Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just Like Martha

Merry Christmas everyone! Ok, so it's a little after Christmas but the blogging has waited until now because I was traveling on Christmas to sunny California. So here I am, blogging from the left coast. In this blog post, I take creativity to a whole new level. Allow me to explain:

For the past ten years, I have thrown a Christmas party with a friend of mine which has gradually morphed into an elaborate and semi-formal dinner party with 41 people. I am allowed to take care of very few things myself in the planning of this party, but one thing I am responsible for is the place settings. And you would be foolish to think I make anything easy and just put placecards at everyone's seats. I have to be more creative than that. So, in honor of my recent baking, I figured I could make cookies to use as place settings. Recall, a few weeks ago, I made Martha Stewart's sugar cookies and she had many precious ideas for decorating cookies for the holidays, including turning the cookies into Christmas ornaments. Aha! A cookie that doubles as a placecard and an ornament! I fail to see how this could go wrong.

So, a couple days before the party, I made up the dough for the cookies. That was pretty easy and there was only one moment of uncertainty. The recipe calls for some brandy. In my house, we have 4 crystal bottles that hold various liquors. I don't know what they are but I knew one was brandy because my mom used it last time we made these cookies. Only she wasn't home to tell me which was which. So, I played a little Russian roulette with the bottles and just guessed and hoped. After all, liquor is liquor, right? I figured, "What's the worst that can happen?" In a bizarre turn of my fortune, I guessed correctly! Then again, apparently I had a 75% chance of guessing correctly because three of the bottles held brandy. But I didn't know that at the time so I declare it still a win.

Anywho, I made the dough and then got distracted so I didn't make the cookies until the next day. The original plan was to cut out the cookies with holes left for ribbon to be tied through to make an ornament and then pipe peoples' names on the cookies with red and green icing. I actually even bought the red and green icing. However, then I thought about it. I thought about how much my hands started cramping when I was piping the happy faces on the snowmen the other day. I thought about how many people have long last names. I thought about the fact that there were going to be 41 place settings to make. I thought that I must be crazy. So then I decided it would be a better idea to get gift tags that you tie onto stuff and write peoples' names on the gift tags. This somehow seemed less crazy to me.

And actually, it was. By the time I was cutting the cookies out, I had my mom and a friend from college helping me out (my sister had staunchly refused to help, deciding that I'm insane and should have just gotten some damn placecards). We picked out the most Christmasy of our cookie cutters so we had toy soldiers, snowmen, gingerbread men, hearts, etc etc. There were at least 10 different types. Martha even told us how to turn the cookies into ornaments. All you have to do is use a straw to poke a hole in the top of the cookie before you bake it. I thought this would be hard because sometimes the cookie dough gets a little sticky but it was actually remarkably easy! A Christmas miracle!

After baking (and yes, burning a few), we picked the best looking cookie ornaments to be the place settings. We got a nice assembly line going with me writing the names on the gift tags (how I obtained the gift tags is a story in and of itself and one I won't get into here but let's just say that I can't see things that are in front of my face) and my mom and friend tying the tags to the ornament/cookies. I was grateful for the helpers because that would have been the most annoying part for me. They all eventually got done and were adorable. Thanks, Martha for giving me the tools for a precious place setting for a dinner party:

The cookies were yummy, they were adorable, and (I'll save you the suspense) people really liked them. I'm not sure if any of the guests kept them as ornaments but several people did eat them before dinner was even served and then used the nametags as, well, nametags and attached them to their dresses, suits, etc. Overall, a success and while it may not be an interesting read, it made me very happy. So there.

Critical Reception:
The critics agree that pressed butter cookies are yummy. I even found someone to agree with me that the green Christmas trees are the yummiest ones. Which makes sense because they are. I ate so many of those cookies, it was insane. I'm a bad sharer when it comes to these cookies. I feel like I should make them a lot more often because they're so delicious.

A Disney Moment: Cinderella
We finally made it! A full length animated feature! And how nice to get back into it with an obvious classic like Cinderella. It was just sheer charm from start to finish. A delight really. I've always loved the "Sing Sweet Nightingale" scene where Cinderella bubbles start harmonizing with each other. I think it was a brilliant and whimsical move to tell much of the story through the mice (especially Gus-gus). The wicked stepmother is wonderfully wicked. I mean, the characters were all perfection.

One delightful moment for me: I never realized that Cinderella didn't know she was dancing with the prince. That was a pretty crucial piece of information for me. I never really thought of Cinderella as being a gold digger or prince-obsessed but it was really sweet to me that she didn't even know that she was with the prince. She just fell in love with this man that she danced with. It's a very endearing story in the end.

I have only one complaint about Cinderella. The scene with the fairy godmother is too long. Honestly, if that scene had been even two minutes shorter, this movie would win in this grouping of five movies. But as it stands, this was an exceptional grouping so Cinderella can only rank a 2/5. It was very very close to number one but it was a really tough decision and I hate labeling any of the movies in this grouping as low as even a 3. Except Ichabod. Which was way sub par compared to the rest of these. Anyway, thumbs up to Cinderella.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Pressing Christmas Tradition

Happy holidays everyone! I'm absurdly in the Christmas spirit and part of being in the Christmas spirit is making some traditional Christmas cookies like a good Italian should. In my family, we do Christmas cookies lite. By that, I mean that we don't make 18 different types of cookies. However, we do make one type of cookie in three different colors! So that's almost the same thing. The Christmas cookie we make is the spritz (or butter) cookie from the Joy of Cooking. This is one of the few times I'll support using a Joy of Cooking recipe for baking.

For those of you unfamiliar with spritz cookies, they're like a sugar cookie, but you use a cookie press to make fun shapes like trees or ornaments. A little background on the cookie press: years and years ago, my mom had a classic old metal cookie press. Then it broke or disappeared or something. Regardless of the reason, we didn't have a cookie press anymore. So, in order to bring back the tradition, we had to obtain a new cookie press. The problem is, all of these new-fangled cookie presses are plastic and awful. We have two including the Cookie Pro Ultra II Cookie Gun. Sounds impressive but actually was not and led to an angry phone call with the manufacturer last year. The truly epic cookie press battle took place last year but it culminated in us obtaining our current cookie press, affectionately known as "The Dead Lady Cookie Press". That's right, we bought it at an estate sale, where we found it in a pile of crap in the old dead woman's basement. It was almost creepy but we were too excited to have found an old metal screw top cookie press to care. So that's the story behind our cookie press and that's what we use now. (This was a necessary diversion because the cookie press is the most crucial part of making spritz cookies.)

On to the baking! Spritz cookies are actually extremely easy. Cream some butter and sugar, add some egg yolks and vanilla, then add some flour and salt. That's it for ingredients. Then we modify slightly and break the dough into thirds before chilling and dye one third green and one third red (although the red usually comes out more pink than red but I do the best I can). There's nothing exciting to report about any of this except that it's a little annoying because you have to wash everything after using each of the dyes. Then I chucked the dough in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

Here's where things got interesting. Cookie presses come with discs with cutout shapes that you use to create the various shaped cookies. However, the cutouts don't necessarily give you a good indication of what the cookie shape will be. My mom and I identified the tree, the camel (yes, camel.), the IUD/penis shape depending on who you're asking, the butterfly, the spiral, and the blob. So those were the ones we made. There was also a dog/reindeer but we didn't feel like cleaning another one. We started out with the green dough to make the trees because the trees are my favorite. My mom and I were supposed to have another baking minion at this point but he was busy trying to break into his aunt's house with a crowbar. You just can't make this stuff up.

Even with our superior cookie press, pressing the cookies isn't easy. It takes some significant arm strength and the dough has to be just the right temperature. Too cold and you can't press it through the cookie press and too warm and it's a soft mess. Also, if the dough's too cold, the cookies don't stick to the tray and you can't detach the cookies from the press. We stubbornly tried pressing the cookies when they were too cold. These cookies are therefore infused with love and cursing, like all good Christmas cookies.

Eventually we managed to press all of the green dough into trees (though we did have to creatively rebuild a couple). At this point, our baking minion returned to help press some red cookies. The first attempted shape was the spiral shape but that one notoriously doesn't stick to the pan well so we only made a couple of those. I also forgot to take the red dough out of the fridge in a timely manner so the dough was once again too cold. Baking minion tried to warm the dough in the cookie press by wrapping his warm hands around the metal, which seemed like far too a logical solution to me. Finally, we got into a rhythm with the butterfly cookies which turned out to be ornaments(?) as long as they were large enough. Into the oven for about 10 minutes.

All we had left then was the plain dough colored dough. The reason we don't dye this dough is because these are the cookies we add red and green sprinkles to. We started out with the camels but they were hard to make so we only made two camels. Don't worry though, there is a picture of them. It still boggles my mind that a camel shape even exists. For the rest of the cookies we used the IUD/penis shape. However, when pressed through that shape, lo and behold, the cookie was a heart! So we made many heart shaped cookies with red and green sprinkles. Oh, I should also mention that once there is too little dough to go through the cookie press, we made circular cookies with thumbprints in the middle and filled them with sprinkles. I don't particularly care for the sprinkle cookies but I love love love these spritz cookies. Especially the green ones. Because somehow they taste better. Don't argue with me, they're better! Anyway, the cookies are tiny shapes of buttery goodness and they just melt your heart with Christmas joy. Here are some pictures and sorry for the poor quality of the second one (but that's the only way you're getting to see the camels):

Critical Reception:
The truffles are a hit. I've been told that I could make them and sell them for 20 bucks a box and make an awesome profit. I think the favorite type so far has been the cookie encrusted truffle but I haven't asked enough people yet. Plus it's hard to eat more than a few in a day. That said, the truffles are succeeding in bringing Christmas joy and I would definitely make them again with some better white chocolate. And dear readers, you should try it yourself! It's a pretty easy recipe despite the minor roadblocks you read about in my last post. Be brave and get your hands covered in chocolate!

A Disney Moment: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
So, I spoke too soon. We're not quite at the full length feature films yet. Similar to Fun and Fancy Free, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad is two stories in one movie. First we have Mr. Toad. I don't recall ever having seen Mr. Toad before so my only knowledge of Mr. Toad comes from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland. And that ride can only be described as a hot mess so it doesn't give much insight into the plot. And even after watching it, I'm still not sure what the plot was because it wasn't that memorable. Mr. Toad steals a car because he wants to drive it and goes to jail and then breaks out and somehow ends up with a plane. I just didn't really care. It was entertaining enough while I was watching but it just didn't stick with me.

The second half was the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The first thing my sister and I noticed was "Ooh! Narrated and performed by Bing Crosby!" We love Bing Crosby and especially his gorgeous singing voice that can just relax you in the best way possible. Unfortunately for us, it worked too well. By about halfway through the introduction of Ichabod (via a slightly lengthy song), I was dead asleep. About five minutes later, my sister was asleep. We both woke up when the movie was pretty much over. Feeling extremely confused, we decided to go to bed and give it another shot the next day.

The next morning we watched Ichabod again. Ichabod as a character is kind of annoying. But that aside, it was really pretty good until the very end. The end has an ambiguity that I didn't care for. I suppose that's Washington Irving's fault but it still annoyed me. Overall, it was better than most (if not all) of the dark times Disney films, but due to the clump of 5 films that Ichabod and Mr. Toad belongs to, it only ranks a 5/5.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

And That's Why You Never Bake After Finals

Hello friends! My next baking adventure (and I really do mean adventure) is a multi-part affair. I am making Ebony and Ivory Truffles from the Death By Chocolate cookbook. There's been far too little chocolate in my life and I seek to amend that. The Ebony and Ivory truffles involve making essentially one semisweet chocolate and one white chocolate ganache, rolling them together (after a complicated process of stirring and chilling that I'll tell you about in a minute), and coating them in cocoa. But wait! There's more! The note from the author suggests getting creative rather than just rolling the truffles in cocoa. He suggests nuts or coconut or the Ultimate Ganache or crumbled up Deep Dark Cookies. Well, I'm super creative so I decided to do all of those! I'm officially nuts. And I mean the crazy kind, not the kind I'm about to roll truffles in.

::groans at own bad joke::

That was Exhibit A for why one shouldn't bake immediately following finals. For those of you not privy to my special kind of hell this week, Thursday I had two final exams practically back to back in two extremely difficult subjects. Additionally, I had other work to do like homework assignments and group papers and other nonsense. Needless to say, there was stress. And how do I relieve stress? Apparently by baking because I'm crazy. After coming home on Thursday and deciding this would be a good idea, I started with banging out the Ultimate Ganache and the Deep Dark Cookies. I figured, "I've made both of these before! In fact, I've made the cookies twice so this should be a cakewalk!" Yeah, no.

On the bright side of life, I had an epiphany. I realized that baking chocolate is the same thing as chocolate chips and the latter is cheaper and on sale because it's Christmastime. Yay! Anyway, on to the cookies. I won't describe the details here because as I've said, I've made these twice. There were, however, a few stumbling blocks. For example, the chocolate just wouldn't freakin' melt. Seriously, 45 minutes and I still had chunky chocolate. I need a designated chocolate melter because I so don't have that sort of patience. My good old water bath method didn't work well for some reason (perhaps because my house was cold?) and it was just really really frustrating. So while I was staring at chocolate, waiting for it to melt (which is not unlike watching a pot waiting for it to boil), I decided to at least measure out the chocolate for the Ultimate Ganache. Multitasking! I'm legitimately shocked I got any measurements right because baking after two finals is something akin to baking while drunk. Which I haven't done. Yet.

Anyway, I got kinda lazy and didn't break the unsweetened chocolate chunks in half like I was supposed to. Exhibit B. Big mistake. After checking the progress of my melting chocolate and finding it still unmelted, I decided to just go ahead and finish up the ganache. Maybe it's that I'm scared of boiling heavy cream and I don't let it boil enough but for some reason, it didn't melt the chocolate in the pretty way it did the last time. I don't get it. Most notably, the unsweetened chocolate was particularly resistant to melting. I should be good at melting chocolate by now dammit! Anyway, after whisking the hell out of the ganache, I eventually got it to smooth out but let me assure you, it was a process. After finishing that, I went back to my cookies to find my chocolate still. not. melted. After 45 minutes. Insane. Clearly frustrated, I just chucked the mostly melted chocolate into the mixing bowl and declared that the remaining chunks would be chocolate chips. Told you I'm crazy. Exhibit C, folks.

My mixer did not like this decision. It tried to jump off the counter again and it did not enjoy trying to mix with those chocolate chunks in there. I can't say I blame it. I wouldn't take that kind of abuse if I were the mixer either. Anyway, after adding the chocolate, I had to add the flour and cocoa and I don't know why but when I turned on the mixer to blend them, it was like Hiroshima. Mushroom cloud of cocoa and flour. Pieces of batter were literally flying out of the mixer. It was puzzling. And annoying. And messy. And I so didn't care because I took 2 finals that day. Those were the major hurdles and after that, I just baked the cookies and contemplated writing the presentation I had to give the next day. In case you were wondering, I only contemplated and did not in fact do it that night.

Fast forward to Friday evening. Another long day and the last official day of classes. In a fit of crazy, I decided to make the truffles Friday night and do all of the dipping in stuff on Saturday. Cool. So, again, I had to boil heavy cream and pour it over chocolate. Let me put this in perspective for you. 15 oz of white chocolate in one bowl. 16 oz of semisweet chocolate in another bowl. 1.5 cups of boiled heavy cream. That's it. And, only 1/3 of that heavy cream is designated for the white chocolate. Seems odd, right? Anyway, I boiled the heavy cream and then kind of eyeballed how much had to go in each bowl. I know, I know, not scientific. But what was I supposed to do? Pour the boiling cream into a measuring cup? Seriously, I'm not sure how I should have handled this.

Let stand for 4-5 minutes. Stir with separate whisks until smooth. I only have one whisk. Used a spoon for the other. Alas. The semisweet chocolate was perfection. It got nice and smooth and it was awesome. But the white chocolate. Oh, the white chocolate. The chocolate refused to melt. The whole thing was just way too thick and the chips weren't even close to melting, even after vigorous stirring. So I think to myself, "Maybe you eyeballed the cream all wrong and there's not enough cream." Then I agreed with myself so I boiled another 1/8 cup of cream or so. Basically just enough to cover the bottom of my saucepan. Poured that over the chocolate and let that stand for a few minutes. Returned to stir again and still, the white chocolate wasn't even close to being melted.


My chocolate may not be melting but my brain sure is. Think, think, think. Ok, I cannot microwave the chocolate because it's in a metal bowl. That would be bad. Then again, it's in a metal bowl...I have a saucepan...I'll make a makeshift double boiler! Awesome. So, I set the bowl on top of my saucepan (being careful to not let the bowl touch the water), boiled the water, stirred my chocolate and voila! It almost entirely melted! There's no way in hell that a recipe with 3 ingredients should have been this difficult. Maybe I just don't have the baking techniques yet to play with the big dogs. Or maybe it's bad luck. Or poor judgement. Next direction: let stand for an hour at room temperature. Good judgement: time for a glass of wine.

After an hour of sitting, I had to refrigerate for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Ok. Easy. Nope, not easy. Remember how delightful that semisweet chocolate was being for me before? Not anymore. I don't know what the hell I was supposed to stir it with (possibly a jackhammer) because that stuff was pretty hard. I broke my whisk trying to stir it. Seriously. I'm just as shocked as you. It's not fair, I followed the ridiculous timings to the letter and even set a timer so I wouldn't screw it up. Sad panda. Anyway, I abandoned my whisk and stirred with great difficulty with a spoon. The white chocolate, however, was stir-able. Figures. Then I was supposed to put a heaping tablespoon of the semisweet chocolate on parchment paper and top it with a flat tablespoon of the white chocolate. Way easier said than done. The white chocolate was really sticky. I had much trouble rolling the combined chocolates into balls. They were kinda deformed and I had to rechill the white chocolate several times and it was messy. And frustrating.

And here's the reason why: I should not have been using white chocolate chips. This has been an extremely valuable lesson for me. In frustration, I flipped through the Death By Chocolate cookbook and right there in the first few pages, it informs me to only use certain types of white chocolate and particularly to avoid those with vegetable or other oils in the ingredients. Oh. This now explains the somewhat oily nature of my white chocolate ganache. I know this blog post is getting long but it's an important point to get across. When working with white chocolate (and particularly when making candy), just suck it up and get the good stuff.

Let's fast forward again to Saturday now. Time to put the coatings on the candies. I decided on cocoa, cocoa with cinnamon added, Ultimate Ganache, crumbled Deep Dark Cookies, coconut, and walnuts. Cocoa, no problem. Ganache, no problem. The rest though...blergh. The stuff wouldn't stick to the semisweet chocolate parts of the truffles. So I guess that's the good thing about the crappy white chocolate. It was difficult, there was a lot of molding and shaping of the truffles, but it got done in the end. Then, I realized that I had about a quarter cup of heavy cream left and decided to make more because I'm crazy! I didn't want to use the white chocolate again so I consulted Joy of Cooking for a recipe. I found one that included adding liquor to the truffles. Score! So I made another two types with rum added and decided to coat them in Ultimate Ganache and powdered sugar. This post is too long so I won't further elaborate but here they are, my post-finals crazy truffles:

Frustrating as they were, at least they're beautiful. Now, I only tasted one (the Ultimate Ganache one, obviously) and it was really delicious. So so so so chocolatey. I think you have to be a chocolate fiend to enjoy these though because they really are a hefty dose of chocolate. I may have made the ganache coating too thick. Oh well. By the way, my whole kitchen is just a mess of chocolate. In this project, I used almost all the bowls I own and there is chocolate everywhere from my floor to my counters to my refrigerator door. Looks like Sunday will be a good scrub-down of my kitchen. Like I said, I'm a little nuts.

Critical Reception:
People flipped for the coconut snowmen. At first the consumers weren't entirely sure what they were but once I instructed them to turn them so that the hat was on top, they got it. They were described as "sinfully sweet" and "dangerously good because it's hard to have only one". One person commented that this was their favorite thing that I had made so far. One of my officemates declared me Queen of the Sweets after having two coconut snowmen. Man, I guess those mind control drugs I put in the snowmen really worked!

A Disney Moment: Melody Time
The last of the dark times Disney films! And it's about time. I'm ready for some full length stuff again. This is another film that is comprised of seven shorts loosely held together by...a paintbrush? That's just weak, Disney. By the time I got to watching this one, I just didn't care anymore. All of these movies kind of blended together in my mind. The most famous short in this film is Johnny Appleseed which I thought was actually really boring and heavy handedly religious. Honestly, I don't even remember much about it except that I didn't like it.

The highlight for me was a short called "Little Toot". Once again, one of my favorite shorts has the vocals performed by the Andrews sisters. This short features a little tugboat who wants to be just like his father, Big Toot. However, Little Toot is kind of an idiot and causes an ocean liner to crash into what I assume is New York City. Wait, what? No one addresses this obvious disaster except to exile Little Toot in chains to a buoy far out in the ocean and relegate his father to towing the garbage barges and getting covered in seagull crap. Really, folks? A ship has crashed into the city! There are buildings that are literally toppled over! It's like 9/11 times a hundred! Yes, 91,100! You're not even going to address that? The very next scene though, has Little Toot alone in the ocean with terrifying buoys (think of the trees in the forest in Snow White) chanting "Shame! Shame!"

Of course, then Little Toot finds a ship in distress during a storm and redeems himself (with the requisite scene where we think our protagonist has died) by towing the ship to safety. So anyway, I can't get past that ship crashing into the city but at least it's a short that stuck with me. You can find it on YouTube if you want to take a look. This movie gets a 4/5 and I'm glad to be done with these compilation shorts films. Good riddance. Next up, we have a group of 5 films that include some real classics and I cannot wait!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

Well, I guess I lied about not baking until finals were over. I took a couple study breaks on Saturday to come up with a delightful holiday treat. I specifically chose something that would have multiple steps that involved chilling in between the steps so that I could keep on diligently studying. No, seriously, I was studying! You can put away those skeptical looks now. Feeling very Christmas-y, I decided to finally tackle a treat that I've been dying to make ever since I started this project but couldn't until now because it's very wintery. Coming to you from the cookbook that brought us the Cookie Dough Truffles, I give you....Coconut Snowmen!

The picture for these is SO cute. It's so cute that here is a link to the picture. Basically, they are balls of coconut (like the truffles) coated in white chocolate, topped with a chocolate covered marshmallow to look like a hat, with an adorable icing smiley face. They're awesome. The recipe said that the yield was 4 dozen coconut snowmen but I figured that I was too stressed out to pipe 4 dozen smiley faces so I halved the recipe. So, I turned on the Christmas music station on my tv and got to work.

First step was making the coconut balls. They were just coconut, sweetened condensed milk, confectioner's sugar, and butter. However, it was a lot of coconut and a lot of sugar. As a result, I had a really really thick dough-type mixture. Oh, and I should mention, sweetened condensed milk annoys me. It just pours out of the can soooooooo sloooooooowly. Anyway, after a while, the MixMaster refused to blend any more of the coconut into the dough (and in fact, tried to make a suicidal leap off the counter. Seriously.) so I just started kneading the dough with my hands to incorporate the coconut. Fun fun. Then, I had to roll the dough into individual balls about 1 1/4 inches across. This was actually not too bad. The bad part's coming soon, I promise.

Commence coconut ball chilling!

After chilling, I had to coat the balls in white chocolate. I melted some white chocolate chips in the microwave (easy enough) and then I was faced with the same dilemma I had with the Cookie Dough Truffles. How does one appropriately coat a ball in chocolate without a) making a huge mess, b) getting a really thick coating, and c) getting a spiky covering and not at all the smooth coating that appears in the picture? The answer is that I don't know. Because all of those things happened to me. I tried rolling the balls around in the bowl, I tried putting the chocolate on my fingers and kind of painting it on, I tried swirling the chocolate around the ball and nothing worked. Alas. So, I have some slightly spiky chocolate covered coconut balls. Back in the fridge to chill, you fiends.

After a brief break to regain my composure, I got to what I'm sure will be your favorite part of this process: coating marshmallows in chocolate to look like top hats. I melted some milk chocolate this time and the directions told me to coat the marshmallows and then put them on waxed paper and swirl the chocolate on the bottom to get hat brims. Easy, right? WRONG! Let me paint a picture for you, dear readers: picture me standing at the counter of my kitchen with a bowl of fairly hot chocolate. I have a bag of jumbo puffed marshmallows. Silent Night is ironically playing in the background. Unlike the coconut balls, the marshmallows are pretty pliable. You know what that means? It means that when I try to pick them up out of the chocolate bowl, they are slippery and squeezable. Which means that they slip right out of my fingers. It sometimes took up to four attempts to pick up a single marshmallow. Siiiiiiiilent niiiiiiight....

I wish you could have been there to see it because even in my frustrated state, I remember thinking "This is pretty funny" and I don't feel I am adequately describing the absurdity of the process but it'll have to do. I managed to do some decent swirling of chocolate to get some hat brims, though my chocolate coating isn't perfect and there are some spots of marshmallow that poke through. My caring level was low though because I had chocolate under my fingernails and I hate that. Into the fridge, you heinous beasts!

The final step was the assembly. But first, can someone explain something to me? Why is it that the white chocolate coating does not get all melty when you hold it but the milk chocolate one does? Even after chilling, the chocolate covered hats start melting really quickly while the coconut balls were left out on my counter for like an hour and didn't melt one bit? It doesn't make any sense to me but it makes me sad. Anyway, using the remaining milk chocolate like glue, I attached the hats to the snowmen heads. This was surprisingly painless. Then the only thing left was to pipe on some faces. I was supposed to use orange icing for a little carrot nose but you know what's expensive? Icing. So I didn't. So here they are, for your judgement, my coconut snowmen:

They're not perfect, but they're my screwed up little babies so I love them anyway. I have no idea how they taste. I don't care for coconut or marshmallows really so I figure I'll let someone else be the guinea pig. I literally can't fathom how someone would eat this though. It's too big to just pop in your mouth and you can't really bite it. Maybe you eat the hat first and then eat the jolly snowman? I just don't know. All I know is, I love Christmas.

Critical Reception:
People really loved the butterscotch oatmeal cookies. I even had one person tell me that it was their favorite thing that I had made so far. Yay! I'm thinking of possibly eliminating this segment from my blog because so often I have very little to say in it. Thoughts?

A Disney Moment: Fun and Fancy Free
Next on our list is Fun and Fancy Free which is another one of those compilation feature films but this one has only two segments: Bongo and Mickey and the Beanstalk. I was pretty excited for this because I've seen Mickey and the Beanstalk and I've loved it. It's such a classic with the goofy semi-retarded giant and the happy valley song and the descent of Donald into cannibalistic madness. Well, more on my viewing of Mickey and the Beanstalk in a moment.

The film opens with our old friend Jiminy Cricket singing a delightful song "Fun and Fancy Free". I actually really enjoyed that and it was nice to see Jiminy again. Then we launch into the story of Bongo, a circus bear who longs to escape to the wild. The beginning of the segment had some Pinocchio overtones similar to when Pinocchio is working for the puppet show but it lost its charm pretty quickly. In fact, the whole segment dragged and I could not understand how the story of Bongo could be stretched to half a film. Yeah, it couldn't. As cute as Bongo was, he couldn't carry the segment. I spaced out about halfway through and when I came back, there were bears slapping each other. Somehow this was a good thing and it was confusing for a while until I realized that if you love someone, you slap them. Excellent message, Disney. Way to go with that one. Pretty much Bongo was a flop.

I forgot to mention, when reading the credits at the beginning, listed for Mickey and the Beanstalk were Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Huh? I don't remember them in Beanstalk. Odd. So we come to the Beanstalk segment and there's some premise with a party and Jiminy crashing the party and Edgar Bergen offers to tell the story of Mickey and the Beanstalk with Charlie's snide comments. Charlie kind of creeps me out. Anyway, as the cartoon portion begins, I recognized Bergen's voice as what I was used to but there were also interjections by Charlie that I did not remember. Very odd. And once or twice, the action cut back to the party, which was another feature I did not previously remember. It's not like the incorporation of Charlie was necessarily a bad thing but it was jarring to my memory of the cartoon. It's like listening to a song you know by heart and it starts skipping at weird times. Not enough to ruin it but just enough to make you feel uncomfortable. I still enjoyed Mickey's adventures (particularly the scene where they're all starving and Donald goes crazy) but it just wasn't quite what I so fondly remembered.

I finally figured out what was "wrong" with the cartoon after reading a book on Disney films that I took out of the library. (Yes, I actually use the library.) The version that aired on tv substituted Ludwig Von Drake for Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. All of a sudden it made more sense to me because I remember good ol' Ludwig now. So anyway, with Bongo being a flop and with me having a somewhat varied memory of Mickey and the Beanstalk, this only ranks either a 2 or 3 of 5. Good, but not good enough. I really can't wait to get back to real films.