos)

Liberty Hill mom Evin Cooper was the youngest in the hospitality group for her former church, where she obtained the mostly-secret honey bars recipe from Miss Emma Lou.
(Courtesy Photos)

By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM

Between her 9-to-5 and kids, Liberty Hill mom Evin Cooper has a lot on her plate — certainly too much to continue the food blog she wrote for years. But Evin recently reached out to The Independent to offer one of her favorite recipes, “Miss Emma Lou’s Honey Bars.”

While some cherished dishes have secret ingredients, this syrupy-sweet pastry was once an entirely secret recipe. It was kept closely-guarded by a church grandmother Evin once knew. For years no one could convince her to leak its know-how.

Evin first met the lady and her honey bars when she was a young, single mother in Austin.

“I found support at my local Methodist church – it was there that I was saved, at 26, and my son was baptized there,” she said.

Miss Emma Lou, a lady in her mid-70s, also attended church there. At every church function, she would bring a pan of her famous honey bars.

She was a part of the church’s “hospitality committee,” which supplied the home-cooked comfort at every pancake dinner, potluck or other events the church held. Evin herself soon joined.

“If there was food there, we were in charge,” she said.

Evin was the youngest in the group, as the other ladies were, like Miss Emma Lou, also in their 70s and 80s. But Miss Emma Lou, a former school teacher, stood out to Evin.

“She had perfect grammar and perfect posture— both things I aspire to every day,” Evin writes.

“She could also tell a dirty joke like nobody’s business, if she thought you were cool,” Evin continued. “This is a rumor I heard, because I, apparently, am NOT cool.”

Golden, soft, and almost overpoweringly rich, Miss Emma Lou’s honey bars were “beyond awesome,” and learning how to make them became a personal quest for Evin.

“As much as I loved my old lady friends, if one of them got between me and the honey bars, better watch out, Granny.”

She asked Miss Emma Lou for the recipe early on, but the grandmother politely declined.

“I was crushed,” Evin said.

A couple of years later, however, Evin graduated school and was planning to move to Cedar Park for a new job. It was her last day at the Methodist church. Miss Emma Lou approached her and gave Evin a hug, pressing a note card into her hand.

On it was written the recipe for her famous Honey Bars.

“I’d held it together until that moment… and then I burst into tears.”

Now printed here for the first time, Liberty Hill can enjoy Miss Emma Lou’s secret. (If you want to keep it scarce, however, it might be worth noting that newspaper is easily burned.)

Miss Emma Lou’s Honey Bars
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
dash salt
1/2 cup pecans (optional it says on the recipe card, but I officially declare them to be required)

1. Mix together first 6 ingredients.
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt and soda.
3. Combine the two and add nuts.
4. At this point, the batter is very thick. There are two ways to bake this— in a 9×13 pan, it will be very thin and chewy, more cookie-like. Bake at 325 degrees Farenheit for 15-20 minutes.
In a 9×9 pan it will be a little cakier, and more brownie like in texture. Bake at 325 degrees Farenheit for 25-30 minutes.

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