We've all heard the story of how someone's mother's best friend's cousin's mother-in-law's mother-in-law (feel free to make up your own string of cast members) once worked for a restaurant, store or bakery; became embittered for some reason (no raise, laid-off or fired) and leaked the business' top-secret recipe to the world at large. The business then refutes the claim it is the original recipe and the truth lies somewhere in between.
In North Adams, it was the Apothecary Hall's recipe for mocha sundae sauce.
My friends and I would go to the Saturday matinee at the Mohawk or Paramount theaters and stop after the movie for a sundae, served with a paper cone-glass of seltzer on the side. And while you could choose your choice of ice cream, I was always the purist -- make mine coffee.
At the risk of launching another salvo in the local no-it's-not-the-original-recipe debate, I don't know whether it is the original and, to be honest, I don't care. It's still pretty darn good. After 20- or 30-plus years, I'm not sure I would be able to recognize the original anyway!
With a mixer, beat 2 egg whites until very stiff. Add 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons instant coffee (before adding, crush the granules with the back of a spoon until very fine), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3/4 cup light corn syrup and a pinch of salt. Beat until very thick. Ladle over your favorite ice cream and top with salted nuts, if desired.
Another "top-secret" recipe in my recipe box is one for Jordan Marsh's blueberry muffins. As anyone who has lived in Boston knows, Jordan Marsh's bakery, on the first floor of the flagship store on Washington Street, was famous for its delicious blueberry muffins. When I was in grad school at Boston University, no trip downtown was complete without stopping by for a muffin -- or two. The muffin was light and crumbly and the top was sugar-crusted and crunchy. Well worth the subway ride to Park Street!
According to a Boston Globe article in 2004, Jordan Marsh closed its bakeries in the early 1990s, shortly before Jordan Marsh was taken over by Macy's. After the Boston bakery closed, former Jordan Marsh baker John Pupek opened the Jordan Marsh Muffin Company in Brockton, which he operated until 2004. Pupek still owns the Jordan Marsh muffin name, which he claims he will never sell.
At last report, the muffins are still sold at a Macy's in Portland, Maine, where one of Pupek's former co-workers leases the bakery and bakes muffins from frozen batter that Pupek sells her -- thus keeping the recipe a secret.
Is the recipe I have for Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins the genuine article? Only John Pupek knows ...
Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins
1/2 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups blueberries
2 teaspoons sugar (for muffin tops)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until well blended. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with milk.
Mash 1/2 cup of the blueberries and stir into batter by hand. Then add remaining 2 cups of whole blueberries to the batter.
Grease muffin tins well with butter -- and also the top of the muffin tin as the batter will rise and overflow the cups. Pile the mix high in each cup and sprinkle each muffin top with sugar.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan about 25 minutes before removing.
Tips: If you have trouble with blueberries settling to the bottom try tossing them in flour before adding to the batter.
For a different taste, try using raspberries instead of blueberries.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.