[Perhaps imperfect, but recognizably egg-like in shape, right?]
One of my first paying jobs was working as a cashier at the local drugstore in a strip mall near my house, where, as it happened, three of my closest friends and I all got jobs. It wasn’t unusual for all four of us to work the same shift on a Saturday, two stationed on one side of the exit door, two on the other. We’d stand looking across at each other, our nonstop chatter filling the store like sound effects to rival the piped-in Muzak, as the sun streamed in through huge picture windows on the wall beside us.
We considered our boss, the Evil “Mr. M—r” (let’s just call him “Mr,” in a Color Purple sort of way), to be a veritable task master. If he caught us talking to each other–or simply standing idle for more than 30 seconds (even if no customers were in sight),–we’d be instantly reprimanded. “Go restock the toilet paper,” MR would bark, or “here, price this case of toothpaste tubes,” or “Face the antacid shelves.” If the store was really quiet, he’d have us do something even more demeaning, like mopping the floors in the back. We had our own methods of entertaining ourselves, of course, to which MR was never privy. We’d assign code names to cute guys (“Rothmans,” the heavy-duty cigarettes smoked by steely blue-eyed cowboy types, was a favorite) or roll our eyes knowingly when the uppity girls from our high school sashayed into the store and stocked up on hair gel and mousses. Or we’d sing our favorite duets, like “I Got You, Babe,” or imitate MR’s nasal drawl (when he was out of the store, of course). Years later, Sterlin and I decided we’d write a screenplay about our experiences there called The Phunny Pharm (as in, “pharmacy,” get it? Oh, my, weren’t we just too hilarious!–I mean, phunny!). Holiday weekends, with so many people off work, were notoriously unpredictable; they were either deadly boring or incredibly busy. One Easter Saturday, Sterlin and I were assigned opposite cashes. By 8:15 AM, we’d already tidied the countertops, re-folded newspapers into neat piles and straightened out the candy bars. “MR will kill us if he comes in and sees that we’re not doing anything,” I mused. But then we noticed the recent shipment of chocolate Easter bunnies piled unceremoniously on the floor near our cashes. Even though there was a perfectly good display table at the end of the aisle, with a perfectly good tabletop on which they could have been stacked, most of the boxes had been strewn on the floor or worse, pushed right under it. Each box housed a cute little brown or white molded rabbit, some with blue candy eyes or pink candy noses, some with perky ears pointing straight up, others with one ear up and one pressed back against their heads. They were all made of that high-gloss, waxy compound “chocolatey” substance that, truth be told, I just loved; I could have eaten an entire (3/4 pound/340 g), $12.99-a-box, confection all by myself. In fact, my love of chocolate bunnies was matched only by my love of Cadbury Creme Eggs, another Easter staple. “Let’s fix the display!” Sterlin suggested. So we spent the good part of an hour (there were no customers that early–we barely served a single “Rothmans” the entire time) carefully stacking the boxes in neat rows, pyramid-style, taking care to alternate between dark and light bunnies or those looking to the left and those looking to the right so they’d present incoming customers with an interesting tableau of shapes and sizes. We had just congratulated ourselves on our initiative when the hoards suddenly appeared. Our friends Babe and Angel were called into service as well, while I was deployed to the cosmetics department to help Claudette, the Parisian cosmetician who had immigrated to Montreal to be with her beau. Glamorous and exotic (at least, to me), Claudette wore thick false eyelashes and eyelids frosted in baby blue, her platinum blond hair slicked back to reveal her perfect, model-like features. For some reason, Claudette took a liking to me, so I was often gifted with samples of perfume, lipstick or eye shadow (actually intended for paying customers) to take home. The hours flew by; by 8:30 PM when the store closed, we were all exhausted. I was relieved that I’d spent the day in cosmetics, which meant I didn’t have money to count (though I had managed to score a free lipstick and aluminum-lined pouch of hand lotion). While I waited for my friends to count up their tills, I wandered up and down the aisles. Should I bring home some newly-priced toothpaste, I wondered? Or maybe my parents were out of Kleenex. . . as I strolled over to the cash registers at the front, I my eyes glanced toward the Easter bunny display. Only. . . There was no bunny display any longer. Oh, the boxes were still there, all right, still stacked in perfect rows, just as Sterlin and I had placed them that morning. But the little plastic windows appeared empty. On closer examination, I witnessed cwhat an only be described as “a bunny massacre.”
[The easier option: cubes instead of ovoids. Still delicious.]
All of the perkly little rabbits in their boxes appeared deformed, morphed into shapeless blobs with awkward lumps and bumps where their ears had once been. Others had completely lost their tails or their hind legs, flowing into puddles of muddy chocolate under them. It took me a second to realize what had precipitated that scene of lupin carnage: the huge, ceiling-to-floor, all-glass picture windows! An entire day of brilliant sunshine! The sun had been shining for the better part of ten hours–directly on those boxes. The poor rabbits had all succumbed to the heat and melted, like Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West. No wonder all those boxes had previously been placed under the table–in the shade. I must have shrieked, before I myself succumbed to hystrical laughter. By then, Sterlin had come running over and spied the scene, screeching her hilarity. Even Herbert, the normally staid pharmacist, couldn’t help but emit a snort and guffaw. The entire front row of chocolate bunnies (those that Sterlin and I had so meticulously placed on the shelf that morning) were ruined. I mean, who would be willing to purchase a blob of shapeless melted chocolate for $12.99? And although the maneuver had been unintentional, Sterlin and I couldn’t help but smirk at the thought that this error in our judgment would, in the end, mean that the Evil MR received his just desserts (so to speak). That night, I arrived home with three chocolate brnnnesss (that’s “Melted” for “bunnies.”) I didn’t mind that my rabbits were deformed, looking like rejects from a GMO product-development experiment. Later that evening, after dinner, everyone enjoyed a big blob of smooth, shapeless, waxy chocolate for dessert.
When I heard about Kelly’s Our Spunky Holiday event, in which readers were invited to submit a dessert for Easter or Passover, I immediately thought of those bunnies. Sure, I realize I could never concoct something similar in my own kitchen (let alone reproduce that favorite waxy texture). Instead, I opted for chocolate covered Easter eggs with a “cream cheese” filling, as close as I could get to the iconic Cadbury Creme eggs. Unlike those unfortunate bunnies, these Easter Ovoids are only slightly misshapen, however. Because I don’t own egg molds (and because I am basically lazy), my “eggs” turned out, oh, just a wee bit lumpy and bumpy. But have no fear; just like the bunnies of yore, these confections still taste delicious. Housing a soft, smooth, lemony “cream cheese” filling, they are perfect Easter treats. And–I promise you–no bunnies were harmed in the making of these eggs.
[Soft, creamy "cheesecake" interior. ]
[RECIPE UDATE, APRIL 20: Ack! I just noticed that I typed "orange juice' in the filling by mistake! While that's fine (it will taste great), for a more "cream cheese" like taste, use the lemon juice option (and if you're on the ACD, you're not allowed orange juice. What was I thinking?!]
Chocolate Covered Cheesecake Easter Eggs, suitable for ACD Stage 3 and beyond
If you don’t have egg molds or don’t feel like taking the trouble to make these egg-shaped, you can just pour the “cheese” filling into a square container, then cut in cubes and coat in chocolate, as I do in this recipe. For the “Cheesecake” Filling: 1 heaping cup (160 g) raw natural cashews 2 Tbsp (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice (use lemon for ACD) 1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut sugar or agave nectar 10-20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to your taste 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract 1 tsp (5 ml) lemon extract, optional 1/4 cup (60 ml) full-fat coconut milk (from a can–I use Thai Kitchen) 1 tsp (5 ml) whole chia seeds, ground in a coffee grinder to a fine powder (about 2 heaping tsp or 10 ml powder) 1/2 tsp (2. 5 ml) lemon zest For the Chocolate Coating**: 4 ounces (110 g) good quality unsweetened chocolate (I find Baker’s too bitter for this purpose) 1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin coconut oil, preferably organic (use refined if you want no coconut flavor) 2 Tbsp (30 ml) carob powder, sifted 20-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia, to your taste (don’t overdo the stevia–better to keep it bittersweet) Make the filling: If you have egg-shaped silicone molds (or other shapes that would be easy to coat in chocolate), set them aside. Otherwise, line a small square container (about 2 cups/480 ml capacity) with plastic wrap and set aside. In a glass or ceramic bowl, cover the cashews with room temperature water and soak for 6-10 hours; drain. (Alternately, pour boiling water over the cashews in the bowl and allow to soak for 30 minutes to an hour; drain). Place the cashews and remaining cheesecake ingredients in a high-powered blender (such as a VitaMix) and blend until perfectly smooth. The mixture will be thick and you’ll need to scrape down the sides of the blender container repeatedly. Transfer to the molds or container, then freeze until just firm, 3-4 hours. For eggs (if you don’t have molds), use a small ice cream scoop and scoop the firm mixture onto a cutting board or plastic-lined plate. Using your hands or two tablespoons, shape each ball into an oval and place back on the board; return to the freezer. Otherwise, invert the entire block of filling onto the cutting board and cut into small cubes; return the cubes to the freezer. Freeze the eggs or cubes until very hard, another 2-4 hours. Make the coating: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the chocolate with the coconut oil over very low heat. Whisk in the carob powder and stevia until smooth. Transfer to a small, deep bowl. Finish the eggs: Have a clean, plastic-lined board or plate at the ready. Working quickly, take the eggs (or cubes) one at a time and dip the bottom in the chocolate. Then place the egg gently on the tines of a large fork over the bowl (chocolate dipped side down) and, using a teaspoon, spoon melted chocolate over the top of the egg so that it runs down the top and sides and coats the entire egg. Tap the handle of the fork against the side of the bowl so that excess chocolate drips into the bowl. Gently push the egg off the fork and onto the plastic-lined plate. Depending on how quickly you work, you may want to keep the uncoated eggs in the freezer and just take them out one at a time. Once all the eggs are coated, use any extra chocolate in the bowl to touch up little holes or spots on the eggs that aren’t well-coated in chocolate (any cracks or white spots will allow the cheesecake filling to seep through the coating later, once it is no longer frozen). Place the plate with the coated eggs in the refrigerator to allow the filling inside to defrost. Once the middle is no longer frozen (several hours to overnight), the cheesecake interior will be soft, creamy and smooth when you bite into it. For frozen cheesecake treats, keep the eggs in the freezer rather than the refrigerator. Makes 6-8 eggs. **NOTE: if you are not on the ACD or don’t mind sugar, you can just use chocolate chips melted with 1 tsp (5 ml) coconut oil for the coating.
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