Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do You Speak Chocolate?

I was never good at languages, but speaking chocolate comes naturally. It dates back to my childhood, when my father, a dentist no less, designated the top drawer of the dining room bureau as “the candy drawer.” He had a sweet tooth, and never did a day go by when he, my brother and I didn’t visit this special hideout. I don’t know why he told us about it. Maybe we caught him sneaking into it one evening, and we promised not to tell our mother IF we could visit the drawer ourselves.

I was interested only in the chocolate candy, and over the years I got to sample everything from the basic Hershey Bar to Whitman’s Sampler and store-bought fudge. As a teenager, I tried making fudge myself, but I never managed to get it to firm up. I didn’t care because it was just as tasty eating it with a spoon.

I have fond memories of a product called SWEL Fudge. It came in a can, and you mixed it with water and butter and cooked it for about 5 minutes. Sadly it’s long gone from grocery shelves, but the thrill of eating it out of the pot while reading Nancy Drew mysteries lingers.

As a teenager, I tried baking chocolate cakes from a box mix. They tasted pretty good, but I really had nothing to compare them to. Only when I got an apartment and began cooking for myself did I start trying to make chocolate cake and brownies from actual recipes. The directions always made me nervous because they invariably called for a double boiler to melt the chocolate. If you weren’t careful, said the recipe, you would either burn the chocolate or cause the melting chocolate to clump because you got a drop of water into it. Who needed to worry about that? I started making non-chocolate desserts.

Eventually, though, I was drawn again to chocolate. By then I was living in London and had purchased a tiny cast iron frying pan. I decided to see what would happen if I tried to melt a bar of Cadbury Bournville Classic Dark Chocolate in this pan. I kept the heat low, I stirred the bar and, amazingly enough, it melted without incident. My diet hasn’t been the same since.

Over the years I have cooked hundreds of chocolate desserts and have even co-written a book, “Chocolate on the Brain,” with my son Kevin. Here is the simplest chocolate recipe in that book—Surprisingly Easy Fudge. It requires just 2 ingredients plus butter for greasing the pan. It’s impossible to mess up.
Surprisingly Easy Fudge – makes 36 1-inch square pieces (adapted from “Chocolate on the Brain”)

Butter for greasing the pan
16 squares or 16 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup chocolate ice cream

Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, making sure that two ends of the foil overhang the pan by about 2 inches so that you can easily lift the fudge out of the pan later. Lightly rub the bottom and sides of the foil with butter. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a large, heavy frying pan over very low heat, stirring constantly. When the chocolate is almost melted, turn off the heat and set aside to cool. The heat of the pan will melt the remaining chocolate.

Stir in the ice cream. When it has melted, pour the fudge into the prepared pan, smoothing it into the corners with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Carefully lift the ends of the foil and remove the fudge from the pan. Peel off and discard the foil. Place the fudge on a cutting board and, using a large knife, cut it into 36 pieces. Store at room temperature in a closed container or wrapped in foil or plastic.
           For more chocolate recipes get “Chocolate on the Brain”