I Made Betty Crocker’s ‘Delta Bars’ from 1963, and They’re Delightful

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A vintage 1960s recipe from Betty Crocker, Delta Bars combines a simple cookie base with a light, brown sugar meringue.

I love collecting vintage cookbooks, whether stapled pamphlets from food producers, collections from local churches or hardcover published books. Last Christmas I received the 1963 Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, with recipes for cookies of all occasions and the motto, “Happy the home with the full cooky jar.” (I agree!) One recipe that caught my eye is for the mysteriously named Delta Bars.

These are some of the best vintage desserts we’ve discovered in old cookbooks.

What Are Delta Bars?

This recipe comes up in a few places on the internet; many refer back to this Cooky Book as the origin, and almost all say they have no idea why they’re called Delta Bars. There is, however, some evidence that this was originally a southern recipe, as it bears a strong resemblance to old southern recipes for Mud Hen Bars. A mud hen is a common bird in the Mississippi Delta area so perhaps that’s where the name came from! This recipe also has similarities to vintage spice bars.

In any case, Delta Bars have a tender cookie base topped with a thick, glossy layer of brown sugar meringue. Toasted pecans are folded into the meringue before it goes on top, bringing a buttery crunch to the layer. After baking, the meringue is very light and crisp with bites of pecan, and the bottom is soft and sweet.

Here are more of our favorite bar cookies

How to Make Delta Bars

The recipe below is adapted from the original recipe published in Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book and uses more egg whites to create a thicker layer of meringue topping. The recipe makes 24 bars.

Ingredients

measured out ingredients separated in a bowlNancy Mock for Taste of home

For the base:

  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

Tools You’ll Need

Directions

Step 1: Make the base

mixing ingredients in a clear glass bowl for delta barsNancy Mock for Taste of home

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch pan. Spray the pan with nonstick spray, then press the parchment paper into the pan.

Cream the shortening, butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, then add the vanilla extract. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, then add the dry mixture to the batter. Mix on low, scraping the bowl once or twice, until everything is combined.

Step 2: Press the dough into the pan

spreading delta bars out in a panNancy Mock for Taste of home

Use a spatula or your fingers to press the batter into the lined pan, making an even layer across the bottom.

Step 3: Make the meringue

Clean and dry your stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment well— it’s one of our secrets for a successful meringue! Add the egg whites to the bowl; beat them on high speed with the whisk attachment until they’re very frothy and beginning to thicken. Let the mixer run on medium-low while you add in the brown sugar one tablespoon at a time. Don’t rush this step; just sprinkle in each tablespoon of brown sugar, then wait until it’s completely mixed in before adding the next one.

Once all the sugar is in, increase the mixer speed and beat the meringue until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle in the toasted pecans, and carefully fold them in so that you don’t lose too much volume in the meringue.

Step 4: Add the meringue layer

delta bars in a pan before bakingNancy Mock for Taste of home

Spoon the meringue over the batter in the pan, and lightly spread it to reach all the edges. Use your spoon to add decorative swirls to the meringue.

Step 5: Bake

baked delta bars in a panNancy Mock for Taste of home

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the meringue is golden-brown in color. Let the bars cool in the pan on a cooling rack. Use the parchment edges to lift them from the pan, then slice them into 24 pieces. Store your Delta Bars in an airtight container for up to five days.

Here’s What I Thought

hand holding a finished delta barNancy Mock for Taste of home

Another successful vintage recipe! My family and I enjoyed these simple bars, especially their delicate sweetness and the light, crispy meringue layer. The old cookbook describes them as a butterscotch bar—while I don’t find them to be so, I do like the buttery, toasty flavor of the pecans in the meringue. I’ve never seen bar cookies like these at any bake sale, potluck, or party I’ve been to, which means this is a unique dessert recipe worth making again.

Delta Bars Tips:

  • Let your eggs come to room temperature before using them in this recipe, either before or after you separate them. This is especially important for the egg whites so that they’ll properly whip into a meringue.
  • Add the brown sugar into the whipped egg whites one tablespoon at a time, being patient to let it blend in before adding the next. Rushing this step will result in a flat meringue with a grainy texture. (Trust me, I found out the hard way.)
  • To toast your chopped pecans, pour them into a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir the nuts occasionally and toast them for 3-5 minutes until they’re fragrant. (Don’t let them burn!)

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.