Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Sullavan Recipes’

Cookie Catastrophe

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

This is the photo that appeared with Margaret Sullavan's alleged recipe. Jake Jacobs estimates that it was published around 1938.

I recently purchased a CD called Hollywood Cooks! from Kathleen O’Quinn Jacobs and her husband Jake. Collectors and vendors of movie memorabilia, the two have scanned recipes and food-related stories from myriad old movie magazines.
Naturally, I felt the need to try one of the recipes—and since it was almost the end of the month and I hadn’t yet posted a “Twelve Cookies of Christmas” recipe I decided to share with you the recipe for Margaret Sullavan’s peanut-butter hermit cookies.
Or not.
Here’s what happened: I made the hermits yesterday. They were absolutely the easiest cookies I’ve ever made, featuring very few ingredients: condensed milk, peanut butter, and graham-cracker crumbs (plus a little salt). They shaped up very nicely on the baking pan.
Unfortunately, they didn’t pass muster in terms of taste.
Even my mother, who at 91 eats cookies at a rate that belies her slenderness, passed by the cookie jar (which I placed out in the open hoping she would eat some of the darn things) without even stopping.
She may not be able to articulate where she is or who I am all the time, but her brain retains information about pets and cookies very well. She never forgets our dog Truffle’s name. And she remembered that she didn’t like this recipe.
The problem has got something to do with the condensed milk, I think. It renders the texture a bit rubbery. And frankly the cookies just don’t offer enough peanut-butter flavor. Or flavor of any kind.

This probably makes sense. Actress Margaret Sullivan (1909-1960) is delightful in such films as The Shop Around the Corner (1940) with Jimmy Stewart. And she’s touching in No Sad Songs for Me (1950), in which her character gets ready for death in a romanticized preview of Sullavan’s own early demise. 

Sullavan with James Stewart

Nevertheless, nowhere in her daughter Brooke Hayward’s family memoir Haywire or in Lawrence Quirk’s biography Margaret Sullavan: Child of Fate did I find any reference to this mercurial actress’s skill in the kitchen. She probably never actually baked a hermit in her life.
In order to salvage my cookie post and not abandon Sullavan entirely, I am sharing a recipe that relies on her three main ingredients (plus a couple of additional ones!). I got the idea from Borden’s Eagle-brand web site, which features a number of recipes that involve condensed milk.
I don’t know whether Margaret Sullavan would have approved—but I’m sure that Brooke Hayward would have enjoyed my non-hermits as a child! A relative of the ever popular Hello Dolly Bars, also known as Magic Bars, they’re VERY sweet and chewy.
My mother LOVES them.
Please keep your fingers crossed for me as I move on to my next movie-star dish…….. 

Before I get to my recipe, here is Miss Sullavan’s version:

Margaret Sullavan’s Peanut Butter Hermits
1 cup sweetened condensed milk (a little less than a 14-ounce can)
6 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
Thoroughly blend together the milk and peanut butter. Add salt and graham cracker crumbs. Mix well. Drop by spoonfuls (I used a 2-tablespoon scoop) onto a buttered baking sheet (I used two). Bake 15 minutes, or until brown, in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees). Makes eighteen hermits.
NOT Margaret Sullavan’s Peanut Butter Hermits
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1-1/2 cups graham-cracker crumbs
2-1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup salted peanuts (optional but good for crunch and peanut flavor)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1-1/4 cups peanut-butter chips
2/3 cup peanut butter (I used chunky)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil, and butter the foil generously.
In a saucepan melt the butter. Blend in the graham-cracker crumbs, and press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and up the sides an inch or so.
Place the coconut on top of the graham-cracker crust. Throw on the peanuts if you are using them. Pour the condensed milk over all.
Bake this mixture for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it browns lightly.
While you are baking, use a double boiler to melt the chips and peanut butter together. Gently stir this mixture over the baked mixture.
Cool the bars on a wire rack for 15 minutes; then cover them with foil and refrigerate until the chocolate is set. (In my kitchen on a hot day this took more than 2 hours.)

Cut the baked stuff into bars. Makes between 16 and 60 little squares, depending on how big you want to cut them.

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