Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 8 — Sweets, cont’d.

It’s time to bake, and my goodness there are some good recipes here! Hopscotch Cookies, Pavlova, Peanut Butter Cookies, Potato (you read that right!) Candy, Seven Layer Bars, Rum Balls … where do you begin?

Note for anyone unfamiliar with American recipes: Brown sugar is always measured by packing it into the measure so that when you add it to the recipe, it still holds the shape of the measuring container.

Honeycomb Candy
This is a fun one. Would be great to make with kids, though you’d need to watch closely because the syrup gets very hot. Unfortunately, I discovered this recipe long after our little chick had fledged, but I had fun making it anyway. Very similar to the Cadbury Crunchie Bars sold in the UK. 

Hopscotch Cookies (No Bake)
1 cup peanut butter
1-12 oz bag butterscotch chips
6 oz chow mein noodles
2 cups mini marshmallows
Melt peanut butter and butterscotch chips. Add noodles and marshmallows. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper. Cool completely.
Lori, one of my college roommates, used to make these. I remember her making them once, then going to class and leaving a note that said, “Save me one.” Turned out she didn’t mean that literally :-*, and I ended up buying the ingredients and making another batch for her to make up for being such a glutton. 

Impossible Pie
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup coconut flakes
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
Place all ingredients in blender and blend well. Pour into a greased 10” pie pan. Bake 350 F, 40-45 min. Coconut comes to top and browns, Center is soft and slight crust forms.
This must be another one of my bridal shower recipes. It seems to have my two favorite traits in a recipe — simple and delicious — and I’m wondering now if I’ve ever made it.

Lemon Zucchini Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp or more grated lemon peel
1 cup shredded, unpeeled zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and lemon peel until fluffy. At low speed, or with a spatula, stir in the flour mixture until smooth. Stir in zucchini and walnuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheets. Bake in preheated 375 F oven until very lightly browned. (Or, if you are lazy, like me, spread on a jelly roll pan and bake 20-25 min.) While warm, drizzle with Lemon Frost and cool on racks.  Makes around 6 doz. (If baking as bars, drizzle, cool, and then cut.)
Note on top of emailed recipe: 
“Hi Kym,
Here’s the zucchini recipe I mentioned. 
It’s summer and the zucchini are threatening once again to take over the world!! Here’s an old recipe from a magazine over 30 years ago for a delicate cooke that will use up that last cup of shredded zucchini.”
And at the bottom, as her signature line, it says “I don’t want to see the kids be grown up. I want to see the grownups be more like kids.” — Woody Guthrie
I include all of this because this recipe is from my friend Pat, who died of ovarian cancer several years ago. I miss her and coming across this emailed recipe brought her back for a moment. 

Marshmallow Treats 
This is another classic “straight from the manufacturer” recipe, but still a good one. 

Mince Pies
My recipe is to order these from here or World Market. Or go to World Market and buy them. I like to put them in the oven for a little while, so I can say I baked them. 🙂

Mincemeat Squares
1-3/4 cup rolled oats
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup melted butter
1-1/2 cup mincemeat
Place baking soda and flour in a blow and mix, then add in brown sugar and oats. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Put half the mixture in a square pan, and spread evenly with mincemeat. Place remainder of crumble on top and pack firmly.
Bake at 350 F for 40 min. Cool and cut into bars. 
Because I’m too lazy to actually make mince pies, I make these. 

Pavlova
Beat together until frothy, 3 egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. Gradually beat in a little at a time, 1 cup sugar. Beat until very stiff and glossy. If desired, tint with food coloring. Spread on parchment paper on a baking sheet in a circle, heart, or whatever shape desired. May also make 8 individual shells by dropping 1/3 cup meringue on paper on baking sheet and shaping with the back of a spoon. Bake at 275 F (very slow oven) for 60 min. Turn off oven and leave in until cool. 
Fill with ice cream or fruit. Top with whipped cream if desired. Serves 8-10. Note: Meringue shells (cooled) may be loosely wrapped in wax paper and stored in a cupboard for several days. Do not place in an airtight container.
This recipe is actually called “Meringue Torte” and it comes from an old Betty Crocker cookbook I had from my mother. When I replaced the cookbook, I pulled out the recipes I liked, and this was one of them. I call it “Pavlova” because that’s what they called it in Australia, and I just like the way it sounds. The cookbook was from the fifties, and each recipe talks about the person who made it — Mrs. L. Norwood Smith and Miss Esoline Beauregard of Fort Lauderdale. 
The description for this recipe says, “A charming Minneapolis hostess has a special way of serving meringues at her delightful luncheon parties. She bakes little rounding handles of meringue to use with individual meringue shells (baked on the same paper) … then fashions meringue baskets of ice cream and fruit for individual servings.”
Sounds like a completely different world, doesn’t it?

Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening (Since I no longer use shortening, I will use all butter next time I make these)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
Cream butter (and shortening if you are using it); add sugars, cream again. Add eggs, peanut butter and vanilla. Sift rest of the ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Make small balls (walnut size) on a cookie sheet. Flatten with fork dipped in sugar. Bake 350 F for 12 min.
I love these cookies, the only peanut butter cookie recipe I’ll ever make. 

Potato Candy
Yes, it sounds weird, but it’s tasty, cheap, and super sweet. I’ve read potato candy has its roots in Irish cooking, and I’ve read it was invented in the southern U.S. during the depression. My German-descended grandmother made it, so I’ve linked to recipe that most approximates hers.
A few warnings: 
Use a small potato. You will be stunned how far it goes. 
The mixture will become watery, but keep adding powdered sugar to it until it thickens to a  dough you can roll. If it gets too dry, you can add a little milk.
My mom always put the peanut butter on, then rolled it like a jelly roll, and then rolled the jelly roll shape flat, spread with more peanut butter, and re-rolled into a jelly roll shape before slicing. 
Get creative! Search the Internet for variations. I’ve seen potato candy recipes with coconut, chocolate, and nuts. 

Salted Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Bark 
My friend Judy, who lives in IL, made this, and when I asked for the recipe, she said, “OK, but you have to promise not to over-think it. Just follow the directions and keep it simple.”  I did, and she’s right. Click through, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s simple to make and addictive so I only make it when I can give most of it away. It’s similar to graham cracker toffee, but I like the saltiness the pretzels add.

Seven Layer Bars 
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
1-6 oz pkg semi sweet chocolate chips
1-6  oz pkg butterscotch morsels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped nuts
Put butter in 9”x13” pan in oven while preheating to 350 F. Remove pan once butter is melted. Add ingredients in order above in layers. Press nuts lightly in place. Bake 25-30 min. Cool before cutting into bars. Freezes nicely.
Also sometimes called “Magic Cookie Bars,” this is my Aunt Eleanor’s version of the recipe. It doesn’t get much easier, and this recipe is very difficult to mess up. In fact, for years, I made it with 12 oz bags of both the chocolate and the butterscotch, and it was fine, though I have to admit the 6 oz version is slightly less tooth-rotting. 

Sherry/Brandy/Rum Balls
This is another Phyllis recipe and another email recipe (originally sent to Darling Daughter), which I am transcribing exactly as it is written so you can get the full flavor of her personality. 

Here we go. Can’t remember which your grandmother used at my house — possibly a combination???
2 cup vanilla wafers
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (don’t remember this item — but …)
2-1/2 cup conf sugar (divide — see below)
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/3 cup rum 
Crumb wafers and combine in bowl with above ingredients EXCEPT use 1 cup conf sugar. Mix well. Shape into balls and roll into rest of conf sugar.

Sherry or Brandy balls
2 (7-1/4 oz) packages vanilla wafers — finely crushed
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup sherry (or brandy — my preference)
4 cups finely ground walnuts
granulated sugar (We used powdered sugar, Helen)
Combine wafer crumbs, honey, sherry, walnuts — mix well. Shape into round balls/roll in sugar. Store in metal can or cookie jar. Flavor improves with age. 

Brandy Balls
Mix 2-1/2 cups vanilla cookie crumbs, 1 cup sifted powdered sugar; 2 tbsp cocoa, 1/4 cup brandy, 1 cup finely chopped walnuts, 3 tbsp corn syrup. Process as above. 
“YUM! Think I, too, will run out and get ingredients. Love, Phyllis”

Sugar Cookies 
1/2 cup butter + 1/2 cup shortening (or all butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp maple flavoring
Cream butter (and shortening if using). Add sugar, cream again. Add egg and vanilla. Beat thoroughly. Sift dry ingredients. Add to mixture. Roll into 1” balls, 2” apart. Flatten with glass with clean, dampened dish towel around it that has been dipped in sugar. (May use colored sugar for a seasonal touch.). Bake 350 F, 10-15 min until lightly browned. 
Another family recipe.

Swedish Cookies
Cream 1/2 pound butter (1 cup, 2 sticks), 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1-3/4 cup flour, sifted, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup ground nuts. 
It’s a stiff mixture. May have to mix by hand like pie dough. Drop from a teaspoon onto cookie sheet. Bake 20 min at 350 F. While still warm, shake in a paper bag with powdered sugar. Makes 5 doz. 
I’ve seen similar cookies called “Russian Teacakes,” “Mexican Wedding Cookies,” or “Snowballs,” but none have ever tasted quite as good as my mom’s “Swedish Cookies.” An English friend of ours once called them “moreish.”

8 thoughts on “Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 8 — Sweets, cont’d.

  1. How strange…. I was thinking about Pat today, and looking at photos of the quilt the group worked on together for her in 2016. She was a funny, clever, creative, bright lady.
    I have a simpler and quicker PNB Cookies recipe. I don’t suppose I’ll convert you, but they’re ready in 18 minutes from start to finish, which is *just* quick enough that the Dowager can have them with her coffee when she calls to say she’s coming to visit right now and she’s just leaving the house. So important to appear to be ready for all eventualities:
    1 cup crunchy peanut butter
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 cup raisins
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 cup mini dark choc chips.
    Mix everything together till there’s no visible peanut butter in the runny dough. Dollop dessertspoonfuls onto baking paper lined cookie sheet, leaving space for them to spread. Bake for 12 minutes at 350°F, or until the tops are slightly browned (it depends on your oven). If you have time, rotate the tray once halfway through for even baking. Cool on the paper for 5 minutes, then remove; if you take them off too soon they’ll stick.
    As you can see, they’re flourless and fatless (apart from said PNB), and can be made eggless if you use a tablespoonful of applesauce instead.

    Liked by 1 person

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