Lost in a Pancake

Person: Martin
Location: Kalmar, Sweden
Recipe: Swedish pancakes with summer fruits

There was no question about it. Martin was lost in a pancake. The dwarf clown, Rainbow, had promised him a ride from San Francisco to Austin, Texas. Only now she was reneging. Something about the weather being off-kilter as predicted through the smoky, glass window of her Magic 8 Ball. A few too many clouds portended a dangerous trek.

He’d found her on Craigslist. Being from Sweden, he figured it was like Couchsurfing, safe and all. But Rainbow was a bipolar midget, 4′ 3″, with short, red hair as bright as a child’s balloon, talking a blue streak and emptying bag after plastic bag from the trunk of her Ford Escort, so they’d have room for other passengers.

At Rainbow’s group house, one of her housemates pulled him aside to set him straight. “She’s whack,” he whispered through a mouth half-covered by dreadlocks. “We all know it. But we put up with her. She pays half the bills.”

Martin was a producer at a theater company. Six months earlier, he’d asked for time off to travel and recharge his creative batteries; perhaps come back with ideas for a new show. That’s how he’d found himself in California, the place where ideas gush forth like geysers from an Icelandic spring.

But as he sank down in the crumb-laden cushion of a futon couch in an apartment in the Mission District to consider his fate (and whether Rainbow could be roused from her cumulonimbus funk), his mind drifted back to Kalmar. It was night. Lights were slowly rising on a stage. A man with a guitar was walking to the center of the stage. After a few moments, the audience began clapping its collective hands in anticipation; a performance was about to begin:

http://www.youtube.com/user/byteatern#p/u/3/cMc0vzcie0s

By the time he came to stay with me in New York though, Rainbow had relented. Maybe she consulted some cards or something; Martin couldn’t be sure. With the car now re-packed, they headed south along Highway 1 to pick up the other passengers. Kids just like him, who hadn’t known what they’d gotten themselves into either.

As they drove past L.A. and across Highway 10 through San Bernadino, Rainbow’s quirks continued. Fearing she’d running out of gas, she’d pull into a gas station whenever the arrow showed the tank half full. Martin wondered if he’d ever make it to Austin, let alone the East Coast.

He closed his eyes and began dreaming of a Swedish TV show from the 1960s, Vilse i Pannkaken (Lost in a Pancake), the one in which an innocent Swedish boy (played by an adult), falls into a giant Swedish pancake, only to find himself in an upside down world from which there’s no escape.

As Rainbow drove, headlong, across Arizona and New Mexico and deep into the heart of Texas, Martin comforted himself with thoughts of Swedish pancakes. The strawberries would be bursting just then and his mother (he could almost see her now as a haze of heat rose from the car’s roof into the clear, blue sky) would be standing at the counter whipping cream, transforming the cold, white liquid into light, airy peaks. Next, she’d take an iron pan and fill it with the golden batter. A few moments later, pleasure. Warm pancakes filled with summer fruit.

He could almost taste it. Like he could taste the dust against his tongue through the open window. Eventually, he’d make it to New York and my apartment. And one night, as we sat together, a harsh rain stirring up the sky, just as Rainbow had predicted, he made me pancakes, and all was right with the world.

Visit the Website of Martin’s theater company, Byteatern: Kalmar Lans Teater.

Recipe: Swedish Pancakes with Summer Fruit

Ingredients:

2 cup whole wheat pastry flour . 254 grams
1 cup whole milk . 200 millilitres
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt . 4 grams
5 – 6 tablespoons of butter . 84 grams

1/2 pound strawberries . 454 grams
1/2 pint heavy cream . 236 millilitres

Episode I: Strawberries

1. Cut strawberries into small to medium size pieces.
2. Place in saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring to prevent sticking.
3. Allow to soften and warm slightly before placing inside pancakes.
4. Optional: Add honey or maple syrup as desired to sweeten.

Episode 2: Whip Cream:
1. Using hand mixer, whip cream to form stiff peaks.
2. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Episode 3: Pancakes

Add flour to 1 cup milk. Whisk to combine.
2. Add second cup of milk. Whisk again.
3. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt.
4. Add eggs to make a thin batter.
5. Heat 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in an iron pan.
6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into pan to form a circle.
7. Cook until the edges turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
8. Flip with spatula and continue cooking an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
9. Serve warm, filled with fruit and topped with whip cream.

And for music to cook by, check out the band, Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t’s CD, Lost in the Pancakes:

What Goes Around Comes Around

Betty on the couch.

Person: Betty Hoops
Location: Aspen, Colorado
Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

“I have a woman who was in the Guinness Book of World Records staying with me!” I tell anyone who’ll listen, after Betty Hoops writes to ask if she can couchsurf with me.

“She set the 2008 world record for hoop running in distance and speed! That means she ran a 10K race while hula hooping, without stopping, dropping, or touching the hoop. She even hula-hoops while snowboarding! How cool is that?”

Betty finishing the Bolder Boulder in Colorado.

Betty is from New York, Westchester to be exact.
For years though, she’s lived in Aspen, Colorado.
“I need the mountains,” she says, when I ask her why she lives there, after explaining how hard it is to get attention for what she does, living so far from New York and L.A.
“I feel a connection there that I don’t get anywhere else.”

Betty on Mount Sopris Summit doing 'Spinning for Peace.'

Betty never imagined she’d be a hula hooper though. Originally, she studied cooking at the C.I.A., The Culinary Institute of America. Then, after 9/11, she left her job at a high-end restaurant in Aspen to come to New York to heal people through hooping.

“I’d be walking near Wall Street carrying my hoops, and these construction workers would yell down from the top of a building, ‘Hey, is that a hula hoop? Let me try it!’ And sure enough, they’d come down, and these big guys, I’d teach them to do it right there on the spot. That’s what’s so great about the hoop. Everyone responds to it.”

She taught anyone who would ask. Policemen. Firefighters. Kids traumatized by what had happened that day.

I get off the R train near Washington Square Park.
I’m supposed to meet Betty here so she can teach me to hoop.

Even though I live in New York City, Washington Square Park is a place I don’t hang out at and rarely visit. But when I first moved to the city in the ’80s, as a wide-eyed kid from the Chicago suburbs, to study theater at NYU, Washington Square Park was my backyard.

My roommate, Susan, grew up in the city and attended Stuyvesant High School.
Her friends practically lived in Washington Square Park and, like Betty, they were street performers: jugglers, musicians, magicians, and fire-eaters. They smoked clove cigarettes, drank beer from paper bags, and got stoned while playing Jimmy Hendrix and Bob Dylan on cheap guitars. They took me to parties in lofts and on roofs, and taught me how to be cool, long before I knew what I was doing.

And now, here it was twenty-something years later, a long time since I’d done anything like hula hoop on a Saturday afternoon in Washington Square Park. In fact, I don’t even know if I’ve ever had a hoop around my waist; maybe as a little kid.

Yet the second I arrive at the park, I feel something change inside. Is it Betty, with her mystical, whirling dervish spirit? Hooping like it’s a religion? Like it’s a prayer? Like the gods are smiling when she spins?

The Couchsurfing Cook gets her hoop on.

She turns on a boom box. “Turn it up!” I say, as music fills a park already bursting with people. And, right there, I’m 20 years old again, without a care in the world. The boom box is blaring Michael Jackson and Cindy Lauper, and all the songs I remember from those first years at NYU, when MTV was new and music was what you lived for.

At first, my hips move in awkward middle-aged lady circles. Not like the bone-thin, grade-school girls who pick up a hoop and start moving their tiny waists in circles too small to detect. “How come it keeps going around them, even though they’re barely moving?” I cry to Betty. “It’s so unfair!”

But she’s an amazing teacher and, within moments, the hoop is spinning round. I’m light and free, and whatever reticence I had before to leave my warm, cozy apartment to be outdoors on a cold, Spring afternoon has vanished, disappearing in the pure, unadulterated joy of a hoop.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
To see how well I did under Betty’s brief, expert tutelage, check out this funny video she and I got roped into performing in that day – a goofy send up of Cee Lo Green’s song, “F-k You!” made by Columbia Business School students. To see us hooping, go to 4:15 in the 4:33 video. Or, for a bigger laugh, watch the whole thing!

Betty makes her own hoops – a softer form that’s easier for beginners and more fun in the long-term. For a 10% discount on your own hoop, email Betty at bettyhooping@gmail.com and put Couchsurfing Cook in the subject line.

Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

Betty started making this cheesecake for friends when she’d go to festivals or snowboarding, and it was always a big hit. Not surprisingly, it’s round, like a hoop.

Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake and Hula Hoop

Ingredients:

4 ounces soy cream cheese . 236 millilitres
8 ounces soy sour cream . 113 grams
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract . 2.5 millilitres
1/2 cup maple syrup . 125 millilitres
4 1/2 ounces grain-sweetened chocolate chips . 177 grams
4 ounces graham crackers . 113 grams
5 tablespoons melted Earth Balance buttery spread or similar butter substitute . 75 milliliters

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit . 180 Celsius.

2. Blend cream cheese and sour cream in a mixing bowl with the blade set at low speed.

2. Add vanilla extract and maple syrup.

3. Melt chocolate chips in small pan set in larger pan of water or a double boiler. Melt chips over low-medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat as soon as chips are fully melted.

4. Allow chips to cool slightly, then add to cream cheese-sour cream. Blend again to combine.

5. Place graham crackers in a bowl and, using a heavy object (I used the bottom of a glass measuring cup), crush until they form a soft crumb. You could do this in a Cuisinart as well.

6. Melt butter in small saucepan. Add to graham crackers and stir to combine, making sure crumb is sufficiently moist.

7. With your fingers, press graham cracker crumbs into pie tin, covering bottom and sides to equal thickness. You should have enough crumbs to cover nearly the entire tin sides.

Graham cracker crust in a circle

8. Fill tin with chocolate cream cheese-sour cream mixture.

9. Place in center rack of oven and bake for 45 minutes or until chocolate mixture rises to top and is firm to the touch.

10. Allow to cool on countertop and serve.

Vegan chocolate cheesecake ready to serve.

Should We Give Them Cake?

Location: Cork, Ireland
Person: Susan Rita
Recipe: Gur or Chester Cake

Once upon a time, there was a food blogger who wanted to go on the gur. To be “on the gur” is Irish slang for playing hookey.

She’d been blogging every week since January, while also working two jobs, and she was tired.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t take a break because, as they say, “The blog must go on…”

One day, to cheer her up, her friend Susan Rita stopped by to sing her a song she’d written. It was a blues song about cellphones, and how people are talking on them all the time.

The song reminded the food blogger of Twitter and Facebook, and all the other ways people today are always blathering on all the time. Sometimes, it did seem to her as if people really were just talking to themselves!

The food blogger sometimes felt this way about her own “talking.” She couldn’t figure out how to stop the nagging feeling she had that talking (in the form of a blog) was meaningless, when all was said and done.

She thought about the people in Japan who had lost their homes, and didn’t even know where their next meal was coming from. They were scared and cold and hungry. How could writing a food blog help them?

She thought about the post she was writing for St. Patrick’s Day about Gur cake, an Irish dessert made with stale bread soaked in tea to make it soft again. Susan Rita had told her about it after she went to Ireland to research her roots there.

At the Cork Butter Museum, Susan Rita had offered a piece of Gur cake to the man at the entrance, Mr. Humphreys. He was so excited when he saw it, because it reminded him of his childhood, when he’d skip school and buy it for a tuppence at the local bakery.

The food blogger thought about the Irish people. They were resilient too, just like the people in Japan who had survived the earthquake. She thought about giving someone in Japan a piece of Gur cake, as a symbol of transforming tragedy, the way the Irish people had turned stale bread into sweet cake.

The Gur cake reminded the food blogger of a Buddhist story too.

The story was about a woman whose child dies. Inconsolable, she goes to the Buddha to ask him to relieve her suffering. He agrees to help, but says first she must collect a mustard seed from every person in the village who has not experienced suffering. The bereaved woman agrees, but at each home, the person she visits relates their own story of suffering and, in that moment, she realizes she actually isn’t alone, and her suffering disappears.

Gur cake may not be the answer to life’s pain. But perhaps it can serve as a small reminder that, when all seems lost, we have the capacity to create beauty from nothingness.

Gur or Chester Cake.

With special thanks to Paul and Derek from Jim Brady’s Restaurant and Lara from Moran’s Restaurant and Bar in New York City who vetted the Gur cake.

Hear Susan Rita and her Ruel String Band sing her original blues song: ““.

DONATE TO JAPAN’S RELIEF EFFORTS.

Recipe: Gur Cake, adapted from a recipe by Sheila O’Donoghue-Baratizadeh posted on Traditional Irish Foods
Prep Time: 1 1/2 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 14-16 squares

Ingredients:

Bread Stuffing Part I:

6-ounce loaf ciabatta or Brennan’s bread (allowed to sit for two days wrapped in paper towel to dry) – 170 grams
3 cups hot (not boiling) water – 660 grams
2 tea bags (Irish Breakfast or black)

1. Place ciabatta bread in a five-pound aluminum loaf pan (29.8 cm. x 14.3 cm. x 8.1 cm.).
2. Cover bread with tea water that’s been allowed to steep 2 minutes and cooled slightly.
3. Press the bread down and turn it a few times to make sure both sides are wet.
4. Cut ciabatta in half and allow to soak in tea water for an hour until fully soft.

Shortcrust Pastry:

8 ounces all-purpose flour – 228 grams
1 ounce sugar – 29 grams
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cold, unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter or regular butter, cut into small squares – 114 grams
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon ice water

1. While bread is soaking, begin making shortcrust pastry by mixing flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
2. Add butter to flour, using fingers to mix, until flour resembles small bread crumbs.
3. Make a well in center, and add well-beaten egg yolks. Use a knife to combine eggs into flour.
4. Dust table surface with 1-2 tablespoons flour. Turn dough onto floured surface; dough will still be crumbly. Slowly add ice water to dough by teaspoons to help it stick together.
5. Knead dough with hands, adding ice water in small amounts as needed until dough forms a smooth ball.
6. Divide in two, wrap each in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Bread Stuffing Part II:

4 ounces currants – 114 grams
1 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour – 42 grams
4 ounces brown sugar – 114 grams
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ounce butter – 28 grams
2 tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice or British Mixed Spice
(alternatively, you can use 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamon)
1 large egg, well beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 lemon rind, finely grated

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit – 190 degrees Celsius.
2. Use hands to squeeze tea water from bread and return to loaf pan.
3. In a separate, clean bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Add sugar, rub in butter with fingers, and add spices.
4. Add currants to bread and mix well with hands to combine.
5. Add bread mixture to flour and mix to combine.
6. Whisk egg into milk, add grated lemon rind. Set aside.
7. Remove dough from refrigerator. Place on table lightly dusted with flour.
8. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball into rectangular shape, same size as aluminum loaf pan.
9. Grease bottom and sides of pan with butter.
10. Place one rectangle of dough on bottom, trim to fit, and press into pan bottom. Use fork to prick holes in dough.
11. Add milk, eggs, and lemon rind to bread mixture. Stir to combine.
12. Fill loaf pan with bread mixture. Distribute evenly to cover pastry bottom.
13. Place second rectangle of dough on top. Trim ends to fit. Prick top evenly with fork.
14. Place in middle rack of oven and cook for approximately one hour until golden brown on top.
15. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you’re not making royal icing for the top, whip cream makes a nice accompaniment.

Ice Cream Confessional

The author's mugshot a.k.a. high school yearbook photo

I used to steal ice cream. I was 15 and worked at the local Baskin Robbins. Technically, I wasn’t stealing for myself. The real culprit was my mother.

Ruth, my mother

The author's mother in college playing innocent.

She’d come pick me up at night after my shift. I was old enough to work but didn’t yet have a driver’s license. As she waited in the car listening to talk radio, I’d finish the last closing routines: wiping down the glass cases, carrying trash out behind the store, and turning off the hot chocolate warmer and flowing water inside the metal trays where we kept the scoopers. Then I’d lower the lights so no one could see what I was about to do and go outside for her instructions.

“What’s the flavor of the month again?” she’d ask, avoiding my gaze by staring out the car’s windshield.
“I think it’s Nutty Coconut.”
“All right. Good. Let’s get a pint of that.”

Back inside I’d pack up a pint, making sure to wipe down the metal spatula to hide any evidence. The whole thing felt cheap and tawdry. But what I could I do? She was my mother, and I needed the ride.

Once I’d left for college though, I told myself my days of stealing ice cream were over. Sure, I still loved the stuff (and could easily eat it every day if no one cared what I looked like) but in the intervening years, I’d convinced myself that I’d reformed.

And then it snowed here in New York. A lot. And suddenly, before you could say Pralines’n Cream, I got the itch again.

I first waited until the snow was at least four inches off the ground. Then, under cover of darkness, snuck out to the yard with a glass measuring cup. Working quickly before my neighbors could see, I filled a metal bowl with snow; the old skills returning as if riding a bicycle.

Once inside, I got to work on step two. A few years earlier, I’d briefly dated the hot chocolate king of New York and had picked up a trick or two. My vision? Combine the best of winter into a single treat: hot chocolate snow cream.

I prepared the hot chocolate, then let it chill for an hour until thickened almost to pudding. Finally, mixing the hot chocolate and snow together, I stirred gently until the concoction held.

hot chocolate snow cream

Hot chocolate snow cream: Costs so little, tastes so good.

I tasted it, as nervous as if my mother had ordered a gallon instead of a pint. It was perfect. Better even than Nutty Coconut. And, best of all, it was practically free, and no one got hurt.

Hot Chocolate Snow Cream
(adapted from Pierre Hermé, Jeffrey Steingarten, and David Leibovitz by way of Wittamer)

Servings: 2
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Ingredients:

5 to 6 cups fresh snow
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup whole milk
1/8 cup sugar
2 ounces dark chocolate, sliced thin with serrated bread knife
1/8 ounce unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt

Stopping by ice cream on a snowy evening.

1. Scoop up 5 to 7 cups of clean snow. Place in metal bowl or plastic container and store in freezer until ready to use.

2. Mix half and half, milk, and sugar in a heavy saucepan (like Le Crueset) and whisk to combine.

3. Place on stove over medium heat and allow to just boil, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove from heat and add chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.

5. Return to low heat and allow to boil again, stirring continuously.

6. When mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat and pour into metal bowl. Place bowl in refrigerator and allow to chill one hour.

7. Remove hot chocolate from refrigerator and snow from freezer. Add snow by 1/2 cup increments into hot chocolate, stirring after each to combine until mixture is the thickness of ice cream. Taste after 5 cups and add more snow if desired.

Saving the World One Brownie at a Time

Madagascarian Brownies

Malagasy Brownies

A few years back, I developed an unhealthy brownie obsession.  It started after I’d decided to pursue a romantic fantasy to quit my day job and open a cafe.  To see if the dream had legs — and to try my hand at the business — I managed through luck (living in the right zip code) and a little chutzpah to enter a free baking program for low-income workers at a school in Long Island City.   Little did they know, I wasn’t poor just creatively unsatisfied.

Here’s what happened next:  For six weeks I’d spend from 9 to 12 listening to people’s problems.  Then, at noon, like Clark Kent learning that Lex Luthor was about to invade Earth, I’d toss off my Anne Taylor dress, grab jeans, t-shirt, and a baseball cap, dash to the subway, and emerge 20 minutes later at the Consortium for Workers Education & Artisan Baking Center magically transformed from staid, nerdy psychologist into hip, flour-encrusted baker.  Then, from 12:30 to 4:30, I’d knead dough, fill pastry bags with frosting, and haul tray after tray of breads and sweets into hellishly hot ovens.  I was in heaven.

Mid-way through the program though, I came up with a new idea. Perhaps, rather than open a cafe (a potentially money-losing prospect anyway), I’d create a product.  A brownie product.  A very special brownie product:  Brooklyn Brownies.

Now Brooklyn Brownies wouldn’t be like ordinary brownies with walnuts and plain square shapes.  No.  Brooklyn Brownies would be round or rectangular and have flavors styled after Brooklyn neighborhoods, such as Coney Island with marshmallows and salted peanuts or Greenpoint filled with cream cheese and sour cherries.

The idea was inspired.  I envisioned my brownies supplanting the cupcake craze.  But just to be sure, I embarked on a whirlwind brownie-tasting tour to sample my competition.

You see the brownie I envisioned was very specific, hovering in the liminal space between cakey and fudgy.  Neither overly cloying (e.g., topped with frosting) nor flat, dry, and square like so much unleavened bread, my brownie, my ideal brownie, exuded a mature chocolaty je ne sais quoi not sullied by childish accoutrement.

Happily, my tastings left me wanting (and not for more) with only my hips appreciating the “exercise.”   And so, after numerous trials and oh-so-many errors, I finally created a recipe I thought achieved crustulum perfectus.  The Brooklyn Brownie was nearing completion.

And then I met Joe.

Like me, Joe had a day job.  And, like me, he too harbored fantasies of changing his life.   Only he aspired to a more noble calling:  he wanted to find creative and successful ways to fight poverty.   So he’d started working for Madécasse, a company that produced single-origin chocolate bars made entirely in Madagascar, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world but home to some of the world’s finest cocoa.

Madécasse was founded by two former Peace Corps volunteers who, after living in Madagascar, realized the country wasn’t poor because it didn’t produce enough cocoa, vanilla, and spices, but because it only produced those things.

This realization led them to a unique proposal:  why not fight poverty not with development aid or “Fair Trade” but by involving the Malagasy people at all levels of chocolate production — from bean to bar to wrapper.  That way more of every consumer dollar spent on the end product would benefit the island.  The result?  A higher-quality bar that could hold its own against competitors and yielded four times more impact to the Malagasy people through farmer training, higher wages, and increased employment.

Joe had inspired me.  What if I too could make a difference by using Madécasse bars in my brownies?  So one afternoon, Joe came to my apartment and we made them using Madécasse 70% cocoa and Sea Salt & Nibs instead of my usual source.

I was humbled.  They tasted amazing.

Now, thanks to Joe, I not only have better brownies, but a greater appreciation for the economy and politics behind chocolate.  And, if I ever do launch Brooklyn Brownies, I know exactly where I’m getting chocolate for the ginger and coconut-infused Flatbush!

Learn how Madécasse chocolate bars are made, then go make your own Malagasy brownies!

Joe in my kitchen.

Joe in my kitchen.

Joe Salvatore, Marketing Director — Madécasse:

“The pod is the size of a football.  It’s purple, green, and yellow.  It’s just beautiful.  It hangs off a twig, and you whack it off the tree and catch the pod.  They use an interesting tool.  It’s curved, and you have to crack the pod just right.  It slices the pod open and the middle looks like bug larvae — white, pulpy, and gooey.  All the stuff around it though tastes good.  Inside it looks like a garlic bulb or a football with little beans inside. You have to break the pod just the right way, because if you damage one clove, you damage them all, because it quickly degrades the whole fruit.

Once you get the insides out, you separate each bean by hand.   You ferment them to develop the flavor, then dry them in the sun.  You spread them out every day in the morning and before night scrape them inside.  You do this for a couple of days and, as you do so, they turn from white and pulpy to the dark brown color we know.

Now normally those cocoa beans ship to other countries where they’re sold to middlemen who then sell them at a higher mark-up, after which they’re shipped to Europe or other countries where they start to work on them.  They put them in machines that crack and separate the inside of the bean, which is called the nib, from the outer shell.  The outer shell is then blown away and it looks creepy, like a brain, folded, with nibs inside, densely packed.  That’s what chocolate’s made from.

You break those apart and grind them to a certain consistency.  Then you smash the nibs which, when you crush them, release a liquid that looks and tastes like chocolate and is then separated into cocoa solids and cocoa butter, which is basically fat.

To make a chocolate bar, you combine the cocoa solids and cocoa butter with sugar, vanilla, and binding so it holds together.  Then you mix it for a long time to release the unique cocoa flavors, and that’s what makes for a fine-quality chocolate bar.”

Malagasy Brownies

Serving:  8-10 rectangular brownies

Ingredients:

9 oz. chocolate (1/2 Madécasse 70% and 1/2 Sea Salt & Cocoa Nibs)
7.5 oz. unsalted butter
8 oz. granulated sugar
2.25 oz. pastry flour
4 large eggs at room temperature
Pinch of sea salt (only if using regular chocolate not Sea Salt & Cocoa Nibs)

Directions:

1.  Break chocolate and butter into small pieces and place in the top of a double boiler with the bottom pot filled halfway with water.  Alternatively, simply set in a small pot over a slightly larger pot filled the same way with water.

2.  Place double boiler on stove top over low to medium flame and gently stir chocolate and butter with a wooden spoon until fully melted.  Remove from heat.

3.  Measure sugar into a blender or Cuisinart and grind to a finer consistency.

4.  Stir pre-measured pastry flour into sugar to combine.  Then stir into chocolate until dissolved.

5.  In a separate glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk eggs until slightly frothy.

6.  Remove chocolate mixture from pot and scrape into medium to large bowl with a rubber spatula.

7.  Pour eggs into chocolate and fold in gently until combined.  The chocolate should have a thick, pudding-like quality.  *If you didn’t use Sea Salt & Cocoa Nibs, add pinch of salt at this stage.

8.  Cover bowl with plate and allow to sit for 30 minutes until thickened.

9.  After 15 minutes preheat oven to 350 degrees.

10.  Very lightly coat the bottom of each loaf, muffin, or Silpat container with unsalted butter, just enough so brownies slip out after baking; too much and the bottoms may be slightly greasy.

11.  Using a spoon or measuring cup, fill each container three-quarters of the way with brownie mixture.

12.  Bake on middle rack of stove for 30 minutes or until tops have a solid,  marbled appearance.  Brownies may be slightly soft in center.

12.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

13.  Use a knife to gently loosen edges and remove each brownie by hand.

Brownies can be stored in a plastic container in the refrigerator or on the counter top for a few days.   They taste even better the second day!