double dutch

March 23, 2011 Comments Off on double dutch

Hard to believe, but it’s the last week of the temporary experiment in single fatherhood.  We go back to Oak Park Friday to pick up K, and I told the kids that we should make this week a Greatest Hits Festival of Dad Cooking.  Stellar, they said.

So we’ve done some old favorites.  Fried chicken and oven-baked sweet potato fries last night.  Pimiento mac’n’cheese will be the grand finale Thursday, and thanks to two alums who made an emergency run from Omaha (thanks, K and J!) we’ve got actual peppadews to work with.  That will taste amazing.  Tomorrow is a fundraiser at the local burger joint, so we’ll do that instead of broiling polenta again, though I may still do that and use up the leftover shrimp.  If K even sees those in the house she’ll have a seizure.

But the real dilemma was cookies.  Snickerdoodles?  Oatmeal chocolate?  Or those super-dense gourmet chocolate chip bricks?  The kids finally settled on that last one, but we’ve made those a bunch–no challenge there.  What if I looked for a different recipe?

“NO, Dad!”  said O.  I have a reputation for unwise experimentation and I’m sure she was anticipating flaxseed or wheat bran.  “Do the recipe EXACTLY the way you’ve been doing it.”

OK, fine.  I get it.  You don’t trust me.  So I’ll make the recipe exactly like it is in the cookbook.

With…one small exception.  What if I substituted half a cup of flour with, oh, I don’t know, half a cup of unsweetened dutch cocoa? That we happened to have leftover from the last gelato?  Pretty badassed, I thought.

When O got home she immediately smelled the gooey richness coming out of the kitchen.  “Someone baking brownies?” she asked.  And we snorted, because we all know what that means to the 12-year old mind.  Then she saw the cookies.

“What did you do?” she asked, but the look she gave me asked “what the hell did you do?

“Trust me,” I said.  “You can split that small one with your brother.”

She nibbled on her half and rolled her eyes back in her head, Bernini-like.

“Oh.  My.  God.”

“Language, dear.”

She thought these were totally worth the twenty-five cents for the swear jar.  As did I.  I put in an extra mile or two this morning.  I’ve already had my taster’s sample, but I cannot sit idly by while these are waiting, and I’m pretty sure one or maybe two are going to get nommed for lunch.  Because they are pretty amazing, sort of like brownie cookies with chocolate chips in them.  Definitely worth the swear jar.



February 9, 2011 Comments Off on shortbread

The kids went for their dessert last night and were horrified to discover only two of the awesome chocolate chip cookies were left.

“We won’t have any for lunch tomorrow!” they yelled.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.

“Didn’t you notice?”

I told them that I eat exactly one of every batch of cookies we make.  Otherwise I’d be fat again in two days.  They were even more horrified by this.

“Have some of your Christmas candy,” I said.  I should admit that I’m secretly proud of the fact that they haven’t made much of a dent in the pile.  “I’ll make something tomorrow.”

“How about shortbread?” O said.

Right on.  How about shortbread?  Our family has pretty deep Scottish roots, and I’ve always been particularly fond of shortbread.  It’s one of the few culinary achievements to come out of the land that created haggis (though believe me, we’re making one of those someday, too).  And I’d seen a good recipe a few weeks ago, one that involved grinding up oatmeal to start, which promised to give the final result a bit of texture and bite.

So I’ve made just enough batches of normal cookies to know the routine, and to blanch a little it at the recipe for shortbread.  Cold butter and flour?  In the mixer?  Won’t that just knock around for a while, scattering flour all over the kitchen?  Well, yes, but after ten minutes the magic happened.  The butter warmed up just enough to start sticking to the flour, and pretty soon there was a sort of doughy mass that pressed easily into a springform pan.  Lacking a biscuit cutter, I found the old flying saucer sandwich crimper that we used to use to make the kids’ sammies into little spaceships, and that worked nicely to cut a hole out of the middle.  Twenty minutes in the oven, then score the disk into wedges, prick those, and put it back in the oven with the heat turned off to let it dry out.

O got home right about when they were finished cooling, and I asked her if she wanted to help.  “Nah,” she said.

“OK, then, I’ll just dip them in the chocolate myself.”


She proved to be an able shortbread dipper.  We used the rest of the good Ghirardelli chips, and she only accidentally dropped two wedges into the double boiler.  “Oh,” she said, “dibs!

They came out amazingly well.  The recipe used confectioners sugar, which gave them a really fine grain that matched the coarseness of the oatmeal.  And the recipe cut the butter a bit from the standard shortbread formula–not that I’d know, but it said so–and they weren’t at all greasy.  Just light, crunchy, sweet but oaty.  And, of course, the chocolate didn’t hurt.  “So, O,” I said as we were finishing up.  “What do you think we ought to do with the leftover chocolate?”

Food painting.  Best.  Idea.  Ever.

chocolate pudding

January 29, 2011 Comments Off on chocolate pudding

You know what doesn’t photograph well?  Pudding, that’s what.

O had a late and rough start this morning.  She opened her eyes at about 11:30, a good fifteen hours after she sacked out, and she looked awful.  I had her hit the showers, and then she reeled back into our room.

“I think I’m going to throw up, Dad.”

Now, at this point, I realize that chocolate pudding doesn’t really seem like it’s going to figure in this particular plot.  But trust me, there’s a happy, chocolatey ending here.

So we sat in the bathroom for a while, she praying to the porcelain god, me praying to everything else.  This was one of the things the doctor told us to look out for, and I had visions of C and I keeping her company in the hospital until help arrived.  But finally she decided she wasn’t going to lose cookies, and I took her temperature and it was mercifully normal.  “Maybe it was oversleep,” she thought, but I thought it was more like she hadn’t had anything to eat, basically, in 24 hours.  “Let’s get some Gatorade and applesauce in you and see if that helps.”

It did.  She perked up considerably with some sugar and fluids, and then I suggested she move up the ladder to Jell-O.  “I hate Jell-O, Dad,” she said.  I know, I thought, everybody hates Jell-O.  “Unless it’s pudding.  Do we have any pudding?”

“No, but I’ll bet we could make some.”

“You can make pudding?”

Now, I didn’t know if we could make pudding, I just knew that it was theoretically possible.  So we decamped to the kitchen and started reading up.  We had just enough semisweet chocolate chips, and there was some corn starch leftover from the great non-Newtonian fluid experiment a couple of weeks ago.  No light cream, but I figured half-and-half would work, and sugar, eggs, etc., we had by the bucket.  I started melting the chocolate chips, we whisked stuff together, and pretty soon C came around the corner wondering what we were up to.

“Making pudding,” I told him, and he looked at me kind of funny.  “Grab a whisk.”  He sensed the presence of chocolate, butter, and a ton and a half of sugar, and gamely chipped in.

We chunked it all together and brought it to a boil, and I’ve never seen anything go from raw ingredients to finished product so impressively.  I’m sure it had something to do with the corn starch suddenly activating, but one stir it was just brown gunk, and the next it was…pudding.  Of course, it was boiling hot pudding, but the consistency was suddenly smooth and creamy.

We put it in the fridge for half an hour, which wasn’t nearly enough.  It came out still warm, but the O wasn’t waiting any longer.  “It’s warm,” I told her, “I think it would be better if we let it sit another thirty minutes or so.”  But by now her brain’s nomming centers were fully activated.

“Give me pudding,” she said.  And I did.  And it was like someone had lit a match underneath her.  With a massive hit of protein, sugar, and carbs that her body had obviously been craving, she was back to her old self.  Still coughing up a storm, and tired tonight, again, but a good afternoon for her, and it’s nice to have her back.  Never doubt the power of pudding.

Of course, we made a whole recipe, which I realized late in the game served 8.  So we have what appears to be the nation’s strategic chocolate pudding reserve left in the fridge.

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