Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday Munchies: Scrumptious Turtles

In my last post, I mentioned having turtles during the opening night party of the Big Easy International Film Festival. Now, while turtle soup, a popular New Orleans delicacy, is actually made from real turtles, the kind of “turtles” to which I was referring are altogether different. Essentially thick shortbread cookies, turtles are embedded with pecans and topped with large dollops of fudge – which are then topped with more pecans. Truly, a perfect cookie.

But I must admit – as delicious as Rouses’ turtles are (that’s a regional supermarket, by the way), they just don’t compare to the “deliciousity” (okay, so I made that up) of the turtles that were once prepared by a local bakery chain known as McKenzie’s. Ah, McKenzie’s, how sweet you were. For over seven decades, McKenzie’s was perhaps the most popular bakery in New Orleans. In 2001, however, McKenzie’s closed its doors forever, taking its much-loved recipes with it.

I was living in Los Angeles at the time, so I only discovered this sad fact upon returning for a family visit. In desperation, I bought a cookbook called New Orleans Classic Desserts: Recipes from Favorite Restaurants by Kit Wohl – simply because it promised to contain an authentic McKenzie’s turtle recipe. That’ll teach me to purchase a cookbook before looking up consumer reviews.

Now, admittedly, I’m not the best of cooks, but I follow baking recipes just fine. So, imagine my surprise when my beloved turtles ended up looking like flat little chewy cookies that, while somewhat edible, had no resemblance to the McKenzie’s turtles of old. Boy, did my dad have a field day with that one! I knew I shouldn’t have promised that I’d do the dessert for that particular family meal. Or, at the very least, I should’ve looked up the book reviews first – ‘cause apparently I wasn’t the only one who had purchased the cookbook specifically for the turtles recipe, and I was certainly not the only one who had been burned by the lack of quality control.

As one reviewer, a former New Orleanian, wrote, “Unfortunately, the McKenzie's Turtle Cookies are lacking a few key ingredients. McKenzie's Turtle Cookies were a fond memory of my childhood, which I was hoping to share with my children. As written, the recipe yields a mess of flour. With a little research: Baking soda, Salt, Brown sugar, more butter, and less flour fix the recipe right up. After this disaster, I will have to confirm the rest of the recipes before I set foot in the kitchen. My mother hated cookbooks that were not kitchen tested before publication. My mother and I now have something in common. The pictures are lovely though.”

Although a newer version of the cookbook apparently contains a revised version of this recipe, I’m still skeptical to say the least. So, the moral of this sad little tale is fourfold:

1. Enjoy yummy treats – especially local delicacies – while you have access to them.
2. Do not, whatever you do, purchase that Kit Wohl cookbook unless you have the confirmation of other trustworthy gourmands.
3. Appreciate what you do have – like Rouses’ turtles – even if they are slightly less than the ones you remember.
4. Commiserate with others whenever possible. Joining the “I Miss McKenzie’s Bakery” fan page on Facebook certainly soothes my sadness a bit and revives some wonderful childhood memories, especially the times my mom and I would gorge ourselves on turtles while watching our favorite TV shows.

But, seriously, if anyone knows how to make those little McKenzie’s balls of goodness, you know where I live.

16 comments:

L. T. Host said...

I've never tasted any of the three, but I miss McKenzie's bakery now just because of your post! I want to try a turtle!

Stephanie Thornton said...

Turtles are yummy! But really, I've never met a chocolate anything I didn't like.

Laura Martone said...

Teehee, L.T. I should send you a little box of 'em. You won't regret it. :-)

Yeah, Steph, I'm with you. Pretty much all chocolate is awesome... French silk pie, chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate, hot cocoa... okay, I should stop now.

Becky said...

Umm. I'm thinking of King Cake. Google mckenzies and you'll get a few articles about Tastee doughnuts in New Orleans that are now selling the original mckenzie turtles. Never had them I'm afraid. Pralines were my favorite N.O. treat. BTW, have you been to St James Cheese Shop yet? Gosh I'm suddenly VERY hungry!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Becky! OMG, what a slew of yummy memories! I love king cake, pralines, and Tastee donuts, too! And I'd heard that, btw, about Tastee and the turtles... I'll have to find one. Today. ;-)

Natalie said...

Oh, I love turtles too! I think I've only had them a few times, but yum, they were good!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Oh how I miss McKenzies! My aunt worked there for like 20 years before they shut their doors so we always got free treats. My fave was the petit fours--the white ones and pink ones, mmm, I can almost taste them.

Morgan Xavier said...

Mmmm. Sounds good! There's nothing like that around here where I live :(

Susan R. Mills said...

I don't have a clue, but they sound delicious.

Becky said...

You're killing me! Doberge cake, red velvet... nothing like cakes down there. I'm not a big cake eater, but cakes from N.O. are THE BEST! Must... find... cake...

Bane of Anubis said...

The best thing about my sweet tooth is its simplicity... I 'bake' bread pudding on occasion - my favorite desert since trying it out at The State Grille in Houston - but I don't do any fancy kinds b/c I'd know I botch it -- it's just 5 ingredients (butter, sugar, bread, milk & eggs), which is about as high as I could go.

And, based on my preferences, I bet I would have lose those turtles of yours.

Bane of Anubis said...

um, that would be 'loved' not 'lose' -- man, I need to read before posting -- sheesh.

Laura Martone said...

Natalie - Yahoo! I think everyone should have a turtle at least once in her/his life.

Roni - Ooh, how jealous I am of your free McKenzie's treats! I liked the petit fours, but turtles will always be my favorite. And I was also partial to their king cakes - Gambino's always had too much icing, methinks.

Lisa - As with L.T., I should send you a few turtles, too!

Susan - Oh, they so are!

Becky - Oops, sorry. Doberge cake rocks, too. As for red velvet, I have a body wash that smells just like it, but it's kinda weird smelling like cake after a shower.

Laura Martone said...

Well, Bane, I promise that if I ever manage to find them again, I'll send you a few!

P.S. I've never been a bread pudding fan, though - I know, I know, that's blasphemy for a native New Orleanian.

Bane of Anubis said...

What, you don't like soggy bread dipped in sugary whiskey sauce?

Laura Martone said...

Uh... no? Call me crazy, but I always thought day-old bread was meant for the ducks at City Park, not dessert. ;-)

P.S. But I'll admit... Dan's dark chocolate cherry bread pudding is freakin' awesome - if freakin' rich.