Call it nostalgia, call it obsession, but I cannot for the life of me pass by any recipe promising a new (and of course potentially addictive) recipe for anything featuring butterscotch. And so, I offer you three of my favorites from that category, my own personal folie a trois, if you will. But first, a word of caution: Abandon belts, all ye who enter here!
The first is a “backdoor” entry, since butterscotch plays only a supporting role in the finished dessert: Chocolate Steamed Pudding, served warm with a decadent, diet-defying Butterscotch Sauce. The “pudding”, which is actually more cake-like than pudding-like, is one my mother used to make when I was a child, and remains a favorite dessert. My mother served it with an English-style custard sauce, but to me butterscotch and chocolate are at least as delectable a combo as peanut butter and chocolate, so I went looking for the perfect butterscotch sauce to it top off. I was aware that Schrafft’s, that once-famous Boston landmark, was known for theirs, but then I remembered that the same book that held the recipe for the pudding also had one for a Butterscotch Sauce, so I have opted for that recipe. Everything I have made from that book has been wonderful. Besides, upon comparing the two recipes the only real difference is the addition of ½ teaspoon of vanilla in the Schrafft’s recipe. Also, since Schrafft’s fame predated even my mother’s ancient 1940s Spry cookbook, I highly suspect that they may have drawn heavily from an already famous recipe.
Serves 6 to 8
STEAMED CHOCOLATE PUDDING
From my mother’s 1940s vintage Spry Cookbook
1/4 cup solid shortening or unsalted butter (the original called for Spry)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1 1/2 ounces baking chocolate (unsweetened, that is), melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup milk
Grease and flour a 1-quart mold. My mother always made it in an empty Crisco can.
Combine butter, salt, soda, and vanilla; add sugar and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat thoroughly. Add chocolate and blend. Add flour, alternately with milk, beating after each addition until smooth. Pour into the mold, cover tightly, and steam 1 1/2 hours. Serve with this Butterscotch Sauce.
Makes 1 1/4 cups
OLD-FASHIONED BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE
1940s vintage Spry cookbook
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup light cream
1 T butter
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook until a small amount of the mixture forma a soft ball in cold water (238° F).
Next is my favorite fast and simple butterscotch fix: Butterscotch Brownies. Not Blondies, which may look like them, but just don’t deliver the perfect balance of butter and brown sugar that these do. When you find yourself on one of those nights where you’re jonesing for a sweet fix, they are just ten minutes away from popping in the oven, because there are only a few ingredients, and they’re mixed right in the pan you melt the butter in. Plus, all the ingredients are likely be on hand right in your pantry.
1 stick (4 ounces) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar. Beat with a spoon to get rid of the lumps. Add the egg and beat it in. Add the salt, vanilla and baking powder and stir to incorporate. Add the flour and stir till incorporated. Stir in walnuts. Pour into a greased 9” x 9” baking pan, and bake for about 25 minutes.
My final recipe actually IS a Schrafft’s classic, and “back in the day” it was right up there in popularity with their Butterscotch and Hot Fudge Sauces. It is an exceptional cookie, both in flavor and texture, so much so that I really don’t dare have them around too often. And I don’t even have a sweet tooth!
Note: Using 100% butter does not work in this recipe; only a solid shortening will produce the ultra-crisp texture of the original cookie. I know this because I tried an all-butter version after seeing that Martha Stewart made hers with just butter. The taste is heavenly, but the crispness factor is altered exponentially. The addition of a bit of butter in this recipe, adapted from the original by Marion Cunningham, gives it a nice buttery taste with nothing else compromised. The usual “solid shortening’ refers to Crisco, but if you have serious objections to even an occasional hit of hydrogenated fats, you can find a few fine alternatives at stores like Whole Foods.
Makes about 30 cookies
SCHRAFFT’S BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES
2 T butter at room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature, NOT butter (see Note)
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 T nonfat dry milk
1 T vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp.. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease baking sheets.
Combine the butter and shortening in a bowl and beat for a few seconds. Add the sugar and beat until creamy. Add the egg, dry milk and vanilla and beat until light.
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Stir with a fork to mix and lighten. Add to the butter mixture and blend well. Stir in the pecans and mix well.
Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto the baking sheet. Dip the bottom of a 3-inch diameter drinking glass into flour and use it to press the dough into a circle of the same dimension. If the dough sticks a little as you lift off the glass, scrape it from the glass and pat any bits back into the circle of dough to make it even and neatly round. Dip the glass into flour after each use.
Bake the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and gently lift the cookies onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.