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La Belle Cuisine
A Writer in the Kitchen
© Laurie Colwin 1988,
HarperCollins editions 1993/2000
who is in most other ways a perfectly normal person, is so addicted to chocolate
that she routinely compromises her expensive dental work by eating something
that I believe is called Rose Schaeffer’s Chocolate Lace. This particular
confection is made by covering a Jackson-Pollock-looking lattice of sticky,
filling-and-bridgework-pulling toffee with chocolate. My sister believes that
milk chocolate is for twinks and wimps. She eats
bittersweet chocolate by the pound and still remains thin. [?]
There are those who must have chocolate and those who can take it or leave
alone. For the afflicted there are magazines devoted to the subject, choco-late
cookbooks, candy-maker’s instruction guides, antique chocolate molds, chocolate
dipping courses. There is high-ticket imported chocolate imported chocolate,
often in the form of a truffle and often costing only a little less
than a real
truffle, and novelty chocolate in the form of chocolate arms and legs and
telephones. There is weird chocolate*, as in chocolate-covered grasshoppers. And
then there are candy bars, which those in need of a fix
can find almost
I like chocolate but I don’t love it. I think it is nice every once in a while.
am however a sucker for
fudge, which, in my opinion, is chocolate in its
sublime form. On the other hand, I do not like
chocolate cake or
ice cream and I
find the taste of chocolate mixed with liquor just plain awful [!] except in the
case of the chocolate-covered cherry, which is the food of my childhood. [Yes!]
In some form or another, chocolate figures in every American’s childhood.
remember walking home from school with a candy bar in the days when Three
Musketeers really had three pieces. I remember my first taste of
Rocky Road ice
cream [and Jamoca Almond Fudge!], which my sister
adored and I hated. [Go
figure…] To this day my idea of a perfect dessert
is a slightly undercooked
chocolate chip cookie made from the recipe on
the back of the chocolate morsels’
bag. I remember the kind of chocolate pudding that formed a tough skin on top,
and the instant kind [yuck!] that
We did not have
chocolate cakes for our birthdays but chocolate played an important role in
the cakes we ordered. They were always the same: yellow cake with split layers,
the layers alternatingly spread with mocha and apricot jam. The middle layer was
marzipan, and the whole thing was covered with bittersweet chocolate icing and
decorated with sugar roses, not buttercream, because my mother
believes that buttercream turns in the hot weather, when all of our birthdays
take place. We always found bakers to make this cake, which would have been
insipid without that dark, not too sweet icing.
The world is full of chocolate lovers and I have come to rely on three recipes
to help those who invite them for dinner:
flourless chocolate cake, steamed chocolate pudding [recipe follows], and
chocolate bread pudding, which when it bubbles over fills the house with what Mary
McCarthy describes in ‘The Groves of Academe’ as ‘a rich smell of burning.’ The
smell of chocolate bubbling over and slightly burning is one of the most
beautiful smells in the world. It is subtle and comforting and it is
rich. One tiny drop perfumes a room as nothing else...
…Steamed chocolate pudding is a throwback to a cozier time in American life and
is definitely worth making. The 1964 edition of ‘The Joy of Cooking’
recipe for it – an elaborate one containing six eggs and nuts, not my
idea of a
good time. But the 1943 edition (the one with the recipe for gum-drop cookies
which begins: ‘Good for soldiers’ boxes as they keep fresh
contains the real winner – a plain, easy and sincere
pudding, made as follows:
1. Melt 2
ounces of unsweetened chocolate. Let cool.
2. Sift 1/2 cup of sugar.
3. Beat one egg until light. Add the sugar to it gradually and beat
4. Add melted chocolate and then add 1 tablespoon melted, cooled
5. Sift 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Resift with 1/2 teaspoon baking
powder. Add to the egg mixture in three parts, alternating the thirds
1/2 cup of milk in three parts. Beat until smooth after
6. Pour into a buttered pudding mold. Cover with waxed paper tied
down with a
rubber band and steam in a kettle for about one hour.
tips nicely out of its mold and looks like a baked hat. It is delicious with a
raspberry purée, or with whipped cream. Some people
like it sliced with a little
jam. Steamed puddings have a wonderful satiny texture: half a pudding, half a
cake and the nicer half of each.
As for chocolate bread pudding, there is nothing more consoling on a
cold night. Any standard cookbook has a recipe for bread pud-
simply add chocolate to the milk and egg. The version
I first ate
was made of
lightly toasted bread spread with sweet butter and
set in a dish.
The egg, milk and chocolate were poured over it, and the
whole thing stood
soaking for an hour before being baked in a 300-degree
F oven for forty-
When it comes to chocolate, I prefer the simplest and plainest. To this end
have made chocolate meringues, which must be made when the weather
is nice, and
chocolate wafers, which taught me a lesson.
These wafers come from ‘The Settlement Cook Book' by Mrs. Simon
(copyright 1926). I have my mother’s copy, which is falling to
pieces and has
written on the endpaper the telephone number for Charlie’s vegetable truck
service from 1947.
1. Melt 2
ounces of chocolate.
2. Add 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup melted butter.
3. Add the yolks of two eggs into the beaten egg whites and stir into
4. Add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
5. Spread on a well-buttered pan. Place in a 350-degree F oven but
decrease the heat to 300 degrees F.
6. This recipe does not tell you how long to bake. I would say about
twelve minutes. Cut into squares while still warm.
I made these
cookies to serve with a fruit salad one spring night and was alarmed at how
tasteless they were. No one liked them very much but I
could not bear to throw
them out, so I put them in a tin and left them for
a couple of days. One
afternoon when my blood sugar dropped and it was
time for tea, I remembered the
chocolate wafers. ‘Better than nothing,’
I said to myself, biting into one. To
my amazement, they were delicious.
They tasted strongly and wonderfully of
chocolate and were hard and
crunchy, too. It had taken a couple of days for the
taste to bloom and it
was worth the wait. And so I add to Mrs. Simon Kander’s
recipe a seventh step:
7. Let cool,
put in a tin and do not eat for at least two days.
And of course, for those of you about to give a dinner
party for choco-
late nuts, you know what bakeries are for: so that, at the end of
can put your feet up and have the chocolate dessert you didn’t
And while we're at it.....
from "Book of
Puddings, Desserts and Savouries"
- Josceline Dimbleby
core and slice thin (or cut into chunks) 1 pound
pears and arrange them
on bottom of buttered baking
dish, sprinkle them with sugar and
2 tablespoons butter.
2. You then mix together
1 generous tablespoon unsweetened
teaspoon baking soda
cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup
1 large egg, beaten
tablespoons melted butter
it all into a batter. The whole performance
about 20 minutes.
3. Pour the batter on top of the pears and bake pudding 45
to 50 minutes
325-degree F. oven. This pudding
can be eaten hot, cold, or at
especially good with
*...Master Confectioner Utz of Schwetzingen found the local asparagus
enchanting that he was inspired to create a delectable filled-chocolate
of asparagus tips, a local specialty. He even offers a choice of
(asparagus-colored) or milk chocolate. No, the chocolate is not
asparagus, nor is
the asparagus filled with chocolate. The
chocolate is filled with Buttertrüffel
and Himbeergeist (raspberry
brandy) - it just LOOKS like asparagus. As a matter
of fact, the
special asparagus- tip form used to create these luscious chocolates
was designed by Utz and is patented.
Asparagus - The
very dark, intensely chocolate wafers)
Laurie on Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Silk Bread Pudding
Emeril's Chocolate Bread
Apricot-Glazed White Chocolate Rice
Pudding with Bitter Chocolate Sauce
Black Gold Cookies
Pennsylvania Dutch Chocolate Cookies
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