At some point in our lives we’ll all take a phone call, where immediately we can tell that something is wrong. It’s either because it’s from someone we don’t usually hear from or there’s a detectable strain in the person’s voice. Immediately we hold our breath and pray that everything is okay. Last week, I had one of those phone calls.
My mom and my cousin who live in Newfoundland, had been travelling on the highway and had been in a car accident. One that could have quite easily, been much more devastating than it was. While slowed to turn, a truck carrying a full load of jet fuel could not slow down and in order to avoid hitting them, veered around them on the right shoulder. While doing this he collided with their right back bumper and pushed them across the highway and onto the opposite shoulder. Thankfully there was no other traffic and each vehicle was able to stop before hitting the guard rail, which was by this point a barrier between the highway and the water below.
At times like this you stop to take stock of the situation and you get a sense that, “if this” or “if that” had happened, the outcome could have been much worse. Which makes you grateful that things turned out the way they did.
This got me thinking about my mom and all of the things she’s accomplished over the years. When we were growing up as kids she worked in The Kitchen’s of Sara Lee. I remember as a kid how she would cook, clean and bake all day before heading out for her shift in the afternoon. She always wanted to have food ready for us kids when we came home from school and she couldn’t be there.
One of the things she often made were marshmallow squares. The crust was always thick, buttery and flaky and I remember it often crumbled when you bit into it. The marshmallow was super thick, twice as thick as mine (so I think she must have used a 9″ x 9″ pan whereas, I’ve used a 9″ x 13″) and the palest pink. Often they were cut into squares, rolled in fine white coconut and placed out on a sheet of waxed paper in a square Tupperware container. When we came home, all we had to do was peel back that lid and bite into the sticky sweetness.
These squares go way back to my grandmother’s era when gelatin desserts were all the rage. The ingredients are simple, right down to the nostalgic Club House food colouring. Not wanting to bother mom for the recipe, I once again thumbed through my Anglican Church Ladies cookbook and found a recipe for Marshmallow Squares and immediately knew I would make these in honour of my mom. I don’t ever remember cherries in them but this particular recipe suggested them, and since my husband loves cherries, I thought that would be the way to go.
Working from memory, I don’t think these squares are exactly like mom’s — they seem somewhat sweeter than I remember but everyone enjoyed them because of course, my family’s fond of sweet. The addition of cherries adds a second level of sweetness so I took it easy on the coconut, just sprinkling some on the top instead of rolling each side in it. I think the next time I make them, I may experiment and reduce the sugar slightly, leave out the cherries and roll them in coconut to see if I can match my childhood memories. Or I may even give mom a call and see if she still has her old recipe 😉
Old Fashioned Coconut Marshmallow Squares
3/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix together and press into a 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 325 degrees F.
2 tbsp. unflavoured gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup red cherries, chopped, optional
1/2 tsp. almond flavouring, optional
1 tsp. Club House red food colouring (any brand of liquid colouring will do)
1/4 cup fine coconut
Sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.
In a saucepan, put sugar and hot water to boil for 2 minutes over high heat. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture to the hot syrup. Stir until dissolved. Beat in electric mixer until thick and stiff. Fold in cherries, flavouring, and food colouring. Spoon mixture over shortbread and smooth out with a spatula. You can dip your spatula in hot water if the marshmallow is sticking.
Cool several hours at room temperature until firm. Cut into squares and sprinkle with, or roll in, coconut. Store in a airtight container.
Makes 1-1/2 dozen squares
Note: These square would be beautiful cut small and served at a shower.