When a reader asks Answer Man Roger Schlueter a question, he goes above and beyond the call of journalism. In this case, he not ony found out some history about a well-known former bakery in Belleville for a caller, but a recipe as well.
He shared it with me because he thought the readers of the food section would be interested, and I agree.
Peanut Squares are still very popular today in the metro-east. Roger got the recipe from Alice Lienesch of the St. Clair County Historical Society. It originally was from Feickert's Bakery in Belleville.
I reworded the directions and re-ordered the ingredients for the sake of clarity. I believe the "canned milk" here refers to evaporated milk; I think condensed milk would be too sweet to add to powdered sugar.
OLD BELLEVILLE PEANUT SQUARES
14 ounces of raw Spanish peanuts with skins
4 whole eggs (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
Lump of butter the size of a walnut (about 1 rounded tablespoon)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 slightly rounded teaspoons baking powder
Prepare peanuts: In a flat pan, roast at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir twice. Cool completely and chop finely. (This can be done ahead of time.)
While peanuts are cooling, turn oven up to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-by-13-inch glass pan by greasing and flouring. Line bottom with waxed paper cut to size.
With an electric mixer, beat eggs until light and add sugar very gradually; beat until thick and pale yellow.
Meanwhile, warm milk and butter just until butter melts. Do not boil or scald.
By hand, or at a slow speed, add flour and milk alternately. Add vanilla. Do not overbeat.
Sprinkle baking powder over batter and mix in.
Pour into pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan for a time and then turn out onto rack. Remove wax paper from bottom of cake, invert pan over top, cover and freeze.
Cut frozen cake into 2-inch squares. Makes 24.
Icing: Note that the amounts of ingredients listed here are vague. Combine until you reach a consistency that is a bit runny; you need to make enough to ice all sides of 24 squares. It must be sticky enough to hold the crushed peanuts onto the cakes.
Ice on all sides and roll in peanuts. Place on a rack to dry.