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Eds: in a parody of one of our favourite CBC Radio shows, “The Debaters“, Eva and Deanna take on the following question:
Is ice cream soda a VILE PUNISHMENT or a DELECTABLE TREAT?
[Eva posts first thing in the a.m. Come back later for Deanna's reply, when she will defend the Ice Cream Soda after having one specially prepared for her at Devour.]
Eva: A vile punishment. We call it a “float” up here in Canada, by the way.
It’s the skungee foam on top that really gets me. I like ice cream. There’s a special place in my heart for it. You know I like “soda” or as we call it here in Canada, “pop” [aside: I was recently in the US and stopped at McDonald's to use the washroom. Still had a long drive ahead so, noticing it was a "serve yourself" joint, I ordered a small "fountain pop" from the girl behind the counter. Her response: "huh"? Um, a small soda, please? Oops.]
When I was in Grade 3 (“third grade” to you Americans – Terina!), we had floats at our Hallowe’en party. Mine was orange vanilla. They were probably all orange vanilla, come to think of it. I remember staring in horror at the curdled milk bits adorning the bubbles at the top of my float. “I’m sure it’s not meant to look like this”, I thought to my wee self. And yet all of my friends’ floats looked the same, and they were gulping them with glee.
I have to admit, at the age of 8 in Grade 3, I was impressionable. I was willing to force myself through an orange float if that’s what my friends were doing.
I will forever be haunted by the bright orange splash of vomit against the pure white snow drift on the way home from school. Milk, cream, ice cream: never meant to be carbonated. Especially in Orange Fanta.
That’s all. Ice cream floats are gross. If you want to know the history, look it up yourself. Some things should not be celebrated.
Deanna: GO TEAM DELECTABLE TREAT!!
So… um, I thought I had this one in the bag.
As mentioned by Eva, I had arranged for the expert help of Miss A, the lovely assistant at Devour who makes all of their amazing homemade ice creams and savoury sodas. Think lavender & mint seltzer and strawberry balsamic ice cream. This was going to be the foodies version of a float – no chemically smelling grape pop here.
Alas, when I got to Devour, Miss A had already disappeared home, apparently suffering from a memory lapse brought on by [alleged] hangover. There were no floats to be found.
Which leaves me with but one point in rebuttal: Eva does not eat bacon – and in matters of food, can you really trust someone who isn’t a shameless bacon eater? Clearly her judgement is DEEPLY impaired. Case closed. Victory to Team [Hypothetical] Delectable Treat!!!
PS – the orange fanta you can get in Europe rocks my world.
So, how long does it take to get the smell of burnt sugar out of upholstery?
I decided that National Almond Buttercrunch Day would be my first foray into candy making. I even went and bought a candy thermometer and everything. I diligently read on the internet about this sweet treat: a base of chopped toasted almonds, a candy centre and a chocolate topping… maybe even a little fleur de sel to make it chi chi. Fellows like this guy told me it would be “really simple” and gosh darn it, I went in confident.
As it turns out, way way over confident, and came out with a lump of dark brown sugar and some wasted nuts and chocolate. *wah*
This is the basic recipe, which I found on any number of websites, with very few variations:
2 cups (170 grams) sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1 1/4 cups (270 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350F
Put almonds on a baking sheet and bake them for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
Once the nuts have cooled to room temperature, place in a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and pulse the almonds until they are finely chopped. Sprinkle half of the nuts in an 8 inch by 10 inch (20 cm x 25 cm) rectangle on a buttered or oiled baking sheet. Set aside.
In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan combine the brown sugar, water, butter, and corn syrup. Have the baking soda and vanilla extract ready. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and cook, stirring as little as possible, until the mixture reaches 285 degrees F (140 degrees C) (soft-crack stage) on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat as the temperature will continue to rise to 290 degrees F (145 degrees C). Add the baking soda and vanilla extract and stir to combine.
Immediately pour this mixture evenly over the nuts on your baking sheet. Then place the chopped chocolate over the hot toffee. After a few minutes the chocolate will be soft enough to spread with an offset spatula in an even layer over the toffee. Sprinkle the remaining chopped almonds over the melted chocolate.
Cool completely and then cut into desired shapes using a sharp knife.
Somewhere around the 250F mark I started to smell brunt sugar. Just a wiff. I wiser woman would have pulled the pot off the stove immediately and figured something else out. No, not me. I soldiered on, and by the time I hit the recommended temp, the toffee was VERY dark brown and the burnt sugar smell was… well, everywhere. I decided to pour it out onto some of the nuts, just to see – maybe it still tasted ok? That was a naive hope – it did in fact taste like burning. Yick.
Back to the drawing board…
Me: so, what do you think?
Jim: well, it’s interesting. I’m finding it a bit confusing, frankly. Both the flavour and the texture. It’s not horrible, but it certainly isn’t good. It’s just… there.
Well, there you have it, folks. My foray into creative tapioca pudding was sort of a deflated flop. Not even exciting enough to be dismal. Just sort of… confusing.
I’m a bit confused about tapioca, to be honest. My Mom decidedly does NOT like tapioca (she calls it “slimy little fish eyes”), so we didn’t eat it growing up. I’ve seen the Bubble Tea shops around the city and have passed them by with no real urge to sample.
According to the J of C, tapioca is the starch from the cassava root. The “pearls” (or “fish eyes” if you ask Mom) are just formed balls of tapioca (in my mind, similar to couscous, only different).
Today Jim and I went to a “Food Fight” fundraiser in support of Variety, the Children’s Charity. As we walked out the door, I said, “remind me to pick up a bubble tea today”. Needless to say, after several excellent brunch courses and several more mimosas (we already know how much I love sparkling wine), a bubble tea was very low on my list of priorities. Did I mention that River Rock put truffle in their hollandaise sauce? I love truffle just slightly less than I love duck. Or is it more? I voted for River Rock but Tigh-Na-Mara won, followed closely by YEW restaurant at the Four Seasons. Both deservedly so; they were in my top 3.
So. Brunch = 1; Bubble Tea = 0. I was going to have to start from scratch.
I admit, I eyed up the plastic cup tapioca (not sure if it was Jell-O or not) and kind of thought, “why not”? I also checked out tapioca flour but with dinner already planned, could not at the precise moment in the grocery store, figure out a way to factor it in.
So. I made coconut-lime-cardamom tapioca pudding. From scratch. Using Kraft “Minit” Tapioca (because the IGA by my house does not carry tapioca pearls, which apparently you need to start a day ahead anyway). I adapted a JofC recipe pinching ideas from several I found on Epicurious.
Per Jim’s comments, it was sort of beige-ish meh. The cardamom didn’t have time to come through in the few short minutes it takes to cook “Minit” tapioca. The pudding went into the glass sort of soupy, but came out quite glutinous, and the coconut-lime needed to be both sweeter and creamier to carry it off. Neither one of us ate more than a bite or two, so I won’t share the recipe here. It was not my finest cooking hour. Not even my second-finest.
I kind of thought it looked pretty, though. In a glutinous, fish-eye kind of way.