Saturday, November 9, 2013

Baking Grandma's Chocolate-Mint Squares: A Fiasco, or Close To It

Okay, here's the scenario. I'm attending an event, wherein we honor those we love who have passed on, with some kind of food item & a momento. Great. I have a ton of my Grandma's recipes & I am reasonably skilled in the kitchen. Leafing through the recipe box crafted by my Father, I dig out several, and seize upon one that evokes fond memories: Chocolate Mint-Squares. In my memory they are all soft and gooey, a cake-like base, a thin layer of pink peppermint icing, covered by a layer of chocolate icing. What can possibly go wrong? Everything.

First of all, I wait until the day of the event (today) to make them, leaving little margin for error. Even this morning, after reading the recipe twice, I am confident I can make them in time for this evening's shindig.

Here's where things go pear-shaped. Let's read the recipe for a third time, shall we? And let's really pay attention:

Chocolate-Mint Squares

1/2 c cocoa + 1 c H2O - heat til thick - set aside to cool.
(heat? how much heat? thick? how thick? how cool? uh oh. how long is this going to take me?)

2 c sugar, 2 c flour, 1 1/2 t soda, 1 t salt - sift.
(sure. that's easy)

Beat 2 eggs w/ 1 c veg oil, 1 c sour cream (or milk)
(or milk? Uh, sour cream seems to be a very different animal than milk, here.)

Add dry ingredients to above & mix thoroughly.
(I can totally do this.)

Add cocoa mixture + 1 t. vanilla. Bake at 350 for 25-30 min in low cookie sheet.
(a 'low cookie sheet'?? What the hell is that? A jelly roll pan? Our cookie sheets have tiny lips, this'll slop over the edge! I'm in trouble!)

FROSTING: Melt 3T margerine in pan, stir in 3T cocoa + 2T milk. Stir til smooth; add 1c powdered sugar + 1/2 t flavoring. Stir 'til smooth.
(uh, wait ... is this for the cocoa frosting or the mint frosting? What flavoring? Vanilla added to chocolate? will 3T make it truly a chocolate frosting or should I add peppermint to this?)

Layer cooled cake w/basic mint icing and cocoa icing.
(Cooled? This is going to take way longer than I thought. and which recipe is the FROSTING? I still don't know! And I remember them being two distinct layers. How am I supposed to keep them from swirling together?)

Nothing for it, but to dive in. I am going with the assumption the frosting is mint with just a hint of cocoa. I find another similar recipe online and nab a chocolate glaze recipe from it. I'll start working on all of this as soon as we're back from brunch.

I get out the ingredients, unalarmed I am missing the peppermint extract, because, hey while things cool, I'll go to the store!

Mix cocoa and water. Great. Now I'll run to the store. Zip in, get chocolate chips (that's for the glaze) and the extract. Hey, low aluminum foil pans. Genius. I bet those will do the trick! And they come with lids for easy transportation. Brilliant.

Dash home, preheat oven & start mixing dry ingredients. Whisk wet ingredients. Check temperature of cocoa and water mixture. We're a go. Sweet. Everything is going wonderfully. I totally have this.

Mix, mix, mix, pour. Hm. That seems awfully thicker than I remember. Place in 350 degree oven.

25 minutes later, check on the cake layer. Whoa. Not even remotely close to done. It's still liquid in the center. Crap. I have to leave for the chiropractor's office in 10 minutes and my husband's not home to monitor the baking process. Even if he were, I don't know how I'd communicate my best guess on when it'd be done.

10 minutes later...still horribly underdone. Nothing for it, but to turn off the oven, leave the pan in and come home after my appointment.

50 minutes later, get home. Hey, it might be okay. I mean the middle has sunken a bit, but the damned things look cooked. I press the center & there's a little bit of give. I'd kill for a toothpick right now, but they've all mysteriously disappeared. Damn and blast.

Okay. Let it cool. Is it cool yet? Nope. Now? No. Now? These things need to cool faster. At this point, I'm feeling like this is becoming a fiasco & I have to decide if I risk putting it outside to cool, because right about now, the story would become hysterically funny if the chipmunks started eating it on the back porch. I'll risk it.

I start making the FROSTING. Within a second of adding the powdered sugar, there is no doubt in my mind, this is intended to be the chocolate frosting. I am not putting mint in there. And I need the mint frosting first. CRAP. I finish the chocolate frosting, and just cross my fingers it will hold until I (or more appropriately, the recipe, because I am definitely not the one in any control here) am ready for it.

Mint frosting. I can do a buttercream frosting. You bet. No idea how much extract to use ... or how many drops of red food coloring. At this point, I'll just wing it. That's when it occurs to me ... it doesn't really matter if the recipe turns out to be just like the Chocolate-Mint Squares Grandma made, because one of the things I learned from my grandma was just to figure out how to "make do."

She grew up in the Great Depression & she was a WWII bride. She had plenty of experience of working with what she had, so that's what I'm going to do. I'll channel Grandma & you know what ... everything's going to be just fine.

With that said, I do have a pan of Chocolate-Mint Squares cooling on the back porch, covered in mint icing. I need to go check on them and see if it's time to add the chocolate frosting ... or if it turns out chipmunks really like mint.


Mel said...

First I must tell you....the header photo made me smile BIG.

And I hope you don't mind that I was laughing as I read. My grandmother was an immigrated much as I wanna be able to make the yummy stuff I can barely read the handwriting let alone make sense of the instructions/measures.
*laughing* I hope the chipmunks enjoyed...or the humans did! Either one works! ;-)

Jason said...

They were pretty darn good, too! :)