[No, this isn't the fudge. But it does look darned tasty, doesn't it?]
Well, I had a nifty little “Flash in the Pan” post drawn up yesterday so I could share my new all-purpose GF flour mix, the one I used to make these coconut cupcakes, above. After writing the post, I went back to my kitchen to leaf through my enormous pile of paper scraps on which I scribble recipes as I create them. I leafted through every single one of these little scraps. . . four times. And yet, somehow, I’ve lost the recipe! Serves me right for sticking with my chaotic, haphazard cooking methods. Grrrrr!
[I know you're in there somewhere. . . .]
So. . . . I’ll be re-testing my recipe (what I rememeber of it) over the next few days. Once I manage to re-create it, I’ll let you know.
In the meantime, I could really use some fudge.
The summer I was sixteen, I played mother’s helper to my cousins in Boston. Their oldest child was only 3 years younger than I was, but the chasm between a 16 year-old girl and a 13 year-old boy seemed enough to warrant a babysitter. In reality, I didn’t do very much except keep the kids company as they swung on tree branches, swam in the local pond, played with their Hot Wheels or hit baseballs in the back yard. Mostly, I wanted to interact with my cousins (so much older than I was, then in their 30s!) and help in the kitchen. I loved the food my cousin cooked and began to carry an orange spiral notebook around with me to record recipes I loved: Chili and Grape Meatballs, Tunnel of Fudge Bundt cake, Sock-it-To-Me Coffee Cake.
[A relic from my teenaged past.]
And then there came Irene’s Fudge-Topped Chocolate Cake.
Irene was my cousin’s mother-in-law, a powerhouse of a woman who, at age 91, was still going strong: she lived on her own in the same upper duplex she’d inhabited for almost 70 years. She still cooked all her own meals from scratch and baked desserts to bring to the grandchildren each weekend. Visiting Irene’s brownstone in Newton was like entering a time transporter: we’d ascend the 47 creaky steps and emerge, panting and breathless à la Star Trek, into a dimension of time and space that had existed unscathed 70 years before.
I was fascinated by everything in the place, from the vast collection of porcelain dolls–apparently, she had more than 100–in various poses and handmade costumes, lounging on shelves throughout the living room; to the French Provincial furniture, its glossy embroidery worn to mere threads; to the scuffed wooden floors sporting visible reminders of decades of children and grandchildren, dogs and cats, who’s skidded along their boards; to the ancient white-and-black oven and array of manually-operated to appliances like hand-held beaters or nut chopper (acquired before she had electricity), whisks, oil-stained wooden spoons and glass measuring cups so old their walls clouded up in places, no longer transparent.
Irene herself seemed a life-sized version of the dolls she collected, a human Betty Boop with hand-painted arching eyebrows and porcupine-quill lashes atop an ivory-powdered visage (which she applied daily until she died, at age 101). She was always adorned in gleaming, mismatched combinations of billboard-bright colors cinched together with a wildly patterned belt and rows of beaded necklaces swishing down to her waist. The whole package was topped off with a daily wig in impossibly copper hues. A true eccentric, Irene welcomed her grandkids with great joy and always had something sweet to offer us when we dropped by. With a voice both gravelly and halting, she ushered us into the kitchen, where we invariably spied a plateful of still-warm chocolate chip cookies, or a pan of blondies, or–when we were really lucky–fudge-topped chocolate cake.
That cake was her signature confection, a deep, rich and dense single-layer sheet cake slathered with a thick layer of rich, fudgy, sweet and chocolatey topping. I was so impressed with it that I asked for the recipe so I could add it to my spiral collection; Irene was more than happy to comply.
Once I returned home at the end of the summer, I was impatient to make the cake. I had brought My-T-Fine pudding mix (the cooked kind, not instant) home with me (you can’t get the stuff in Canada) and went to work. I mixed, I whipped, I salivated, I licked the beaters. I covered the cake with fudge topping and popped it in the refrigerator.
And then. . . . . nothing but mud! The fudge wouldn’t firm up no matter what I tried.
Was it my callow inexperience in the ktichen? But I’d been baking since I was six years old! Could it be that my mother’s 11×14 inch pan wasn’t the exact size Irene had specified? Or perhaps our eggs, or milk, or oil way up in The Frozen North was too different from the ones back in Massachusetts? After several attempts, I enlisted the help of my aunt (who had been a professional caterer). When she failed, too, I finally accepted the bitter reality: Irene had not shared the true recipe. (As it turned out, any recipe she did share with nieces, or cousins, or sisters over the years always fell flat; no one could manage to reproduce her results.) Despite her whimsical appearance, her jolly Grandma persona, her generosity sharing the fruits of her labors, Irene turned out to be one of those women who didn’t want to share the culinary spotlight. When she died, with almost a century of baking under her (crazy colored) belt, she took her secrets wtih her.
This fudge, my second entry in this month’s SOS Kitchen Challenge (don’t forget to enter your own recipes–you can win a copy of my latest ebook OR a bottle of pure maple syrup!) reminded me of that long-ago topper, both in its sweetness and its texture: the perfectly smooth, authentic mouthfeel of fudge, with a thin exterior “skin” that firms up for slicing. With its indentations and creases from the plastic wrap, it may not truly resemble Irene’s masterpiece, but it was a savior for me in the early stages of the ACD, as it’s suitable for any stage of the diet, including the first one. The recipe is from my ebook Desserts without Compromise and was a huge hit with the testers.
Go out and make this fudge. You can even pour it over a sheet cake and dream of another summer, long ago, as you munch on the fudge-topped slices. It’s easy to make. And it always works, I promise.
This is the recipe to make a carob lover out of someone who may be waffling about the appeal of the lovely pod. You can cut the carob with a little cocoa if you want a hint of chocolate, or just enjoy it on its own for a sweet, rich, subtle flavor. If you make this with glycerin, it will produce a more typical, soft fudge texture; if you use yacon, it will provide a lovely flavor of its own, but the base will seem thicker and dryer and more candy-like.
1/2 cup (120 ml) carob powder, sifted
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut oil, preferaby organic (use refined if you don’t want the coconut flavor)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sesame tahini
3 Tbsp (45 ml) smooth natural almond butter
pinch fine sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
10-20 drops plain or vanilla liquid stevia
2 Tbsp (30 ml) vegetable glycerin (food grade only!) or yacon syrup*
NOTE: the order of ingredients here is essential to the success of the fudge–please read through directions completely before mixing!
Line a small loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, mix the carob powder, coconut oil, tahini, almond butter and sea salt. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until melted and well-combined (it will seem too dry at first and then liquefy; this is as it should be).
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and stevia, THEN add the glycerin or yacon and mix well. It will begin to thicken up when you add the sweetener (glycerin will produce a smooth, still pourable mixture, while yacon will seem to sieze up the mixture, resulting in an almost dough-like result; this is fine).
Pour or press the fudge into the pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours, then cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, up to 4 days. May be frozen; defrost, wrapped, overnight in the fridge before cutting.
Find other sugar-free inspiration at Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.
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Last Year at this Time: Sunflower Butter Cups
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