Six days with a suffering Sicilian is enough to drive any woman mad. By the time I got Bob back on the airplane, we’d both taken vows of life-long celibacy. Wasn’t so bad at first, rather pleasant in fact. But things took a turn for the worst when I asked him to pick up his socks.
And after I gave him a badly buttered piece of toast, things really went to hell. We ended up leaving the restaurant before I even had the chance to finish my pan-seared scallops with truffle-infused polenta. “Oooh, yuck, do realize where that comes from?” my daughter, who won’t let me publish her name so we’ll just call her Mira, said, as I recounted the horrifying ordeal. “That’s placenta,” I retorted, “and only available as a facial.”
Come to think of it, I could probably get rich selling tempered chocolate facials to the rich and the whacky. Smear this on your face, cover with a chilled towel and in twenty minutes your face will re-crystallize and glisten. Not a bad idea . . .
But back to business. Once Bob was gone, certain not to return this time, Monkey’s Paw or not, I went back to the kitchen where last we left I’d made a couple of delicious batches of saffron chocolates, but left two bowls of ganache in the fridge for molding another day. One was a black raspberry and the other a chipotle dark. I was tired. Dead tired, that exhilarating exhaustion that hits like the flu whenever a guest has gone.
But being dog tired was no excuse. If I didn’t freeze or use up the ganache before long, I’d have to throw it out. So I got out the old Pyrex mixing bowl, tossed in a couple of cups of 70% dark couveture, set it over a pan filled with an inch of water, turned on the stove and started melting.
I knew if I set out to do both batches, I’d end up cursing. I am learning to accept my limits, move at my own pace, one batch at a time. I could do two batches, I could even do four or five, but perfect focus, and perfect pace, will bring far greater reward in the end. At the very least, it would be easier to clean up afterwards.
I polished a mold of a twisted abstract design, one that looks like lovers embracing. I poured the tempered chocolate into the molds, whacked away the air bubbles with a meat tenderizer – wham! Wham! Wham! – then piped the black raspberry ganache into each cavity, sealed it with more tempered chocolate, and popped them into the freezer.
Now the pros don’t always recommend freezing chocolates – my Bible of chocolate making, “Chocolates & Confections” by Peter P. Greweling, CMB (that’s Certified Master Baker to the uninitiated) – advises resting the piped chocolates at room temperature for fifteen minutes and chilling in the refrigerator for fifteen more. But every time I’ve tried doing that, my chocolates are about as ready to come out of the mold as a breach baby in need of magnetic forceps. I decided right then and there to give up Greweling’s pro method and go back to ten minutes in the freezer and they popped right out.
Which just goes to show you, amateurs sometimes have to do things the easy way, like it or not.
The chocolates came out perfectly molded, as shiny and dark as a perfectly smeared mask on the face of a celebrity housewife. Mira snapped pictures while I pondered the clean up. Dishes piled high, chocolate all over the counters, all over the stove, the bowl of melted chocolate already hardening into something it was never meant to be. Was chocolate strewn all over the place any fundamentally different than dirty socks strewn everywhere, I wondered?
Yes, I decided, it is. So I ate a piece of the newly unmolded chocolate – a bit dry, perhaps, but tasty, and began loading the dishwasher, cleaning the counters, and drying my molds. When the kitchen was done, I moved into the next room, and the next. Soon Mira joined in, and by the time the sun had set, the house had been cleansed, the clutter discarded, and burning candles had gently scented the air. I moved from sparkling room to sparkling room with an unexpected sense of comfort. The only thing out of place was the sound of gushing water coming from Mira’s bathroom. It had been running for some time, but I’d barely even heard it.
I called for Mira to turn off the water and tell me what she was doing. She had long since finished cleaning up. Surely it wasn’t what I suspected, but it was. After cleaning the apartment, she’d decided to paint her nails — choosing a bright shade of pink that, it turns out, just wasn’t her. But having run out of nail polish remover, she thought she’d just wash the wet polish off. And as any woman knows, there are some messes you just can’t wash away.
Later, after mom threw a fit and teenager managed to sob, storm off to her room and somehow miraculously restore her perfect manicure, we each had another chocolate. The filling had softened in the warmth of the room, turned from a bit too dry to perfectly soft and smooth, not too sweet and not too bitter, and just a touch on the tart side.
Sometimes all it takes is a little time and a little warmth to finally get what we’re after. And what’s better to go after than a good chocolate and a mess you know you can manage, one way or another, without even leaving home.