I like to dabble in the kitchen and love collecting cookbooks. I came across the gem Alice Foote MacDougall’s Cook Book, written in 1935. As I was thumbing through it I came across an entry for Peanut Butter Canapés. I had to take a second look. Peanut butter? Somehow peanut butter and hors d’oeuvres don’t go together in my brain. Then I looked further. It’s secondary ingredient was bacon. What?! Peanut butter and bacon? Now I know bacon is considered by many “baconistas” as the uber-food. I’ve heard of all kinds of concoctions, from maple bacon lollipops, to bacon brittle, to chocolate-covered bacon. But I’ve never seen them proposed in a cookbook as a delicacy that I’d wish to highlight my cooking talents to my friends with. To me, they’re more of an I-double-dog-dare-you-eat-it-type of food. So of course, I had to try this 1930s delicacy of Alice’s. The book says this is a familiar and, to many people, a most delicious canapé. Really? O.k.
It says it, “is made by using 3 broiled strips of finely-cured bacon.” I didn’t broil mine, I baked it, the way I normally make bacon (thank you Barefoot Contessa!) The recipe continues to say, “after broiling, lay the bacon on a sheet of brown paper in order to crisp it.” I used paper towels, since I didn’t have any brown paper around.
Alice says, “In the meantime, spread fluted circles of whole wheat bread with peanut butter.” I believe bread slices back in the day was a little thinner than mine, from what I’ve seen in photos. I also toasted mine in the oven for around 10 minutes to dry it out a little and give it some body to support the toppings. I experimented with both a thick and thin spreading of the peanut butter, to see when the peanut butter would overwhelm the taste of the bacon. I used Skippy, since they were around in the 1930s, and used the natural variety since I wasn’t sure if it would be closer in nature to the original.
And the recipe concludes, “Chop the bacon when crisp into very small pieces and sprinkle the top of the peanut butter with the bacon.” I did so and here is the final product. Yum (blech.) So I know you’re dying to know how this delicacy tasted. It tasted like peanut butter. No matter how thick or thin it was, it still overwhelmed the bacon flavor. Every once and awhile I’d get a taste of bacon, but it mostly tasted like a peanut butter sandwich. Not as disgusting as I thought it would be, but still not something I’d share with a friend.
So, to not lead everyone to thinking I’ve maligned peanut butter by pairing it with a pig, I’ll conclude with a more palatable peanut butter recipe. From the 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook from the Pillsbury Flour Mills Company, I made their “Peanut Butter Balls” recipe, which is really just peanut butter cookies. Yes, I understand that for some unfathomable reason, they labeled a flat cookie a ball. I found this recipe online at The Food Timeline, but in looking up the book at booksellers, I found I want to buy this cookbook, if only for its binding – it has a delicious deco aluminum (yes I said aluminum) cover. The recipe, with my notations, is:
PEANUT BUTTER BALLS
Recipe from Balanced Recipes, via The Food Timeline
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp soda
- ½ cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup shortening
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Grated rind of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 375F. Sift flour, salt and soda together. Cream peanut butter and shortening; add sugar gradually. Add unbeaten egg, lemon juice and grated rind; beat well. Stir in dry ingredients. Chill dough thoroughly (I left mine in the refrigerator for several hours and it was still very workable.)
Form dough into small balls; place on greased baking sheet; press each cookie once with tines of a fork to flatten (I did the now traditional two presses.) When I was forming my balls, they were prone to crumbling, as well as when I press the fork tines in. I just reformed and pressed the dough back together. Bake in moderate oven. The recipe as posted on The Food Timeline doesn’t say how long to bake them. I baked mine for 10 minutes and they came out perfect. I left them on the sheet to cool as they were very soft, but once cooled firmed up nicely without being tough or crunchy.
And there you have it – my ode to peanut butter and bacon. I still prefer my bacon plain, roasted, with pepper cracked over the top. Call me a purist.