CHEESE DOLLARS, the ultimate potato chip, and MAMIE EISENHOWER’S PUMPKIN PIE
That’s potato chip as in “ can’t eat just one, ” and cheese dollars is because my version of this killer pastry – first cousin to the ever-popular cheese straw – is a bit bigger than a silver dollar. Please note I say “my” advisedly; in versions too numerous to fully research, this recipe has been around for years. But having just served them to a bunch of highly appreciative cheese dollar virgins I know there are still plenty of people who can use to hear the good news.
Insofar as it’s good. Like potato chips, cheese dollars are a symphony of sins: white flour, high fat cheese, butter and salt. Also nuts. However, there is also a secret ingredient that – if you have a good imagination – mitigates the damage.
Actually, I doubt the inclusion of Rice Krispies does much to reduce the calorie load (sorry, Carol). What it does is make cheese dollars crunchy in a distressingly addictive way, especially if you use the real thing. As a veteran of oatmeal cookies I once assumed generic crisp rice cereal would be just as good. It isn’t.
¾ pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
6 ounces ( 1 ½ sticks) butter
2 ½ cups all purpose flour, mixed with1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon paprika and ½ teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup chopped walnuts. Pecans are traditional but that’s probably because the root recipe is (almost surely) southern.
2 cups Rice Krispies
optional: about ½ cup tiny cubes of super-aged Gouda
1. Let the cheddar and butter soften in a large shallow mixing bowl, then mix briefly; you just need an even combination, not a uniform paste.
2. Work in the flour mixture, then the nuts. Stop here if you want to freeze the dough or refrigerate it for longer than a few hours.
3. Add the cereal ( and Gouda); it’s okay to knead it in with your hands but try not to work the dough any more than necessary. Form into walnut sized balls and place 2 inches apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Flatten the balls with floured fork tines. It would be nice if you could give these the refrigerator cookie treatment, but slice and bake doesn’t work. Too crumbly.
4. Bake at 350 until light gold, anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes, reversing the sheets halfway through the baking. Cool on wire racks and store airtight.
The pumpkin pie came to light while I was cruising around looking for early cheese dollar recipes. It’s hand-written in the front of my copy of The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, published in 1949 by Wm. H. Wise & Co. Inc. , of New York.
A nifty book, btw, over 1200 pages of definitions and recipes, most of the latter from what might be called parties with an agenda: the National Dairy Council, the California Prune Marketing Program, the American Meat Institute. But the huge acknowledgements list also includes the US Army Quartermasters Corps, the American Limoges China Corporation and – I burn to know, I truly do – the American Badminton Association.
So of course then what about the origin of Mamie’s recipe and starting to try to track THAT down when the slippery slope aspect became clear and I went out to divide the overgrown Salvia transylvanica.
All those large leaves belong to the salvia. The yellow flower with blue stems and columbinelike leaves is Thalictrum flavuum glaucum and this one has rather fallen over; the plants are about 5 feet tall and vulnerable to wind.
MAMIE EISENHOWER’S PUMPKIN PIE
Exactly transcribed from the handwritten version.
Three beaten egg yolks, ¾ cup brown sugar, 1 ½ cups cooked pumpkin, ½ cup milk ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. nutmeg.
Combine above ingredients and cook in double boiler until thick, stirring constantly. Soak 1 envelope gelatine in cold water and stir into hot mixture. Chill until fairly set. Beat 3 egg whites and ¼ cup granulated sugar, then beat until stiff. Fold into gelatine mixture. Pour into baked pie shell and chill until set. Garnish with whipped cream. Makes 1 big or 8 individual pies.
I wish she’d written her name in the book, but she didn’t. And she may have gotten it second hand herself. Although it appears to be a first printing , one of the handwritten recipes is for a “TV mix” quite similar to the mid-’60s version favored by my mother. That said, my mother’s didn’t include bacon drippings, which can sometimes be an indicator of (comparative) earliness.