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?! What a combination! 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. (Don’t worry, in light of the fact I’m giving you a challenging recipe to explore, I’ll give you a more tasty recipe later in the post!)
PEANUT BUTTER CANAPES (From Alice Foote MacDougall’s Cook Book)
- peanut butter
- whole wheat bread
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.” Bread slices back in the day look 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 it would overwhelm the taste of the bacon. As it was around back in the 1930s, I used Skippy Peanut Butter and used the natural variety since I wasn’t sure if it would be closer in nature to the original.
The recipe concludes, “Chop the bacon when crisp into very small pieces and sprinkle the top of the peanut butter with the bacon.” As I was instructed to, I did so, and here is the final product. Yum (blech.) So I know you’re dying to know how this delicacy tasted. Not surprisingly, 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 more like a good old pb sandwich. Not as disgusting as I thought it would be, but still not something I’d share with a friend.
A TASTIER TREAT
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. To clarify, 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 (From Balanced Recipes)
- 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 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.
There you have it – my ode to peanut butter. However, because I like you, I’ll just leave you with the printable for the cookie recipe because, well, I’m a giver.
PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
This cookie oozes warm peanut buttery goodness. A perfect vintage accompaniment to any cookie plate. The recipe, known in the book as Peanut Butter Balls, is adapted from the 1933 cookbook Balanced Recipes.
Servings 16 ea
Calories 126 kcal
Peanut butter, creamy
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 375F. Sift flour, salt and soda together in a large bowl. In a stand mixer, cream peanut butter and shortening; add brown sugar gradually. Add unbeaten egg, lemon juice and grated lemon rind; beat well. Stir in dry ingredients. Chill dough thoroughly.
Grease baking sheets or use a baking mat. Form dough into small balls; place on baking sheet. Press each cookie once with tines of a fork to flatten, and then press again at a 90 degree angle to form a sort of cross decoration. If the dough crumbles a little press the dough back together.
Bake in a 375F oven for about 10 minutes. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet - they will firm up nicely without being tough or crunchy.