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.

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