Monday, January 20, 2014

Antoinette Pope's apricot meringue sticks, 1948

"It can easily be understood, and perfect results will be obtained if the recipes are followed exactly."

So promise Antoinette and Francois Pope, of the cookbook based on their mid-twentieth century Chicago school (of Fancy Cookery, mind you) titled, sensibly, The Antoinette Pope School Cookbook. These cookie bars, which I imagine must fall under the heading "fancy," are a layer of egg-enriched, cakelike shortbread, topped with almost any kind of jam and baked briefly before being spread with a nut-filled meringue and then finished another fifteen minutes or so in the oven.

You will need, for the "stick" dough:

  • 2/3 cup butter (10 and 2/3 Tbsp, or 1 stick plus 2 and 2/3 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2/3 cup apricot, peach, red raspberry, or blackberry jam or preserves (I used much more -- one to 1 and 1/2 cups)

To begin, lightly grease a 10 x 14 inch jelly roll pan. (A 9 x 13 pan will do in a pinch, and might serve even better.) Cream the butter, add the sugar, and beat for one minute. Add the vanilla and the flour, a little at a time, and continue to beat until smooth. The dough "should be soft but not sticky."

Spread the dough into the greased pan. This will be difficult to do as the dough is very stiff -- the recipe recommends flattening it by placing a piece of protective wax paper over it and then pressing it down with a second jelly roll pan, but doing this surely makes little sense unless you have already spread your dough out fairly well by hand anyway. Wouldn't aggressively pressing a small, thick lump of dough with a second pan simply create a flatter, but extremely dense, small lump of dough? Perhaps I'm all wrong. Perhaps I didn't follow the recipe perfectly and exactly. I simply used a wooden spoon and worked and worked.

Anyway, let us say you have your cookie dough all finished and ready. Now, spread the jam on the surface of the dough. I found 2/3 cup was not nearly enough to meet the needs of a 10 x 14 inch pan. I'm sure I used over 1 cup and I may have used close to 1 and 1/2 cups.

Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the meringue. You will need:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts

Beat the egg whites "until they cling to the bowl," then add the sugar, a little at a time, and then the flour. Beat well for about 1 minute. Fold in the cup of chopped nuts.

After the dough and jam has baked 15 minutes, remove from the oven and quickly spread the meringue on top. Return to the oven and bake 15 minutes more, or until the meringue is browned. Remove from oven, and when everything is cool, cut into sticks about 1 inch wide and 3 inches long.

And listen carefully to Antoinette Pope, she of the 45-years-running cooking school and the thirteen-years-running television cooking show, who repeats the same advice that many mid-twentieth century cookbook authors give as a matter of fact: "The smart homemaker always has a jar of cookies on hand to be served with tea, coffee, or ice cream when the unexpected guest drops in, or to her family when she has been too occupied to prepare another dessert." There.

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