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.

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