“You are kind and loved.”
I demand my money back
That ain’t no fortune
I’ve never believed in them; let’s make that totally clear. I don’t like anything telling me what to do, which includes cookies, self-help books, or parents. I hold any “Wisdom From the Beyond”, be it astrological, numerological, tarot, or confectionery, all with the same disdain. Jupiter is in Leo, with Mercury rising? My fifth chakra is out of line? Gag unto me with a spoon. I understand the appeal, though, and this stuff can be fun. I read my horoscope sometimes, even if it’s just to see how wrong they are.
But these cookies. These cookies are screwing with us. I remember once when I was a child cracking open a fortune cookie and reading “You will find a ruby buried in the sand.” I spent the next year surveying every beach, sandbox, and miscellaneous piles of dirt for a hint of a gem, even the tiniest little scrap. When I grew up and stopped being as gullible as, well, a seven year old, I couldn’t get angry at a tiny scrap of paper; I hadn’t found a ruby, but I had found a $10 bill, a bird skull, a pocket knife, three pogs (which were in vogue at the time), and a fair share of bouncy balls. All of that may not of been worth much, but what a treasure!
Something has changed though. These cookies nowadays don’t give fortunes. I started noticing about a decade ago, when fortunes such as “A long lost uncle will die and leave his entire estate to you”, or “Your wife is sleeping with your brother” were replaced by more vague premonitions. “Your future is bright” and “Your work situation will improve”. I’m okay with these, I guess, but none of them are going to go make a kid sifting through an entire playground. It’s like trading a homemade cookie that was made with real molasses, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and is the shape of a duck, with a national brand cookie that is a regular shape and has a standard taste – it’s still good, but it’s not as much fun.
All the fortunes have been replaced by affirming platitudes. “You are an insightful individual” and “You are cherished and adored by your friends”. What sort of bullshit is that? I did not buy $30 worth of over salted noodles and dumplings that I am sure are filled with more raccoon meat than chicken to be told I’m happy and pleasant person. I WANT EXTREMES, DAMMIT! Give me my family’s weight in gold! Tell me if I climb a mountain, I’ll be able to read people’s minds! It doesn’t even have to be positive! “You will get lupus within three years.” AWESOME! BRING IT!
To make-up for their lack of creativity, these people print lotto numbers below these trite affirmations, as if saying randomly generated computer numbers hold all of our luck. I can do that at home. Hell, 14 03 63 22 05. See?! (If anyone wins with those numbers, please let me know; I may have a future in the psychic industry.) What I can’t do at home is be surprised by a sweet crunchy sugary treat foretelling that my grandmother is going to buy me a horse named Sprinkles.
I believe there is more to be seen in this slow degradation of our Chinese-themed, American-invented dessert: instead of dealing with the prospect of opening the cookie and being told our future may not be all that we had planned, we merely wish to be placated and told that we are worthwhile human beings who deserve to be happy simply for ordering delivery. If you need to be told you’re okay by a cookie, then you may need more help than a dessert can offer.
It might also be that in this time of recession and what may be the beginnings of some civil unrest, people simply don’t want to think about the future even if it’s all for fun. Yet there’s something depressing about cracking open a fortune cookie and finding nothing, so they fill it with happy descriptions . . . but it’s hard to write a funny article with that one.
Deep-fried candy, but in a good way.
There are times I want to say that I am so talented and prolific, all I need is a pen and paper and I can create art that is moving, entertaining and insightful. Then I remember that the name of my particular muse is χαζή τύχηm, which is Greek for “dumb luck”, and my delusions of grandeur just fly right out the window. Case in point: this is another recipe idea I got from my inability to type. While chatting online with a friend while we were talking about Chinese food, I meant to type “eggrolls” but instead typed “eggrolos”.
And thus, a new creation was born.
For those of you who don’t know about Rolos (meaning that your childhood was a loveless pit of despair and lamentation), they are a simple candy of milk-chocolate coated caramels. They were sweet, every so chewy, and came wrapped in gold-colored foil, encased in a paper tube.
Deep-fried Rolos are not a new invention (as people who attended the 2011 Arkansas State Fair can attest to), but to put it in the form of an eggroll helps to subtract the American tradition of frying every food beyond recognition, and add a little international flare to the dish. And because a mentor of mine once said, “Nic, the ONE time you DON’T half-ass a job is when you’re just fucking around”, I couldn’t simply take Rolos, wrap them in eggroll wrappers, and then cook the suckers. No, I had to make the caramel and the chocolate myself, and then get to frying.
This dish was daunting and intimidating once all the ingredients were laid out before me. But because you can never learn to fly without jumping off of a cliff, there’s no other option but to dive in head first and hope you sprout wings before you fall to your death.
– 14 ½ oz. Sugar
– ½ cup of Water
– ½ cup Light Corn Syrup
– ¼ tsp. of Cream of Tartar
– 1 ¾ cups of Heavy Cream (room temperature)
– 2 tsp. of Soy Sauce
– 10 tbsp. of Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
– 1 tsp. Sea Salt
– 8 oz. of Milk Chocolate Morsels
– Vegetable Oil
– Eggroll Wrappers (So I didn’t make everything from scratch; I’m an artist, not Chef Chu from Eat Drink Man Woman.)
– Confectioners Sugar
This recipe scared me half to death. Melting sugar is always very scary to me as it is the culinary version of napalm, and things can go from okay to horrible in a matter of moments. As a cook, I’m a guy who flies by the seat of his pants most of the time, not knowing what the final dish is going to be until I put it on my plate and eat it. Candy is more of an exact science: keep the mixture at 233° for 32.12289984 minutes, and then turn the heat up to 450° for 4 seconds, and then add salt, then take it out, then add hard water, then document the results and publish them in an accredited scientific journal. All of these strict guidelines can be frightening to a new candy-cooker, but there is also comfort in them as you don’t have to think about anything. Just follow the directions to the letter, and you’ll be okay.
- The recipe I used for the caramels was Alton Brown’s (my cooking idol), and can be found here. I’m not going to go through the exacts of the recipe because I didn’t get it quite right the few times I’ve tried it. The first time I attempted it, the candy came out more like brittle, which would not be a pleasant experience when biting into a hot fried tube of sugar. The second time, I ended up with something that was the consistency of the caramel that is swirled into the ice cream cartons that you buy at the grocery store, which works better with the EggRolo recipe, but isn’t what the recipes says it should be. I’ll keep trying to perfect it in the future but I started to get diabetes from eating all the failed efforts, so I just went with the swirly-saucy caramel.
- Make a ganache for the chocolate portion. Ganache is an icing or glaze that is made with chocolate and cream. Heat ¾ cup of heavy cream. Put your chocolate in a bowl. When the cream is ready, pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for two minutes. Stir the chocolate and cream until fully mixed, and then add 2 tbsp. of butter. Mix until fully incorporated and then set aside to cool.
- I used dark chocolate to make my ganache because I prefer it, but a milk chocolate ganache would be truer to the Rolo concept, as well as taste more like it. Also, you run the risk of the dark chocolate overpowering the caramel.
- Prepare a eggrolo-rolling station, which should include your caramel, your chocolate ganache, eggroll wrappers, and a small bowl of cold water to dip you fingers in.
- The size of your eggrolos depends on your personal preference. I tried both traditional eggroll wrappers and then smaller potsticker wrappers as well. The eggroll wrappers will create a normal looking eggroll, which would be good for a dessert in a coursed-meal. The smaller wrappers created tiny eggrolos about an inch in length, which would be ideal for snack food for kids or in a big bowl at a party.
- The key to filling eggrolls (or any stuffed pastry/pasta) is to use a lot less than you feel you should. Start by putting down a small, thin layer of ganache –
- – and then a thicker portion of caramel –
- Then you flip the corner over once then fold in the sides. At this point, you want to wet your fingers and rub the edges of the wrappers. This will make sure that you get a full seal on your eggrolos so that nothing seeps out when you start frying. Gently press out all air pockets, and finish rolling the eggrolo, making sure to seal every edge. Set on a plate.
- Once you’ve prepped the amount of eggrolos you want (I only did four big eggrolos and four little rolos, but I think this recipe could yield 64 eggrolos, easily), refrigerate the eggrolos for at least an hour.
- The point of chilling the rolos for so long before cooking is to make sure that the intense heat of frying melts the inner ingredients rather than burning them.
- Fill a pot with the oil and start to heat to 350° (get yourself one of them fancy candy thermometers).
- Once your eggrolos are chilled and your oil is ready, put two to four eggrolos in the oil (depending on the size of your pot and the size of your eggrolos). Since we don’t need to worry about the contents of the eggrolos cooking, once they turn a golden brown, take the eggrolos out and set them to drain.
- You will want to serve these pretty quickly, so that the outside is really crispy and the inside all melty and gooey. If you wait too long, the crunch will be gone and the effect ruined.
- Dust with confectioners sugar, and then serve.
The final product came out pretty much like I expected, but the reality of it had much more impact than I had imagined; hot, crispy and crunchy lightness on the outside; warm, gooey and sweet decadence on the inside. Serve with some small scoops of vanilla ice cream, or if you are brave, try dipping them into soy sauce which will add some saltiness to the party, making the flavors more complex. Either way, your diners are in for a pleasant surprise.
Rich, Gooey, Decadent.
Okay, I need to get a better camera. These photos don’t do this thing justice whatsoever.
A while ago I was interested in doing a web series about cooking geared towards those people who have a hard time not burning the house down when they pour a glass of water. Every episode would have focused on one basic cooking/culinary principle, like knives, preparation or heat, and after each lesson I would cook/teach a recipe that used said principles. I’m still interested in doing that series, but seeing as I started writing episode one almost a year and a half ago and now I’m up to episode one I don’t think the series will be coming any time soon. And like I said already, I need a better camera.
This is the recipe that comes from the first episode. I went a little overboard in making this one, and the basics of the dessert sandwich are actually much simpler than what I went through. So this recipe will have two sections: 1) Normal text for what I did, and 2) Italics for the easy (lazy) version.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Melt
– Two slices of bread (I used a hearty whole wheat, heavier works better for this)
– Peanut Butter
– Bittersweet/Dark Chocolate Morsels
– Dried Cranberries
– Tbsp. Brown Sugar
– Butter (And lots of it. If you think great desserts can be nonfat then I don’t want to know you . . . unless you subscribe to my blog, please subscribe to my blog. Also, room temperature and unsalted, thank you very much)
– 1/2 Tbsp. Cinnamon
- Start by putting a handful of chocolate (measuring cups? what?!) and a handful of dried cranberries in a food processor. Process until most of the chocolate has turned more to a powder. — Using the same measurements, chop the chocolate and cranberries with a knife. We want things pretty fine, so keep going at it for awhile. Use a cold knife and wear rubber gloves to keep from melting the chocolate which will make it harder to work with. You can skip down a few steps as it’s just unnecessarily complicated until then.
- After the chocolate and the cranberries have been processed, add about a handful of peanut butter (about 1/3 – 1/2 cup if you’re silly and don’t want to dunk your hand into peanut butter) and add it. Process again until the peanut butter is incorporated. You’ll have a very doughy but not spreadable substance on your hands.
- Place the chocopeanutcranberry dough (I’ll call it choconut from now on) into a mixing bowl. Now brace yourself, this may be hard for a few of you. Add the room temperature butter until the consistency of the mixture is that of peanut butter. You will end up adding a lot of butter. It’ll make it taste great, so great, so fucking great you will want to marry it. But like marrying a millionaire who has made all of his money selling illegal pharmaceuticals, it may not be the healthiest thing for you. If you don’t like how much butter you’re adding, or you can’t convince yourself that what you’re adding is actually healthy-nature-green-eco-spread, add two tablespoons and then use milk to achieve the desired consistency.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whip 3 – 4 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and cinnamon until everything is thoroughly mixed. — You could just spread on butter later and then sprinkle it with brown sugar and cinnamon, but it tastes a lot better this way, so I say do it.
- Slice two thick slices of whole wheat bread, and spread the choconut spread on both slices. Put the sandwich together. — Take pre-sliced bread (no sourdough or rye please, unless you like nasty tasting shit, then hell, do what you want) and spread each slice with the choconut mixture. Put the sandwich together.
- Place a pan on medium-low heat. Spread the butter mixture onto one side of the sandwich. Once the pan is ready, put the sandwich butter side down onto the pan. Spread the butter on the other side of the sandwich. — Do this.
- After about 40 seconds to a minute, flip the sandwich. — Do this.
- Turn off the stove. Cut off edges of sandwich (and eat them immediately) and then slice diagonally. If you have any of the choconut spread left, using it as a dipping sauce. — Eat. Eat everything.
What you’ll end up with is a dessert sandwich that is so rich that you’ll want to share it with someone. Because not all the chocolate, cranberries and peanut butter will be completely mixed (unless you spend a lot time making sure it does, but don’t do that), each bite will be slightly different than the last. Sometimes more peanut butter, sometimes more chocolate, sometimes more cranberries. I highly suggest eating this with a glass of milk, as well as a good few hours of free time as this sandwich will put you into a diabetic coma pretty fast.