Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hutzler's Potato Chip Cookies

Sometimes a memory attaches to a place. And if you are attached to that place, the memory attaches to you. So, even though I never ate at Hutzler's Tea Room, I remember it because I am a Baltimore girl.

Hutzler's was one of the first department stores in America. The original outlet opened in downtown Baltimore in 1929, becoming a fashionable destination by the 1950s. Just reading the Wiki makes me nostalgic for a time long before I was born. The store pioneered retail practices such as universal pricing, liberal returns, and non-discrimination. It was a beloved fixture in the community. When was the last time you were at your local mall? I was at mine last week. Beloved is not the word that comes to mind. Would exchanging khakis at the Gap be any less unpleasant if I wore a hat and gloves to the store?

Photo from the Maryland Historical Society, 1958

Every Baby Boomer in Baltimore remembers shopping at Hutzler's Department Store and eating at the in-house restaurant. If I had a nickel for every time I heard my mother say that the mashed potatoes there were special because, "the woman had a little ladle, and she would make a well in the potatoes as she ladled in the gravy..." Well, I'd be a rich woman.

In my mind's eye, I can see that ladle. Even though I never walked through that cafeteria line with my mother and her grandparents on Saturday afternoon after piano lessons at Peabody. I was never there, but ... I was there.

People around here are still talking about food served in the cafeteria, particularly the chocolate pie, and nobody's eaten it for a generation. Some time during the 80s, Hutzler's sold its last Potato Chip Cookie. But the memory is still fresh enough that someone wrote into the local paper looking for it. And someone else kept her employee newsletter all this time, and sent it in to the Baltimore Sun. Is this a great country, or what!

This time, I really was there. I made the cookies, and they were terrific. Kind of like Pecan Sandies, in that you eat one, and say, "That was okay." But you find yourself eating another five. Then you finish them off for breakfast the next day, because .... nuts are healthy.

Or perhaps I project.

Anyway, these cookies are great. They're homey and old-fashioned, but the salty chips just make them sing. The original recipe even called for "nuts" of no specific variety, just like all of my grandmother's handwritten index cards. She meant pecans or walnuts, and so do I. Speaking of my Bubbie, she always baked with salted butter, as did the nice ladies in the Hutzler's kitchen, I'd bet. I haven't baked with salted butter in years, so I added salt. I added a little extra sugar as well, since my generation ruined our palates on Twinkies and soda pop. (Also rock-n-roll and the reefer.)

Try 'em, Hon!

Hutzler's Potato Chip Cookies
(from the Baltimore Sun)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (226g)
3/4 cup sugar (150g)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (188g)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (55g)
1/2 cup crushed potato chips (28g)

Preheat the oven to 350˚ (325˚ convection). Cream the butter and sugar in a stand or hand mixer for two minutes. Beat in the yolk and vanilla.

Add the flour and the nuts and mix until well blended then gently fold in the potato chips.

Use a #40 disher, or spoon out heaping tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the sides are just brown. Don't take them out early - these old-fashioned cookies have a high proportion of flour, so they will taste pasty if undercooked. Cool cookies on a rack.

Makes 24 cookies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Candy Corn Buttercream

As a child, I was not allowed to eat candy. My mother served homemade yogurt sweetened with jam (also homemade, obviously) as a treat. With all the love and intention of a woman in a peasant blouse she'd smocked by hand, my mother reasoned that children who didn't grow up eating sweets would never develop a taste for them.


We did go trick-or-treating once, but only accepted coins for UNICEF. No candy. One woman slammed the door on us, and she lived four houses down our block! (I'm over it ... mostly.)

So, I love Halloween candy. The crappier, the better. Save the imported chocolate for New Year's Eve - Halloween is for Candy Corn! And we all know this, even if we don't admit it. Offer an adult candy corn, and you'll get a, "No, thanks." Leave her alone in a room with a bowl of the stuff, she'll empty it.

Don't even pretend you're better than that. Candy corn tastes like the happiest day of childhood. 

Sadly, I cannot just dump a bag of orange sugar blobs in a bowl and call it dessert. I spend quite a lot of time in my Serious Adult costume, you know. So I devised  a recipe for candy corn frosting, which is a completely different thing. Yes, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Happy Halloween!

Candy Corn Buttercream
1/3 cup corn syrup (100g)
1 cup candy corn (170g)
2 egg whites (70g)
pinch of salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (170g)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
orange food coloring

Combine corn syrup and candy corn in a saucepan over low heat. (Corn is a vegetable, right?) Begin whisking the candy corn into the syrup as it heats. Go slowly to avoid scorching the candy; in about eight minutes, you should have a pot of bright orange goop. While you're waiting for syrup to heat up, start beating the egg whites and salt on medium speed in the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Do I need to tell you that, even if it's not visibly boiling, melted sugar is wicked hot? It's melted candy corn, you know what it tastes like. Leave it alone.

About now, the egg whites should be getting pretty stiff. Turn off the mixture and pour a bit of the hot candy syrup into the whites. Beat it in for ten seconds, then repeat until you have added it all. Crank the mixer to high and let it go until the sides of the bowl return to room temperature.

Add the butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. It will look curdled, but don't panic. Beat in half the powdered sugar, then the vanilla and lemon juice, and finish up with the remaining sugar.

Now's the time you beat in copious amounts of orange dye. If you are a person who is offended by food coloring, feel free to skip this part. But you just melted down candy corn, so I'm guessing you're not all that picky.

This frosting is great on chocolate or vanilla cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Remember making fake fudge as a kid? Microwave a bag of chocolate chips with a can of condensed milk, pour into a pan, eat the entire thing in front of the TV before Mom gets home?

Oh, like you never did that ...

Sadly, I am too old now to eat an entire tray of candy with a spoon. There isn't enough Lactaid in the world! Plus the new Scooby Doo episodes are terrible

But truffles are another story. Truffles are sophisticated, especially when you call them Brigadeiros. Named for a Brigadier who ran for President of Brazil in the 1940s, these candies were served at fundraisers by the Brigadier's wife. The name stuck, and so did the sweets; they are still one of the most popular desserts in Brazil.

I learned to make Brigadieros from the wonderful website. I tweaked the recipe a bit, but their adorable video demonstrates the technique.

The candies are really beautiful, but they are ridiculously easy to put together. And you can roll the chocolate in almost anything. Chocolate sprinkles are traditional, but I will definitely have my kids make a batch with crushed candy canes or red sprinkles to take to their teachers before winter break.

I do need to spend a little time with my friend Mr. Google to find out whether Brigadeiros must be flavored with chocolate. As someone who flips out over recipes for challah that call for milk (NO!!), I do understand that some food rules can never be broken. But if not, why not white chocolate, or peanut butter, or chai?

I did make a batch flavored with Japanese matcha powder. They were gorgeous, but not very tasty.

1-140oz can of sweetened condensed milk (396g)
4 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (30g)
2 tablespoons butter (28g)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sprinkles, chopped nuts, coconut, etc.

small paper or foil muffin liners

In a small saucepan, whisk the condensed milk and cocoa powder until smooth. Place over low heat and add butter and salt. Whisk steadily for about ten minutes, until the mixture looks like very thick pudding. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and pour the mixture into a flat bowl. Refrigerate for about half an hour to firm up.

Spread a square of wax paper on the counter. Using a disher or two spoons, drop chocolate in 1-inch balls onto the wax paper. If you have time, slide the paper onto a tray to refrigerate for 15 minutes more.

Roll balls between your palms to smooth, then gently toss them in the sprinkles to coat. Place in muffin liners and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 24.