Thursday, July 27, 2006

Toddle House – Chocolate Ice Box Pie & Hash Browns


Stepping away from the present-day NBA melodrama, I slide back into the sublime – this time reminiscing about the Toddle House (I don't know about Seattle, but this popular nationwide chain was in New Orleans, also, according to http://www.fudcourt.com/loupe009.html).

According to www.atlantatimemachine.com,
Toddle House was formed in 1932 by Fred Smith – his son Frederick Wallace Smith started Federal Express.
To this day, the diner chain is revered by many posters on the internet. For example, from a poster at www.roadfood.com,
As a sailor stationed on board the USS Mississippi home ported in Norfolk in the late 40's and early 50's I would stop at the Toddle House in Norfolk at the end of every liberty. On board our ship we were blessed with eating powdered eggs, for breakfast. My deal was eggs sunnyside up, sometimes 4ea and bacon. They cooked them in a small frying pan in butter then turning them out on the griddle then on your plate. The Toddle house saved me from starving for eggs for 4 years. When I settled in Oklahoma City, there was a little Toddle House on N. Walker about 12th Street. There I discovered chocolate ice box pie!! That was great. I miss the Toddle House.
Toddle House also provided the venue of more serious history. From www.crmvet.org comes this image and description (circa 1963-64) by Danny Lyon, Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, credit Edwynn Houk Gallery:

A Toddle House in Atlanta has the distinction of being occupied during a sit-in by some of the most effective organizers in America when the SNCC staff and supporters take a break from a conference to demonstrate.
As far as I know, Oklahoma City's Toddle Houses were not the the setting of any civil rights sit-ins (but other restaurants were, a post for another day yet to come).

When coming to Oklahoma City for those exhilarating debate trips during 1959-1962, not only did we stay at the Park-O-Tell and eat at the Lincoln Boulevard Chicken-In-The-Rough, when the debate trip destination was Oklahoma City University, we'd also partake of the fine food at the Toddle House diner located on NW 23rd somewhat near the OCU campus on the south side of NW 23rd.

If you are lucky enough to be able to find them, the Vanished Splendor series published between 1982 (Vol I) and 1985 (Vol III) by Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co, Okc, written and assembled by Jim Edwards, Mitchell Oliphant, and Hal Ottaway (as to Vol III) are all incredibly helpful for learning obscure historic detail as to both images and facts. Sad to say, the books are out of print. But, Vol III of the series provides the only image I've been able to locate of this venerable presence of Toddle House in Oklahoma City.

From Vanished Splendor, Vol 3, Item 507, comes this image:


Describing this postcard, Vanished Splendor's text reads:
The “Toddle Houses” were a national chain of small cafes specializing in breakfast. Each tiny outlet was built to the same plan, and contained no tables, but merely a short counter with a row of stools. At one time there were three Oklahoma City locations: 1307 North Broadway, 329 Northwest Twenty-third, and 1221 North Walker. Former customers still remember the fluffy scrambled eggs prepared in a special way. Payment was on the honor system: customers deposited their checks with the correct amount in a box by the door on the way out. In business in Oklahoma City some thirty years, the Toddle Houses closed here in the 1960’s.
Why is this Toddle House significant to me? The answer is simple – its Chocolate Ice Box Pie!!! Oh! If you've not had the privilege of letting this scrumptiously firm-but-creamy pie mesmerize your mouth's taste buds yearning for nirvana, you've missed out on one of the finer experiences (excepting, of course, your husband or bride, children and grandchildren) that you could possibly have had in this or any other lifetime! Well, maybe that's too much hyperbole, but you get my point.

Over the years, I've not been able to locate the "real" recipe (maybe until yesterday, below). I've had to settle with this one which I've fine tuned to make as closely as possible to my taste buds' recollections:
This recipe is for 2 pies (recommended); halve the ingredients for only one pie.

Ingredients

• 2 nine inch pie shells (make your own if you must; but Pillsbury’s are great)
• 2 ½ cups sugar
• 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
• 2 tbsp. cornstarch
• ½ tsp. salt
• 5 cups whole milk
• 8 egg yolks
• 6 one-ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
• 2 tbsp. real butter
• 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp. almond extract (this is my innovation – probably 2 tbsp. vanilla is more "pure")
• 2 cups of whipping cream

What You Do

• Bake Pie Shells: bake your pie shells in the oven, per the supplier’s recommendations (as said, I like the Pillsbury pie shells – they are nice and flaky); you want the pie shells done by the time the next steps are finished; don’t overcook – you want them to be light-tan, but not more brown than that

• Combine 1st Ingredients: sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, in a medium saucepan

• Combine 2nd Ingredients: in a separate bowl/pan, beat the milk & the egg yolks

• Combine & Heat 1st & 2nd Ingredients: mix them together (using your wooden spoon) in a sauce pan until fairly smooth; stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and at full boil; then, continue stirring and boil for an additional minute; remove from heat

• Add chocolate squares, butter, vanilla and almond extracts: in the same pan, with no external heat, add these ingredients, stirring with your wooden spoon until the chocolate and butter is melted and the mixture is smooth

• Pour Mixture Into Cooked Pie Shells: this is a no-brainer; you might want to use a spatula to make the top of the pies relatively flat, but it’s no big deal; cover the pies with plastic-type-wrap to seal moisture, and put them in the fridge; they need to remain there until they are cold/cool (if you don’t, the whipped cream (next step) will “melt” and you don’t really want that to happen)

Next-To-Last Steps

• Disingenuously Offer Another Person To Lick the Pan: remnants of the mix will still be in the cooking pan; if you’re into being generous, allow someone else to do this, or, if you’re not, lick it yourself – it will be their gain or your loss; this has nothing to do with the recipe

• Whip the Whipping Cream: “real” chocolate ice box pies don’t use “canned” whipping cream – but do what you must; to do the real deal, whip the whipping cream, adding about a teaspoon or a bit more of sugar, with/in your mixer until the whipped cream is “very firm” (not in any way “runny”); cover it with plastic or other wrap and stick in the fridge while the pies cool

• After the pies are cold, remove them and the whipping cream you've made from the fridge; spread the whipping cream over the top of the pies with a spatula; garnish the top, if you like, with curls of raw chocolate (use your potato peeler); cover with plastic or other wrap & stick ‘em back in the fridge.

Important Last Step

• Discourage your company from eating the pies; tell them it is not what you had hoped for, with profound apologies; later, when they're gone, eat the remainder or keep it in a safe place until you are ready to do so.
The above is my recipe. But, yesterday, I found what may be the "original" recipe, I don't know. From www.journalnow.com comes this recipe for the Toddle House Chocolate Ice Box Pie:

Toddle House Chocolate Pie (they left out "ice box" – Toddle House never did)
By Michael Hastings
Journal Food Editor

Suzanne H. Chambers' request for Toddle House Chocolate Pie and Mrs. Harris' Pound Cake prompted a flood of responses from our readers. Judging by the dozens of letters we received, these two are among the favorites printed in the Winston-Salem Journal over the years.

2 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup plus 6 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup cocoa
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pints milk
2 ½ egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla
Baked pastry crusts
Whipping cream

1. Sift together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt into bowl of mixer. On medium speed, add half the milk and mix thoroughly. Add egg yolks; mix thoroughly, being careful that mixture does not foam.

2. Place remaining milk in top of double boiler over boiling water. When milk is scalding hot, add chocolate mixture. Stir with wooden spoon and cook until the consistency of whipped cream is reached.

3. Put in bowl of mixer on medium. Allow to mix (just until combined). Cool. Add vanilla and mix for 5 minutes.

4. Cover with wax paper and completely cool before placing in refrigerator. Use 1 pound and 8 ounces of filling in each pie shell. Top with whipped cream. This should make 2 to 3 pies or more.
I've not tried the above, being quite content with what I've achieved, but there it is for those that want it! I'll probably try it sometime.

Hash Browns

For those of you who might have been taken with Toddle House's hash browns every bit as much as I am with its chocolate ice box pie, here's another recipe I found for that yesterday morning at www.roadfood.com:

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

WSJ Living Food Recipe SwapArchive
Hash Browns 'Toddle House'

By Michael Hastings
Journal Food Editor

The following recipe for hash browns, requested by Charles Eldridge of the Zephyr community near Elkin, was sent in by Cheryl Dinkins of Yadkinville.

Dinkins got the recipe from her stepfather, Bill Johnson, who used to operate the Toddle House restaurant in Winston-Salem. Dinkins said her stepfather told her that the secret is to use prebaked potatoes.

Toddle House Hash Browns
Baking potatoes
Vegetable oil
Paprika
Salt and pepper

1. Bake potatoes. When done and cool enough to handle, peel and dice.

2. In a saute pan over medium heat, put about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or enough to prevent potatoes from sticking.

3. When oil is hot, measure 1 cup diced cooked potatoes, add them to pan and sprinkle with enough paprika to give them a nice color.

4. Flip and fry potatoes until golden brown. Serve hot with salt and pepper to taste.
Once you've eaten of these sumptuous treats, you may well forget about the Okc-New Orleans-Seattle drama!

Or not!

27 comments:

elvispiaf said...

In the summer of '61 I worked at Toddle Houses in San Antonio. I made $0.55 per hour plus one meal daily (anything but the filet). I vividly recall the former locations in SA and Austin including layouts & menus. But I have a question: What was the address of the sole location in Tulsa? My Dad managed this place in 1947. I was 5 years old and I don't remember any street names.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Elvis,

I don't know Tulsa all that well but I'll see if I can find it. If I do, I'll reply here in these comments.

Diana said...

Elvis,
My dad worked for Toddle House for many years in the '50s and '60s and even reached upper management. He was in Texas, New Mexico and traveled to Arkansas and Tennessee. In fact, he has the entire menu still memorized in his head and can still prepare every dish on the menu by memory! If you would like his email address and info, I'll be happy to provide to you. He was mainly in Austin. He can still cook hashbrowns two skillets at a time, he can flip 8 eggs two skillets at a time (4 in each skillet), breaks 2 eggs at a time in one hand and is a whiz in the kitchen! He has many many toddle house stories that I still love to hear! :)

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Diana. Would you happen to have a copy of an old menu? I'd surely love to have it and post it here, if you do and are willing!

downtown donnie brown said...

I swear it seems that there were onions in those hash browns.I do remember the steel rings they cooked them in and the cook banging the spatula to open the spring loaded rings.One recipe i saw mentioned a steelpitcher of butter that stayed melted on the griddle and was what the hash browns were cooked with.Did the recipes vary,or am i any where close?

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, downtown donnie brown. I don't know ... but I'd suppose that the methods/recipes were consistent from one diner to the next ... I don't recall onions, but it's been a looonnng time ago!

Anonymous said...

ANYBODY FROM THE FORT WORTH AREA REMEMBER THE TODDLE HOUSE IN THE 1700 BLOCK OF HEMPHILL STREET? I THINK IT WAS CLOSE TO ALLEN AVENUE INTERSECTION. I LIVED ON THE SOUTH SIDE AS A KID AND USED TO IN THERE ALL THE TIME IN THE LATE 50'S AND EARLY 60'S ANYONE KNOW IF THERE IS ANY LEFT ANYWHERE?

Doug Dawg said...

Anon, I can't help you with Ft. Worth Toddle Houses. As for any surviving, if Google searches have provided correct information, they are all gone. This Wikipedia article appears to be accurate.

Anonymous said...

Well I can tell you that my dad actually invented the hash brown ring in a Toddle House on Highland Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee. He started with one of the metal cans that other food items were in. He cut the can in two places, filed it, then used it as the hash brown ring. Unfortunately back then no one knew anything about patents so hope everyone enjoys it.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Anon, for the good history (and the good ideas from you and your dad).

PMH said...

I worked for Toddle House/Dobbs House for 15 years. I worked in Madison, WI;Chicago,(6 of them there);Springfield, IL;Milwaukee,Indianapolis,Omaha,Des Moines,Kansas City,Little Rock, & Clinton,IA. All food was prepared in the commissary & then delivered to the other shops. All pies & waffles were made with cream,never milk.Butter was used in all recipes. Depending on the area, hash browns were cooked in the ring or frying pan.When I started with Toddle House,(1960,State St. Madison)the hash browns were cubed & fried in oil with paprika. As far as I am concerned,when Dobb's took over it was the beginning of the end. They were too cost oriented and cut everything.

jlprod said...

Hi guys-well, I was a toddle house manager in albuquerque in the 50's- I was only 16, the previous manager got a job driving a city bus, stopped by one night, sid,"well, you're the manager now!!"

for hhistory purposes, Johnny Dobbs started the original Dobbs House, then some friends of his started calling it Toddle House-
they could not open a dobbs house for x amount of years-
I was city manager in Charleston,south carolina for many years- loved the special "Toddle House Egg Omelet", whipped up in a milk shake machine, cooked freal fluffy and served on a hot plate- the egg pans wre a special design, invented by and patented by the company-the waffles were also special- many people think I am crazy for mentioning the honor system they used- but it worked!!
I miss them- the last I heard they had been absorbed my Curtis Candy Co, and I guess went out for lack of upper management-I will always miss them, and the blackbottom pie- my first managers job was in Albuquerque, then I was city manager of Charleston-
anyone have any more recipes, write me at jlpros@yahoo.com- (I am "pops" as a nickname, being 67 years old-

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Pops, for the good run down. I'd surely like to have some photos ... anyone?

PapaJeff said...

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. I literally just finished making my version of what I call Chocolate Cream Pie and longingly recalled a simpler time when chocolate cream pies fought with Banana Cream Pies and had to make room for some incredible and unique hash browns. I wondered if any trace of it could be found if I searched for Toddle House on the Internet. When I found this site and the photograph I almost cried; and I'm a guy. I grew up in Jackson Heights, NY a short subway ride from Manhattan. I went to PS 69 which was between 78th and 77th Streets. Opposite one corner, on the corner was Toddle House. Sadly, I think Toddle House meant more to me than anything I learned in school. So again, thank you so very much for bringing my memories back to me. It meant a lot. Thanks, Jeff Loewi

Doug Dawg said...

Hi, Jeff! Welcome to Oklahoma City! The old Toddle Houses were surely fine and I'm glad that you found something good here. Now, go make some pies!

Nick said...

Who remembers the Pittsburgh,PA Toddle House on McKee Place in the Oakland section? My home town where I spent every evening I could during the 1947-1949 era, enjoying the best hamburgers, ice-box pies, coffee and milk that I can remember; served by the nicest blonde anywhere! Can anyone relate and discuss this dream time with me??? I am now in Upstate New York; email: Nrep6@aol.com

bluesriff@ca.rr.com said...

I remember going to the Toddle House in the 1950's-60's on 71st Street in CHICAGO when I was a little kid. I always orderd the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (made properly on a very hot smoking Waffle Iron, so the edges got all nice n' cripsy) and the best Hash Browns! What great eats!

Anonymous said...

I used to enjoy the strawberry pies at Toddle House on Hillsboro Ave, Tampa, Florida inn the 1960's. They were sort of a strawberry jelled filling over fresh strawberries and had a layer of sour cream on the bottom of the pie, does anyone remember these great delicious pies, also would really appreciate the recipe if you have it please e me at lemontree3@core.com

Texas Red said...

I have enjoyed the comments and recipes’s on this site, and only wish that all the speculation on the recipes could finally be settled with original ones from the company. Somebody out there has to have the originals. I grew up in the 40’s & 50’s in Dallas and Toddle Houses were a regular dining experience. I used to go get a whole chocolate pie for my mom, and bring it home. My recollection was $2.10 plus a $.25 cent deposit on the pie plate. You ate well there for a buck plus tip. Attending College at the University of Texas in the Early 60’s, I ate breakfast there every Saturday morning… Er…. Afternoon when I got up. That usually followed all the guys meeting there at 1 am after taking our dates back to the dorm at curfew. That’s when we did a lot of damage to their stock of Chocolate pie and milk stock. Incidentally, I don’t recall any rings on the potato’s… Just strait on the grill.. The burgers are Familiar at the Pitt grills in Dallas which were in old Toddle Houses…. One on Hampton in Oak Cliff and one on Gaston across from Baylor Hospital… Unfortunately, no potatoes and no pie. But they do have Masterburgers.

Bill said...

Below is the address of the Toddle House where I used to eat after throwing papers in the mid fifties.
Toddle House Restaurant 319 Northwest 23rd. Circa 1939.

Found in this PDF Publicationd
THE 23rd STREET

CORRIDOR-CENTRAL

Broadway Avenue to Interstate 44

CORRIDOR

PLAN

___________________________________

The Oklahoma City Planning Department

Cobb Engineering

ADOPTED FEBRUARY 24, 2005

Shelia Mitchell demakas said...

Hi I worked at Toddle house in DesMoines Iowa and in DesPlanes Illinois. My Dad managed then all over the countryside! This brings back memories!!! I can hardly wait to try the pie recepie. I used to make them in mass quanities but its been so long I could not remember the recipe. Thanks

Anonymous said...

In my late teens I cooked at the Toddle House on Government St. in Mobile, Al. This was during the war years, and at first they still had the honor system, but later discontinued it.

We did the hash browns in a small skillet, one order at a time, cooked in oil with lots of paprika - no butter, no onions.

We enjoyed free food, even in off hours, anything except the fillet.

And, I miss the Toddle Houses, and never liked the Dobbs House here.

I'm now pushing hard on age 82.

Walter W. Wise
Mobile, AL

Anonymous said...

Me again, Walter Wise - I said, why not? And, for dinner had bacon, eggs and Toddle House hash browns, just as I made them those many years ago. Enjoyed them, too.

Walter W. Wise
Mobile, Alabama

John LeJeune said...

What great memories I have reading all these post. I was from Baton Rouge in the 50's and Couldn't wait to get some of the Hash Browns on Saturday mornings. The Toddle House was at the north end of 3rd street and righ across from the ferry landing. The cost then was .15 + .01 tax. Things have changed haven't they folks.

TomM said...

When I went to Tulane in the late 50's, Toddle House was on my menu at least 3x/week—usually in the wee hours. Judging by the comments here, it seems obvious that a certain amount of latitude was allowed (or taken?) at individual locations.

I don't know how the potatoes were prepped, other than being cubed, but the cooking is clear in my mind. They were done in a pile on the flat top, with saut├ęd onions. (No rings were used) Other than S&P, I don't remember what other ingredients were used, e.g. butter/oil/paprika etc.

Carol said...

Hi Doug, I was searching for my husband's favorite Chocolate Ice Box Pie Recipe that his Grandmother used to make. Good old Google led me to your page and right there it was. Just finished the pie and will post tomorrow if it was as good as he remembers.

As a very young girl I used to ride the bus from Wichita Falls to Oklahoma City to visit my relatives. It started out with Bingo, donuts and a trip to the Zoo and then shopping at John A Browns in downtown. My mother moved to OKC in 1963 and my trips by car became more frequent and even more enjoyable... I really enjoyed the postings and found them interesting. One of my favorite boyfriends back then lived in OKC and attended OU which has started a long time relationship with the fine school of higher learning. My Goddaughter will attend OU this year as a freshman. I am so proud!!!

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Carol. I hope that you and your husband enjoy your chocolate ice box pie! My personal recipe is not the recipe that Toddle House used ... it's just one that mimics the taste that my wishful thinking says that Toddle House ice box pie tasted like.

I see that you and I traveled to Okc during analogous times ... you from Wichita Falls and me from nearby Lawton "back in the day." Good times they were.

Thanks again for your comment.