Munchy stuff

March 4, 2014

It's Easter. Don't judge.

It’s Easter. Don’t judge.

I’m in sugar overload.

It is, you see, the run-up to Easter. Which means, among the other theological meanings…EASTER CANDY!

I dearly love Easter candy. I love it even more than Valentine’s candy. I may love it more than chocolate covered cherry cordials, but that’s debatable. Besides, you can pretty much get those year-round. Part of Easter candy’s attraction is its limited availability.

Specifically, I love one particular kind of Easter candy — the candy-coated marshmallow cream egg. Those little oblong, not even vaguely egg-shaped, things, with an eighth-inch brightly colored shell (the purple and green are the best) over a dense, sugary marshmallow cream. I think this affection dates to when the kids were little; they’d eat all the chocolate bunnies and peanut butter eggs and malted milk robin-eggs (my second favorite Easter candy), but they weren’t fond of the marshmallow eggs. So I ate them out of their Easter baskets.

So I’ve fallen in the habit of, every year after the Valentine’s candy goes on the sale rack and the Easter candy goes out, picking up a bag of marshmallow eggs every now and again. And, oddly — they’ve gotten harder and harder to find.

First, it was WalMart dropping them. Which was OK; I detest WalMart anyway, and this was just another reason to do so. But then it was Walgreen’s, my frequent alternative to WalMart for health and beauty items, and snacky stuff. ¬†Last year, I found a source at the Family Dollar store near my home, which I frequented anyway, because it had the cheapest Diet Cokes in town.

So this year, in a new town, I set about looking for my eggs. Because Easter is late this year, stores were later getting the candy out. I haunted Walgreen’s (different town; there was a chance) — no luck. Ditto WalMart. Checked Fred’s; they didn’t have their candy out yet. Checked in a Dollar General, of which there are a gazillion up here; robin eggs, but no marshmallow eggs. Hunted down a Family Dollar (had to go to the ‘hood to do so, at that); a paltry display of Easter goodies, no marshmallow eggs, and the clerk (with her three-inch, rhinestone-encrusted, bright purple fingernails the curved like talons) looked at me askance when I asked if that was all the Easter candy they had. Checked at a couple of groceries; no joy. No marshmallow eggs, either.

Final hope was Fred’s Dollar Store. The Interwebs says there’s two stores here. I drove the length of the first street on which the store was alleged to be located, and never found it; betook myself to t’other side of town, found one, and, with heart in throat, went in.

And there they were. Two big stacks of bags of Brach’s Easter Hunt Eggs, in all their yummy pastel individually-wrapped glory.

I bought five bags. Ate an entire bag before I finished running that day’s errands. Don’t judge.

It’s not quite a week later, and I’m on bag five. Again, don’t judge.

So, iced in yesterday, and turned to my kitchen, where I made — more sweet stuff.

Blackberries and creme anglaise. Have mercy. This is Sweet Baby Jesus good.

Blackberries and creme anglaise. Have mercy. This is Sweet Baby Jesus good.

I had an urge for some creme anglaise to go with the blackberries in the fridge, and I’d never made creme anglaise. So I did. Four egg yolks, 3 tablespoons of sugar, a half-cup of whipping cream, a half-cup of whole milk. Which I did not have, so I subbed a quarter cup of half-and-half, and a quarter cup of two percent. You heat the milk and cream with a teaspoon of vanilla extract (it calls for vanilla bean, but I didn’t have that) until almost a boil. And if you get busy and forget it and it boils, well, that’s OK, too.

While it’s heating, you take four eggs and separate them, putting the yolks in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, and whisk until it’s a pale yellow. Gradually whisk in the hot milk/cream/vanilla mixture, then return the whole mess to the saucepan and cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, for about five minutes, until the custard thickens. Pour it up into a dish with a lid, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate.

Yum. A liquid egg custard, sweeter than you’d expect from 3 tbsp. of sugar, and just freakin’ divine with blackberries.

That, of course, left me with four egg whites. What to do? I am my mother’s child, and it is Just Wrong to throw away perfectly good food. You have to wait until it sits in the fridge and commences growing science experiments before you pitch it. So I had to use those egg whites.

Meringues -- sugar, egg white, air. And colored sprinkles.

Meringues — sugar, egg white, air. And colored sprinkles.

Figured it’d involve some form of beaten egg whites, so I just put the whites in the bowl of my stand mixer. And I decided meringue cookies would be appropriate, and not a lot of work.

So I turned on Miss Scarlett and let ‘er rip, and when the egg whites got frothy, I added a teaspoon of almond extract. Then, when they got to the soft peak stage, I began gradually adding two cups of powdered sugar. The resulting thick, glossy, sticky cream got ladled over into a plastic bag, its corner snipped, and little misshapen meringue whorls piped onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet.

My pastry skills are far from accomplished.

Not to be outdone, I sprinkled them with some leftover red sprinkles from chocolate covered strawberries on Valentine’s Day, then into a 200 degree oven for 3 hours they went.

Odd factoid of the day: two cups of sugar, divided among 12 meringues, is less sweet-tasting than three tablespoons of sugar in a cup of egg custard. Why izzat?

While we’re talking about sweet stuff, it occurs to me I’ve never posted these strawberries, which, while they weren’t lovely, were good, and lasted only two days in my fridge. They also cost me a pan and a mixing bowl, which pushed the cost of the strawberries up to close to three bucks apiece.

How it was, was, like this: I do not own a double boiler. My makeshift double boiler has always been my small saucepan, with a small mixing bowl that is — WAS — a stainless steel bowl coated with a non-skid plastic, and a weighted bottom. Which works fine, until your chocolate takes a long time to melt, and your water boils out, and the plastic….melts.

Melting plastic dripping into the interior of a stainless steel saucepan does not smell pleasant, I am here to tell you.

That went outside onto the carport to cool off before I chunked it in the trash, and I started over, with a new saucepan and a new mixing bowl.

When I then discovered that melting chocolate and dipping chocolate are two different things.

Sigh. But it was all OK, as when Child A got home, I had to make her leave one of the chocolate ones for her sister. And when Child C got here and opened the fridge, her response was “Jackpot!” And there were no more chocolate covered strawberries.

In any event: If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em are feeling hypoglycemic, come on over.

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