Hip, hip, huzzah! On President’s Day, we shout out a hearty hurrah to George, our first president. We set aside a day in February each year to honor our Founding Fathers, and so we should. But wait. What about Martha?
We all know that behind every successful man there’s a great woman. Martha was George’s. She was quite a good catch, by George! With a great business savvy, she ran a huge, thriving tobacco plantation, left to her by her first husband. Colonel George married 27-year-old Martha Dandridge Custis, and the rest is history. She was smart, wealthy and a very good cook. George married well.
Martha took care of George. She made sure he had all kinds of fish, and Indian hoe cakes (cornmeal pancakes), swimming in honey and butter, both of which he loved. The couple enjoyed mocha coffee from the Red Sea, port and Madeira wine, porter beer, ale, cheese from England, French brandy, olives, capers, currants, coconuts, fruits, nuts, limes and turtle. Martha kept quite a kitchen.
This winter would have been a wonderful year for one of their favorite desserts – ice cream. Washington actually had chunks of ice removed from the river and kept in his ice house to be mixed later with cream, sugar and fruit. Portions were limited.
Martha had inherited a cookbook, a family heirloom, from her first mother-in-law. She used it for 50 years before passing it to granddaughter Nelly Parke Custis. Martha was known to bake and cook on occasion but cooking was ordinarily done by servants. She did, personally, supervise her whole staff, especially in the kitchen and dining rooms.
Besides being known for her famous pound cake that used 40 eggs and five pounds of flour (almost as famous as Stock’s), Martha’s recipes included: fruit preserves, fruitcakes, sugar cake and cookies, ginger bread, macaroons, lady fingers, cheese cake, pies, tarts, and ice cream. Rose water was a favorite flavoring agent back in her day. She didn’t use vanilla extract or baking powder, because they were not available yet.
In a nod to “shout out” equality, this column celebrates our first First Lady with a bar-cookie version of macaroons that includes chocolate. Martha would have called them “mackroons.”
MARTHA WASHINGTON MACAROON BARS
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
l/4 cup butter (l/2 stick)
½ cup crushed chocolate graham crackers (3 whole crackers)
1 cup sliced almonds
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
3 cups coconut
¾ cup flour
1½ cups semi-sweet, milk or dark chocolate chips
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line 13” x 9” pan with foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray or use nonstick foil.
- Microwave chocolate chips and butter for 30 seconds, stir, microwave again 20-30 seconds or until melted. Avoid burning chocolate.
- Stir in crumbs and almonds.
- Spread mixture evenly to cover the bottom of foil-lined pan.
- Refrigerate 15 minutes or until set.
- Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
- Add vanilla and almond extracts and blend well.
- Stir in coconut and flour until well mixed.
- Spread filling evenly over chocolate-almond bottom layer.
- Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and center is set when lightly touched.
- Remove pan from oven and distribute chocolate chips evenly over macaroon mixture.
- If chips won’t spread easily, return pan to oven for 30 seconds (be vigilant – chocolate burns if left too long in oven) so chocolate will melt and be spreadable.
- Smooth melted chocolate chips evenly over macaroons.
- Cool and refrigerate pan for a few hours.
- Cut into bars.
Always held and carried in Martha’s heart, George will not be forgotten soon by us, either. We carry him around daily (with any luck, he’s hanging with his friend, Ben) in our wallets, and we are glad to see his face every time we “pass the buck.”
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053.)