Thursday, December 01, 2005

How on earth is it December already? Good gravy.

I have a free piece of advice for you. If you’re planning to go to Europe and cook while you’re there you should either 1. leave all of your recipes behind and forget you ever had them, or 2. bring a good metric conversion chart, plus cup measures.

I will explain.

Angela was organizing a dinner party for oh, seven or eight swing dancers, and we were all slated to bring food. No problem! It could be fun to cook. I haven’t done it since I’ve gotten here, as the kitchen is totally depressing. And by totally depressing I mean it’s a hallway and a closet and even a power-washing wouldn’t make a huge difference on the dirt. And peeling floors. And grimy dishes/pots/pans. And stained walls. You get it.

But! I would make Joy Of Cooking brand garlic bread! Easy! And also a fudge-like substance that is often smiled upon when made. Also easy! I’ll give you the recipe:

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese
2 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 1-oz squares unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate
1/4 tsp vanilla
Dash salt

Throw cream cheese in a mixing bowl, cream until soft and smooth. Slowly mix in sugar. Mix in chocolate. Mix in vanilla and salt. Then, if it’s firm, form into balls, throw some fruit on the top (strawberries and raspberries are the way to go here), place on wax paper, and chill until you get bored or hungry. Or pour into a greased cake pan – a 9” one works well – top with fruit, and chill, then slice into squares.

So easy! Right? Hah! Not so much. So I went to the grocery store for supplies. The only thing I had on that list is salt.

Cream cheese! In packages! Except that it’s measured in grams, not ounces. I blinked at the packages for a while, wondering if I had relevant converting information at my disposal. I just bought a package, figuring they looked about the right size, and moved on.

The sugar aisle! Great! Confectioner’s sugar! Nope! Nothing. It was all granulated. I needed powdered, or it likely wouldn’t work. I hadn’t even heard of half the sugars they had. Castor sugar? I made a guess as to which was the most in the manner of being powdered, and moved on. It was by fluke that I ended up staring, dejectedly, at the cake-decorating section (puzzling out pre-rolled icing) where I found icing sugar. Which was distinctly not in the sugar section. But it was right! It was powdered! Hallelujah!

Chocolate! I found a large bar of baker’s chocolate, nice stuff, too, but it was £4.50, which obscene. I had no plans to use the whole thing (or get even close). So back to the baking section. They had a few bars, but they all seemed sweetened, which is Bad and Wrong. But preferable to paying £4.50, so I got one.

Vanilla! That one was actually really easy and cheap. Bonus.

Back to the fruit aisle! Strawberries, I was thinking, if they weren’t too dear, maybe raspberries, maybe some other inspiring things. They had raspberries, okay. And nothing else that would be appropriate. Apples? No. Pears? No. Mangos? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Bananas? Naw. And zero strawberries. Well then! Raspberries it is.

I had, at this point, gone through the whole store about three times at this point. It was annoying. Because I still needed a serrated knife (the apartment version left a note saying it was fed up with the kitchen and was leaving) and maybe a dry measuring glass, as I wasn’t sure we had one.

Two more turns around the store and I finally found a suitable knife, and measuring cups. Except that the measurements were metric, and mine, as you may notice, aren’t. Not helpful! So I didn’t buy it.

Finally home, where I learned that we sure didn’t have any measuring devices. Not such a problem, though, since the recipe involves things like “cups” and “tsps.” I was left without any way to measure anything, and didn’t realize I had a conversion chart (in the back of my marbled composition notebook) until it was too late. I just guessed, as that was really all I could do in the time that I had.

And it didn’t work. I mixed everything, threw it in the fridge, and it didn’t firm up. It was goo. An hour later I pulled it out, tested the viscosity, and added more sugar. What else was there to do? Back in the fridge. An hour later, the same again. More sugar.

In the end I didn’t take it. I blame the cream cheese. But the goo tastes fantastic with raspberries.

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