Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Frogs' Eyes in Mud

Some people can't stand tapioca pudding. My father is one of those people. The only way Pop will touch tapioca is if it's buried in a fruit pie, as a thickening agent. On the other hand, my mother is not a tapioca-hater. In fact, she, like me, is rather too fond of such sweets (I have the greater sin, there, though. The Bat can walk away from a fresh bowl waved in front of her. My impulse control is precisely zilch. I will even eat the cheap store-bought stuff).

Still, the battle between tapioca or no began early in our home. The Bat fixed us kids a nice batch of pudding 'way back in the mid-1960s, when the elder of my sisters was still in diapers, and Pop, trying to persuade us that this stuff was as disgusting as he thought it was, told us it was a big bowl of frogs' eyes. I am told that normal youngsters find this sort of label off-putting.

Obviously, he had raised somewhat twisted children. We asked for seconds.

The years have gone by, and tastes may have changed for some, but I still love my frogs' eyes. Recently, I had a severe craving for them, but when I looked in the refrigerator for ingredients to make the stuff, I found I had no fresh whole milk. I don't know about you all, but pudding from skim milk is just an insult to the world of desserts, and using canned milk is... well, the gods of food would have had me char-broiled in an instant for such a blasphemy.

I did have a half-gallon of Vitamin-D-enhanced chocolate-laced whole milk, though. It was a start. But using that alone, the flavor of the chocolate was lost, and the pudding became grey. Not quite what one wants, is it? So I added a little here, a little there, and suddenly I had destroyed my resolve to avoid adding to my waistline (and I may have broken my father's heart). Foolish me, I tossed in a large portion of a brick of Scharffenberger extra bitter chocolate. Not only did it improve the look and flavor, I was now wholly unwilling to share my concoction.

I have since had occasion when I have wanted to make this, and, instead of being out of whole milk, I've had no chocolate milk. No big. It's actually rather fun, to make your own chocolate milk in advance -- and I've even done so with Ovaltine (the malt gives the pudding an entertaining kick, but you really have to be in the mood for it). You just have to make sure no solids get dribbled into the pudding pan. Other than that, go wild!

Here's my lunch, today (I made a double batch, to share with a friend):

Frogs' Eyes in Mud

1/3 cup small pearl quick tapioca (I like Bob's Red Mill, but Minute Tapioca will serve, as well)
3/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups whole chocolate milk
1 bar (approximately 3.5 oz.) good dark chocolate, grated or finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 Tablespoons good cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

In a double boiler, pre-soak tapioca in water, according to the package instructions (Bob's says about 3 1/2 minutes). Do not drain. (Now is the time to turn on heat to bring water in bottom pan to a boil.)

Stir in chocolate milk, grated chocolate, and salt. Continue to stir until chocolate solids are mostly dissolved.

Beat egg yolks, stir in. Stir constantly until mixture thickens noticeably (it usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes).

Remove double boiler from heat.

In a separate dry bowl, beat egg whites with sugar and cocoa powder until light and fluffy (but do not go so long that they form peaks). Fold in a few tablespoons of the hot chocolate mixture, gently mixing (you do this to pre-heat the whites a bit, so they don't suffer heat shock and become lumpy fried eggs in your pudding). Repeat once. Gently fold in the rest of the chocolate mixture, mixing well.

At this point, you can either put it into individual serving dishes or just leave it in the big bowl. Refrigerate immediately. Serve cold.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

You can get fancy with this, if you so desire, by topping it with real whipped cream and decorating with shaved chocolate, or simply grating more good chocolate onto the top of each individual portion. I find that such actions take too long, with all that yummy chocolate pudding calling out my name the entire time... I sometimes even eat this stuff warm from the pan.

Dang it, now I'm all hungry, and lunch isn't for another... three minutes! GTG!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Graham Cracker Fudge (aka nutty fudge nougat)

It's a cross between a candy and a no-bake bar cookie. And it's a sin not to nibble.
Some years back (possibly even before I was born), the Bat caved to impulse and picked up one of those little booklets of recipes they put in the racks by the cash registers at the supermarket. We don't usually cave to the allure of candies, or to the wild and woolly displays of the tabloids, but recipes -- well, that's quite another thing. And when the Pillsbury prize-winning ones come out, heck, that's like catnip to us. We don't always have to try every one of them, but we has to has, my precious... That's where this one comes from, originally, with slight variations.

Best made near Christmas, so you can justify making lots of it, and taste-testing every last batch.

When we make a batch, it usually disappears in short order. You can probably imagine why.

They're very rich, and in no wise carb-neutral, but they're butter-and-chocolate heaven. And they can be made wheat-free!

So I went a little nuts…

Graham Cracker Fudge

4 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 can Milnot (or plain evaporated milk)
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour*
2 c. graham cracker crumbs*
1 1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)†
2 tsp vanilla
 pecan halves (optional)

Combine sugar, butter, milk product in 3-quart (or larger) saucepan, bring to a boil stirring constantly.

Once in full rolling boil, allow to continue for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, stir in remaining ingredients until well-mixed.

Spread into a greased jelly roll pan. Allow to cool (may be refrigerated to speed the setting-up process). Cut into 1-inch squares. Top with nut halves, if desired.

* if you need to prepare this for someone on a gluten-free diet, of course you should substitute 1:1 gluten free all-purpose flour for the regular flour (I have, most recently, been using Pamela's, easily available for subscription via Amazon), and, instead of graham cracker crumbs, use almond meal (almond flour). In the depicted batch, I used the unblanched meal, but there's no set rule on this one.

†Recently, I experimented with adding coarsely-chopped dried tart cherries, along with chopped pecans. It was pretty darned spiffy. But these goodies need no embellishment. They're just decadent and sinful all by themselves...