Joanie Lesnick, now living in Brookline, Mass., grew up in Baltimore and was hoping I could help her locate the recipe for the chocolate-topped cookies made by the now-closed Silbers in Baltimore.
The last Silbers closed in 1980, and while there are a few family members still living in Baltimore, none I contacted had the original recipe. Lissa Abrams, a granddaughter of Dora and Isaac Silber, who founded the bakery on Fayette and Exeter streets in 1907, told me after the last bakery closed, her aunt and uncle, Leonard Sneider and Libbye Silber Sneider, donated several binders with the bakery's recipe collection to the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Some years ago, Abrams said, a family member had contacted the museum about viewing the collection but the museum was unable to locate the binders.
I frequently get requests for Silbers recipes, so I decided this was worth some investigating. I contacted the Baltimore Museum of Industry and, thanks to the work of the new archivist, three large binders containing the Silbers recipes were located.
Not surprisingly, the recipes were for very large quantities and contained ingredients and instructions designed for commercial bakery applications. Unfortunately, I was not able to convert those original commercial recipes into something the home baker could use. Still, it was interesting to get a glimpse at all those old recipes and see what great care and detail was given to producing the baked goods for sale. As Abrams told me, the key to the success of Silbers was the use of only the best-quality ingredients.
"My mother would talk about going down to the market in the summer with her father, where he would bite into peaches until he found the sweetest crop for Silbers peach cake," she said.
I did manage to find the recipe for the chocolate-topped cookies in one of the binders, but it was for just for the base cookie without any directions for the chocolate topping. The yield was 55 pounds of cookies. So even though I had found a true treasure-trove of old recipes, I was still not able to come up with the recipe Lesnick was searching for.
However, many years ago we ran a recipe in this column that claimed to be a close replica of the Silbers chocolate top cookie. It was sent in by Jo Ann Nuetzel of Baltimore. This recipe produces a cookie that looks very much like the original. It's a good cookie, but like the chocolate-topped cookies you can still buy in local bakeries and supermarkets in Baltimore, it is not quite as good as those I remember from Silbers long ago.
Susan Katzenberg of Baltimore is searching for the recipe for what she described as a "crispy and crunchy skinny bar cookie with just a hint of coconut" that was sold at the long-closed Betty Patterson bakery located on Tyson and Read streets in downtown Baltimore. It's been years since she's had the cookie, but she remembers it with great fondness and would love to be able to taste it again.
Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream shortening and sugar well. Beat in the egg and almond flavoring. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Fill a cookie press, using the star design, and form 2- to 3-inch cookies. Bake on very lightly greased cookie sheets in a 375-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate buttercream frosting
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons milk
3 heaping tablespoons cocoa
Beat ingredients together. Place in a pastry bag with a star tip and decorate cooled cookies.