Nest to Impress

Oh Em Gee how did we get to Easter so soon? I demand a recount! No way can we be near the end of the full forty days and forty nights already! Not only do I demand a recount, but I also demand a do-over because I kind of missed Pancake (Shrove) Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, St Patricks Day and Who-knows-what-else Day. I’m totally unprepared.

Bah Easter Humbug.

like clockwork

Anyway, like they did in the good old cooking shows on TV *rummages under the counter* here’s one I made earlier! Ta-da! *points eagerly at chocolate concoction while everyone gets bored and wanders off*.

snug as chocolate bugs II

Using balloons to mould chocolate bowls is so old it’s not even a “thing” anymore, probably because it predates Pinterest. I’d always had this idea it would be hideously fiddly until I saw a 12 year old boy using this technique on Junior Masterchef. True, he made a booboo and fed the judges a tiny bit of balloon which he’d neglected to mention was still lurking in the depths of his dessert, but it was beautiful nonetheless – a dessert tucked inside a white chocolate dome through which one had to smash your way like a pinata. I love interactive (violent?) food.

The planning stages were, for me, a wee bit fiddly – I considered things like the weird smell inherent to balloons, the height limitation of the shelves in my fridge, and the wisdom in dipping a balloon into piping hot chocolate (rookie mistake – don’t do this unless you truly do wish to paint your kitchen in the shade Molten Chocolate Explosion). Once I’d worked out these minor points it was all systems go.

pantone

I’m not crazy about just using the chocolate bowl as, um – a bowl. But it’s an awesome shape from which to go a little mental – like, it could be an egg with a chocolate dinosaur emerging or it could be the top bit of a gigantic chocolate wine glass (yes!!) or with a little bit of doodling it can be a cute little nest like the one I made.

scaled up

So, all you need really is balloons and chocolate. Nothing frightening. Don’t bother using fancy-shmancy chocolate with boastful exclamations about cocoa solids and stuff on the front of the wrapper; cheap & nasty cooking chocolate works best because it sets quickly and snappily and isn’t prone to the fancy-chocolate-sulks (you know – where it refuses to set because it’s out of temper, and it’s dull and floppy and dragging it’s chocolate feet).

  1. First up is hygiene. I can’t stand the smell of balloons, so I gave the outside surface a gentle wash with warm water and dishwashing soap followed by thorough rinsing. Inflate the balloon until the round bit is the right size for your purposes, and tie a knot. Resist the urge to let air out in farty noises.The washing process would have changed the texture from slippery to kind of grippy so give it a wipe with a tiny amount of cooking oil.
  2. Meanwhile, lay a sheet of greaseproof paper down on a tray which will fit into your fridge. Check this part. Your fridge may not be as big as you like to think.
  3. Chop up the cooking chocolate, and melt 3/4 in a shallow microwavable bowl in the microwave until the bits just start looking blurry at the edges. Add the last quarter and stir gently until smooth and melted and kind of like you want to stick your face into it. Don’t.
  4. The chocolate won’t be very warm after adding the last bit and stirring it in – lukewarm at most. Dip the rounded bit of your prepared balloon into the chocolate, turning it over and over so that the chocolate extends up the sides and forms a nice thick layer. Use the back of a spoon to help the process. Lift the balloon out of the chocolate and turn it gently to spread the chocolate evenly and get rid of any excess. Spoon a wodge of melted chocolate onto the greaseproof paper to be the “anchor” then wodge the balloon onto it, holding it steady until the chocolate sets at the base.

just chillinphweeeee

Repeat as needed, then pop the lot into the fridge to set completely. I always forget to time this stuff. Let’s call it an hour *looks shiftily in other direction*.

When it’s totally set, use a pin to VERY GENTLY make a tiny hole near the knot. Slowly let the air out, gently pulling the balloon away from the chocolate sides – gently, or the chocolate will collapse inwards with the balloon. Don’t take too long because or the heat from your hands will start to melt all that hard work.

Now isn’t that so pretty? Take a moment to admire your polished chocolate bowl.Next, melt chocolate in a contrasting colour and (I used a teaspoon) kind of fling it around in thin circular motions all over the chocolate bowl to make it look nest-y.

dressing the nest

Last but not least, use a bit more melted chocolate to secure eggs in the middle of the nest, and if it’s looking kinda bland throw some sweeties in there too. Or get a giant chocolate chicken (from the supermarket – life is too short to also mould a whole frikkin’ bird out of chocolate) and park it on the eggs *wails “why didn’t I think of this at the time dang nabbit”*.

snug as chocolate bugs

PS: Will someone who is braver than I am PLEASE create a balloon cake and prank someone? It’s so mean. So mean and so awesome.

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Love Meh

So Shmalentines Day has come and gone. Meh.

meh

Any half-witted wannabe Casanova can pop into the local petrol station for last-minute overpriced red roses. Booking a table for two at the local Italian or French restaurant doth not a Romeo make. And why girls the world over fall into a swoon over those transparent tubs of Ferrero Rocher from their Don Juans is a complete mystery to me. Like, hello! Put some meaning into it, guys! (and girls – fair’s fair).

Proper honest-to-goodness relationships are about so much less than roses, chocolates and gaudy costume jewelry. It’s all about happily putting up with the idiosyncratic weirdness that comes standard with another human being, and embracing mundane everdayness. It’s all about Dutch Ovens, tolerating snoozeworthy action movies about sentient vehicles, and other wildly unromantic overtures. Here’s a quote from one of my all time favourite books, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult*.

“What I want is what other people take for granted… To ask, Did you set the alarm? To say: Remind me that we are running out of toothpaste. To have our time together not be so romantically charged but instead, just plain boring.”

word

And so, I come to the humble egg. Eggs are not exactly a source of culinary white-knuckledom; we all have them lurking in the fridge and kind of take them for granted. But given a little extra attention, you could turn them into something mildly romantical that’s right up there with shouting at each other to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube.

you will need

{spinster-chopsticks!}

{spinster-chopsticks!}

take a crack at it

To make heart shaped eggy lurve, you will need:

  • Eggs
  • A chopstick or similar; they don’t necessarily have to be adorned with little kitties but I find that this detail adds to the overall experience
  • A piece of stiff cardboard and same-sized piece of foil or wax paper
  • Elastic bands, or if you also have a hard time finding stationery at home, clothes-pegs and a bit of patience

Firstly, I have to mention that I spotted this on Pinterest ages ago, and went into one of those thought-rages about having found yet another hoax pin. What prompts people to put crap like that out on the net? (I refer to things like melting tequila bottles in your home oven, how eating overripe bananas leads to instant weight-loss, how ramen noodles will wipe out the human race, etc.). Anyway, to cut a long story short, I tried it out since I’m a voracious consumer of boiled eggs, and boy was I pleasantly surprised – it works!

So very simply, hard boil the eggs in whatever way makes you happy. While that’s happening, lay the foil or wax wrap on the cardboard and fold in half, making sure the crease is extremely sharp. Peel the eggs as soon as you possibly can after cooking them, then kind of wodge them lengthways into the V formed by the cardboard. Working quickly, firmly but gently press the chopstick along the top and secure the whole bunch with elastic bands.

OK the elastic band bit comes from the websites I originally checked out but I could only ever find one and it was kind of stretched out to the point of uselessness, so I used two clothes-pegs and kind of kept up some pressure with my hands on the V part of the contraption.

After just a few minutes, you will see that, lo and behold, the egg has not disintegrated and has a bumcrack from the chopstick.

Release it from your Maguyvere’d egg-shaping device and slice neatly in half. Wow! Look at that! Heart-shaped romance in a boring foodstuff!

Now if you really want to lay it on thick, bake it into bog-standard meatloaf to really knock your other half’s smelly, threadbare socks off (you know if they don’t mind you seeing the state of their socks, it’s the real deal) (likewise, if they are impressed with your heart-shaped boiled egg you know they’re a keeper).

buried treasure

Happy regular plain old day, everyone.

XOXO

*Have you read her latest? Leaving Time. I must admit to being disappointed. It was disjointed and not particularly convincing, I felt. It was like a wildlife documentary/M. Night Shyamalan mash-up. But hey, that’s just me, and I certainly couldn’t do any better.