Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fudging It

Dave likes to tell people I'm a great dessert-maker. Not because it's true, but because he really likes desserts and doesn't want to make them himself, and I will. I make them with love. Also butter, chocolate, cream, sugar, and nuts, which are more important. You could take all those things and put them in a bag and swing them around your head a few times and you'll get something out of it that people like. I actually have no idea what I'm doing when I make dessert. All kinds of shit can go wrong. There's hard ball this, and soft ball that, and you can't make things reliably fluffy unless you know what spells to cast. Or, you know, some chemistry.

Take my annual Thanksgiving dessert. My sister-in-law was in charge of dinner years ago and so I ran it by her. "I was thinking of making something different this year--I cut it out of a magazine," I said. She was skeptical. "Does it have chocolate?" she wanted to know. I consulted my clipped recipe. "It's called "Fudge-Slathered Fudge Cake," I said. "Bring it," she said. A tradition was born.

Fifty shades of turkey
We change traditions in this family like we change our shorts. A couple years ago Elizabeth showed up lugging a forty-pound side dish of Corn Pudd'n. We all had a spoonful. "New tradition!" we sang out in unison. "It's a Paula Deen recipe," she said carefully. "You do not want to know what's in it."

I still don't know everything that's in it, but part of it is made from pureed fat person.

The Fudge-Slathered Fudge Cake was a hit too. It looked weird, but it tasted great. The cake part gets all its lift from egg whites, momentarily, and then when it cools it shrinks and craters into something with all the heft of a communion wafer. I was horrified that first year, but it comes out that way every time. The cake is only there to hold the frosting up, and the frosting is terrific. But the second year the frosting didn't set up. I started slathering it on, and it kept puddling up around the bottom like saggy pants. I was horrified, but the family gathered around it and monitored the lava flow with spoons and fingers, and everyone was happy. Some years later I stumbled onto a way to make it work right and that part has been fine ever since.

But it's a dessert. It's not going to behave just because you want it to. Every year I find a new way to
screw up the fudge cake. The egg whites got particularly exuberant in one corner this year so the whole cake was on a slant. The frosting requires bittersweet chocolate cut up so that it melts into the hot butter/cream mixture. I probably bought fancy chocolate the first few years but then I thought good ol' chocolate chips would save time and work just as well, and they have. This year I had some leftover Mini Morsels. I figured teeny chocolate chips would melt even faster, which would have been true, if it hadn't been completely false. I kept stirring and stirring and those chips weren't going anywhere. What sort of chocolate chip does not melt when plunged into cream and butter that has been boiling for twelve minutes? Why, little plastic chocolate chips, evidently. I mashed them against the sides of the bowl until most of them had succumbed, but not all. It looked like frosting with little fairy doots.

The cake tasted fine. I think everyone was thankful for it. And,  thankful that I'm not in charge of the rest of the dinner. That's another tradition.

50 comments:

  1. The item in the top picture looks very tempting. I guess the spells worked.

    Your last couple of paragraphs sound like dessert cooking is a good way to learn about geological and tectonic processes. I wonder if community college teachers have ever considered this option. Next time, set up a video camera in case you get an authentic fudgequake.

    I still don't know everything that's in it, but part of it is made from pureed fat person.

    Soylent Deen? Some of those types are so enthused about red meat, cannibalism just seems like the next logical step.

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    1. Dessert making is the A-No. 1 way of learning about tectonic processes. In fact I once named one Tectonic Cake. Came with its own plates.

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    2. Soylent Deen? I am caught between fits of laughter and revulsion!

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    3. That happens a lot here, doesn't it?

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  2. I think I am lucky I'm not in your family, or I would be looking very Deeny myself. :-)

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    1. You wouldn't even be able to squeeze out of the airplane you're jumping from. If you landed there would just be a gummy spot.

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  3. Family recipes are The Best and calories do not count at Thanksgiving and Christmas. One favorite at our family gatherings is Auntie Esther's Fat-Ass Mashed Potatoes. When pressed for her secret to her oh-so-delicious mashed potatoes many many years ago, she revealed that it involved not only enough potatoes to feed a logging camp, but a pound of butter and a quart of heavy whip cream.

    No, that's not really the sound of arteries slamming shut.

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    1. Hey! That's how we make smashed potatoes! I didn't know what to call it. Also, garlic. Auntie Esther's Fat-Ass Mashed Potatoes.

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  4. I still don't know everything that's in it, but part of it is made from pureed fat person.

    And now I have sentence envy.

    Pearl

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    1. You know how some people pick out a so-so sentence and go all LOL over it? You never do that.

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  5. The funniest part of this started with "Dave likes" and ended with "That's another tradition."

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    1. You're not that cranky after all, are you, Joe?

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  6. It's chocolate. What does it matter if some teensy tiny aspect of the dessert goes wrong? It looks quite yummy to me.

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    1. It's REALLY chocolate. There are two tablespoons of flour in the whole thing. If you eat more than a two-inch square, you have to go to bed afterwards.

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  7. You've gone from snortworthy to hilarious :)

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    1. You're supposed to say "no! Don't ever change!" but I guess in this case it's all right.

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  8. A niche player. A lot of little skills and voila, a great gathering.

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    1. I'm born to be a niche player. I wanted to be a voila player, but...wait, that's something else.

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    2. I think it was Tom Smothers who conflated "voila" with "viola" many moons ago (my earliest exposure to comedy + music being The Smothers Brothers and Allan Sherman, courtesy my father's album collection)... That must have made an impression - since YOUR sentence immediately rang that bell in my head.

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  9. I will bet the thin man eats the biggest slice of cake. Hate people like that!

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    1. You would bet correctly. And he's losing weight.

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  10. Traditions were made to be broken, changed, amended, covered in rich fudgy icing...

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  11. We all had a spoonfoul?
    Hi, by the way -- really enjoy your musings! Thanks for sharing them!

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    1. Aw, bless your heart, eagle-eye! I sometimes depend on people to fix my stuff. I fixed it. And I am glad you enjoyed it anyway.

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    2. Actually, I thought "spoonfoul" was just another one of your great puns, but then I realized that you liked what you had just tasted....

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  12. Fudge slathered Fudge Cake!!!!!! Mmmmmmm!! (drooling) I want a big square of it right out of the middle (cannot eat nuts) and you all can have the nutty parts!

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    1. Oh man, sorry Rose, it's got tons of nuts ground up in it. To make up for the not-much-flour. More for the rest of us.

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  13. Murr, you're torturing me here!
    How can you write about fudge slathered fudge cake and not supply a recipe!
    I lo-o-o-ove chocolate.

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    1. River darling, if you're serious, I'll scan the recipe (truly scavenged old-school from a magazine) and send it to you.

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    2. I'm VERY serious, my email address is on my 'about/profile' page.

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  14. My hubby once made a mocha souffle that didn't set properly (or whatever). We were having dinner with close friends whose kids I've known forever. The 10-year-old boy, thinking he was critiquing his mom's work, said dramatically, "What is this, Mocha Slop?" We have found many amusing uses for this term ever since.

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    1. Kid sounds slappable. Did I say that?
      Oh I just thought of something that could readily be called Mocha Slop. Hmm.

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  15. Ground up nuts, chocolate, butter and cream? OK, I want this recipe, too. I'll swap for my gingerbread recipe.

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    1. I'll attempt to get my stupid scanner to cooperate. Roxie, I have your email Anyone else wants this, let me know. River?

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    2. If your scanner doesn't work, just type it out and email. pretty please with cherries on top.

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    3. Never mind, I'll copy it from below. Thanks very much.

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    4. Oopers! I was away for a few hours or I totally would have mailed you the doc. Glad you figgered it out.

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  16. You're kidding, right? Almost EVERYONE wants it! Can you put it in the comments section?

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    1. Okay, but note that I discovered--while typing this out--that I should have been using unsweetened chocolate in the frosting anyway (no chips!). I probably did for the first ten years, and then something pretzeled my brain.

      FUDGE-SLATHERED FUDGE CAKE

      Begin making a day ahead of serving.

      Cake

      ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
      3 T brandy
      6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use chips)
      ¾ cup walnuts
      2 T all-purpose flour
      6 eggs, separated, room temperature
      pinch of salt
      ½ cup sugar, DIVIDED
      1 t vanilla extract

      Frosting

      1-1/2 cups sugar
      1 cup whipping cream
      6 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
      ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
      1 t vanilla extract
      1 cup chopped walnuts

      For cake: Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease two 8-inch square baking pans with 2-inch high sides. Line with foil, extending over sides. Grease and flour foil. Tap out excess flour. Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Add brandy and chocolate and stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Cool. Finely grind walnuts with flour in processor.

      Using electric mixer, beat whites with salt in large bowl until soft peaks just begin to form. Gradually add ¼ cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Beat yolks in medium bowl with remaining ¼ cup sugar until pale yellow ribbon forms when beaters are lifted. Beat in vanilla and chocolate mixture. Add ground nut mixture and beat until just blended. Fold ¼ of whites into batter to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops. Bake until t ops spring back lightly when touched in center and cakes begin to pull away from pan sides, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks overnight.

      For frosting: Stir sugar and cream in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutues without stirring [my notes: let it burble pretty good for about 12 minutes]. Pour mixture into bowl. Add chocolate, butter, and vanilla and stir until melted. Cool frosting to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 1-1/2 hours. Refrigerate frosting until thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. [My notes: it can get TOO cold to spread, so check it periodically.]

      Lift cakes from pans using foil sides as aid. Trim any uneven edges. Invert 1 cake onto plate. Remove foil.

      Spread 1-1/4 cups frosting over cake layer. Top with second layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Press walnuts on sides of cake. Let cake stand at least 1 hour at room temperature.

      Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

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    2. Copied, pasted, printed. My kids are going to LOVE this!

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  17. Oh my goodness! Fudge-Slathered Fudge Cake sounds incredible - even if it slants and shrinks!

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    1. I've been avoiding flour and sugar for a while and a tiny piece of this does me in.

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  18. I was deeply disappointed that "fairy doots" was not listed among your "Labels" here.

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  19. I just buy Dooonuts!
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. We have the City's Best Donuts right around the corner (by some reckonings) and I love donuts but I only eat them when they're free. Like when the boss brought them in because we were Good. But I'm retired so that's out. Or when they served Krispy Kremes at the Red Cross for blood donors. But then there was some health objection for that and they substituted Cheezits. (I don't give blood anymore.)

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  20. My meringue cracked this year. Suggestions were "Eggs were bad,,,,eat it and make another....." :}

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