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Home of Good Eats
and Myself


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Art of Darkness II


SCENE 1
Main Street, USA

GUEST: Coco Carl
            Director

DIRECTOR: [off camera] Action!

COCO CARL: [toward camera holding mic] Howdy, howdy, howdy, folks. Coco Carl here on Main Street, USA, giving ordinary folks a little taste of the extra-ordinary flavor of Coco Carl's chocolaty concoctions. Here's comes an ordinary American now. Hello there, Mr. Ordinary American.
AB: Hi.
CC: How about a taste of Coco Carl's Bake-In-The-Box Brownie? Eeh.
AB: [takes a bite, grimaces, turns and spits it back into the bowl]
CC: Don't you just love that deep, chocolaty flavor? Heh.
AB: Yeah, that's really good. Thanks.
CC: He loves, it. Heh! How about a sip of Coco Carl's Cocoa Cup?
AB: What, what are those little white things there?
CC: Well those are Coco Carl's magic marshmallows.
AB: I'm allergic to those. [tries to leave]
CC: Oh, you don't know what you're missing.
AB: Oh, I think I do. I do.
CC: Well, try one more thing here. This is Coco Carl's latest creation, Coco Carl's Big Brown Squeeeeeeeeeze.
AB: Well it's, it's big and it's brown ...
CC: Yep.
AB: Oh, gee. Isn't that tasty. [tries to leave again]
CC: Ha. So you see ... Hey, wait a second. Come here, partner. [drags him back] So you see, the regular American loves Coco Carl's chocolaty concoctions. That just goes to show ya. Next time you got a hankering for chocolate, let Coco Carl do all the work.
AB: What work? Look, I can make all this stuff at home from scratch for like no time at all.
CC: Well, don't forget Coco Carl's secret ingredients. That's right folks.
AB: Oh, you mean like xenol-ethal-chloro ...
CC: Oh. Well ...
AB: Hey. You know the last time I saw this word it was on the side of a paint can.
CC: Well, that's about all the time we have.
AB: You know, I'm thinking maybe Coco Carl thinks we're stupid. Well do you, punk?
CC: [frightened] uuuhhh, ... [runs off]

    [laughs] Well, I guess Coco Carl just doesn't realize that as long as you've got quality cocoa powder in the pantry and sound food-science in your soul, delicacies like these really can be good eats.

SCENE 2
The Kitchen

GUEST: Conrad Van Houten

    The great majority of pantry powders pale in comparison to their parent product. Uh, for instance, uh, garlic powder: sure it smells like garlic but doesn't really taste anything like garlic. This is not the case with cocoa powder. In truth, this stuff is actually the pure essence of chocolate. In fact, when utilized properly, cocoa powder tastes more chocolaty than chocolate. How can this be? Let's review our chocolate making procedures, shall we?

Dark Cocoa Powder
Natural Cocoa
Dutch Process Cocoa

    Once the cacao beans are removed from the ripe pods, they're allowed to dry and partially ferment in open air. After a slow roasting, the, uh, outer hulls are removed revealing the inner nibs and these are then rolled under a heavy stone or metal wheels to produce a brown paste called chocolate liquor. And, no, there's no alcohol involved. From the time of the Maya to the 18th century, this substance was simply mixed with a few spices, frothed into water, and served. Now this, um, [takes a sip] bitter but stimulating brew became so popular with the, uh, Spanish settlers in Mexico that women started taking gourd-fulls of the stuff with them to mass just to stay awake. When a powerful bishop in Chiapas spoke out on the habit he was assassinated with, uh, poison cocoa.

Cocoa Beans
Roasted, Peeled Cocoa Beans
Chocolate Liquor

    Now chocolate remained primarily a beverage until, uh, 1828 when a Dutch chocolatier named Conrad Van Houten devised a hydraulic press that could separate the cocoa solids, or cake, from the, uh, fat or cocoa butter. Now, crush this cake fine and you've got, you've got cocoa powder. Now this powder which is still quite common in the United States is known as natural cocoa powder. And it's easy to recognize because it's kind of brick red. And if you taste it, it's very bitter. In fact it's got a pH of around 5.2. Very acidic. Of course van Houten wasn't done tinkering. He wanted to make this more palatable. So he took it off to the lab and messed with it. He added alkalis to it and that mellowed out the, the flavor. It also darkened the color into something a little more chocolaty. Now this type of cocoa which is very common in Europe is called Dutch process or Dutched cocoa. So which one is best? Well, that kind of depends on what you're going to do with it.

Natural Cocoa Powder

Dutch Process or
Dutched Cocoa

Recent studies suggest hot cocoa may
help to prevent strokes or heart attackes.

[Alton is reading the fictitious book, The Big Book of Culinary Lies]
    In the annals of food mythology, few figures are as revered as one "Brownie" Schrumpf. The late 19th century baker-librarian who left the baking powder out of a chocolate cake one day and was brave enough to serve the results which actually became this country's favorite dessert. Now, uh, I have no idea whether Mrs. Schrumpf actually existed. But I am willing to bet that the brownie was born of just such a bungle.

   Now you, too, can forget about the baking powder when making your brownies, but I don't suggest you forget the cocoa powder because therein lays the secret. 300 degrees here, please. I know 350 is the norm but I say easy does it for chewy brownies and come on. What decent brownie isn't chewy.

300°

    Now as with most baked goods, pan preparation is crucial. This is especially true of brownies which need to be de-panned while still warm and gooey so they can still be cut before they get crusty on the outside and ornery. Now you could use a, uh, non-stick pan—and we are—and you could use non-stick spray—which we are. But that wouldn't be enough because even then you could break up during exit.

    Of course in this case we're not using no-stick spray because it's no-stick. We're using it because it, well, it is sticky, temporarily at least. Enough to hold on to this. This is just a piece of parchment paper and it is not there for non-stick either. It is there as a sling. We're going to use that to lift the brownies out later.

8" Square Pan
Non-stick Spray to Coat
Parchment Paper

    Now, the rest of the hardware. One electric mixer, stand or hand it doesn't matter which. One bowl scrapper. This is the best 95 cents you'll ever spend. You're also going to need one, solitary toothpick. And a sifter. Now I've got my grandmother's. I really love it because it's [falls apart in his hands] ... Excuse me.

Electric Mixer
Bowl Scraper
Toothpick
Sifter

It takes 2.35 tons of beans to make 1 ton of cocoa powder.

SCENE 3
Bed Bed & Beyond: Atlanta, GA - 10:22 am

GUEST: W, Gear Mistress

    Sifting accomplishes three things: it breaks up the small clods that form in things like cocoa powder, it aerates compressed powders like flour, and if used properly it can integrate small amounts of powders like, uh, baking soda and baking powder.

[Newspaper]
Coco Carl Tarred & Feathered by Angry Mob

Partisan economic fight may dominate '02 session.#

W: Mixing.
AB: What?
W: Why say 'integrating' when you can say 'mixing'? Why do you always have to go for the words with the most syllables?
AB: Okay. Sifters, please.
W: There are basically four sifter styles. The oldest of which is nothing more than a fine mesh basket. You add the ingredients ...
AB: Oh, kind of like this? [dumps flour into mesh basket]
W: Then tap with your palm or the handle of a spoon.
AB: Spoon. [begins tapping flour onto floor]
W: You know you're not supposed to bring food or drink into the store.
AB: Yeah, I know that. You know, uh, that does a pretty good job but it does seem like an awful lot of work. You got anything else?
W: Excuse me.
AB: Sure.
W: And then there are sweep-style sifters.
AB: Oh, just like my grandma. You know, she never made biscuits when she didn't break this thing out.
W: Which is why hers were always better than yours.
AB: Well, that may be true.
W: Well the problem with these is they tend to throw as much into the air as they sift.
AB: [sifts flour with a lot going up into the air] Yep, that sure does. I don't think I like that very much. You got anything else?
W: Shaker sifters which utilize a swivel handle rather than internal moving parts.
AB: Internal. Why'd you have to say 'internal'? Why couldn't you just say 'inside' like normal people? You always have to use such big words.
W: They're fast but a bit on the messy side.
AB: Wow. That's like a shotgun. [sifts more flour] Sorry about your pants. Um, anything else?
W: Then we have the spring loaded models which sift by moving a raking device across the screen or screens.
AB: Interesting. I like the looks of that.
W: They're fast and a lot less messy than other models but the problem is that the spring can wear some people's hands out before the sifting is done.
AB: Wow. Look at that tight pattern. That's really beautiful. You know, uh, being ambisinister I think I'll opt for the more neoteric of the, uh, quintuplet [sic]. And although I delectate in discommoding you, I will tarry here no longer. As always, you have been supernumerary.*
W: And as always you've been super-numbing.
AB: [leaves]
W: [sighs] Clean up on aisle four and five.

SCENE 4
The Kitchen

    And now let's meet the brownie software: a cup and a quarter of natural cocoa, a cup of brown sugar, a cup of sugar sugar, a scant half cup all purpose flour, a half teaspoon kosher salt, 8 ounces of melted butter, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 4 large chicken eggs. Step 1, beat these [eggs]. And don't go cracking them on the side of the bowl or you'll just drive shrapnel up into the egg and you'll have to fish it out later. Always crack on a flat surface.

1 1/4 Cup Natural Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup AP Flour
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
8 oz. Melted Butter
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
4 Large Eggs

    Now, uh, why bother with this step? Well, basically eggs when they're whole form are kind of like a salad dressing. I mean you've got an oily component and a watery component and they don't like to get along with each other or anything else for that matter. By beating them you create a kind of an emulsion and that is going to make it much easier to integrate ingredients later on. And that means a smoother batter.

Over-whipped eggs and sugar produce hard bricks instead of chewy brownies.

    You'll know you've got an emulsion when the eggs are light in color and in texture. And just turn your mixer down to its lowest setting and contemplate the dry goods. I like to sift everything together: the two sugars, the flour, the salt and last but not least, of course, the cocoa powder. Now just get this sifted right in to the ... right in to the work ... [can't find way to sift into work bowl, grabs flexible board as a slide into bowl and sifts on that] ... bowl. Heh. Yeah.
    There. Now as soon as the dry ingredients are integrated into the eggs, you can add the wet works: the vanilla and the butter. But go slow on the butter. This is just like making a salad dressing. We may already have an emulsion in there but if you dump all the fat in at once, it's just going to pool up on top of the other ingredients. Nice and slow. You also don't want to beat this too long because you don't want to get too much air in the batter or you'll just turn this into a cake instead of a brownie. And you never want to do this at a high speed for the very same reason. Now give this about 30 seconds, scrape down the side of the bowl, go about another 10. Then you're ready to face the pan.

    Now when it comes to sticky thick batters like this, I really do like using this, uh, this flexible plastic dough blade. It's a lot faster than a handled spatula because it can conform to the bottom of the bowl. You can really scrape out every little bit of batter and that is a good thing. Of course, odds are good you're going to get just a little bit of batter on your hands using this kind of tool and, uh, well as far as I'm concerned that's, uh, [licks hands] ... mmm ... that's half the fun. Now straight into the oven and set your timer for 45 minutes. Now go wash your hands.

45 Minutes At 300°

Cocoa can be substituted for baking chocolate. Use 3 Tbs. cocoa
and 1 Tbs. butter for each ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate.

SCENE 5
The Kitchen

GUEST: Mouth

    Now your average brownie recipe usually calls for at least an hour in the hot box but, uh, I like mine on the moist side so I usually go for 45 minutes and then I take a core sample just to see what's going on in there. And to do that I like a toothpick. I really think that those metal, uh, cake probes are just too smooth to give you any real data. Right down in the middle. That's what I want to see, just a little bit of crumb on there. Perfect.
    Now the trick here is to get these cut before they cool down. Now if it weren't for our parchment sling here, we'd have to flip these out on to one plate and then flip again on to another which might cause breakage. This way they're safe. Now when it comes to cutting, knives tend to crush and crack brownies so I go with my pizza cutter. Yeah it might be named after a pizza but what a multi-tasker it is. One cut this way. One cut this way. [cuts into 9 pieces] There. Now up on to a rack to finish cooling. That way we won't get any condensation to build up. Now, uh, if I only had a nice glass ... [spies milk] aaahh. [takes bite] Mmmm. Almost forgot. My rule is if it's baked, I use natural cocoa powder because it's sharp enough to cut through the fat and the sugar of those kinds of recipes. Mmm. True, the color won't be quite as deep and as dark but ... you know? [noting milk] Something else here that could use some deep and dark. I think we can take care of that.

Theobroma Cacao, the botanical name for
the cocoa tree, means "Food of the Gods".

   If we're going to take Coco Carl down, we're going to have to hurt him where he lives. Those everyday items that he thinks folks like us can't make ourselves. Take this syrup for instance. It's nothing more than a simple sugar syrup spiced up with some cocoa.

Coco Carl
Big Brown Squeeze

    The hardware: a small sauce pan or a saucier, a whisk, and a squeeze bottle. The software: 3 cups of sugar and half as much water. Okay, that's a typical ratio for a simple syrup. Bring that to a boil along with 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup. Now since it's dextrose, it will prevent the sucrose in the pot from crystallizing during the cooking process or later on in the refrigerator, for that matter. Um, it'll also make the final elixir nice and thick and luscious at room temperature. As for the rest of the software: a tablespoon of vanilla extract, a quarter teaspoon of, uh, kosher salt. Oh, I always add salt to chocolate. You know, uh, scientists say that salt's ionic properties kind of turn up the receptors on our tongues. It turbo charges them, so to speak. Last but not least, a cup and a half of Dutch process cocoa power, okay? I use Dutch process any time there's not enough fat in the recipe to foil the acid of natural cocoa powder.

3 Cups Sugar
1 1/2 Cups Water
Bring To A Boil
2 Tbs. Light Corn Syrup
1 Tbs. Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 1/2 Cups Dutch Process Cocoa

    Now we have obtained boilage. It's time to integrate the cocoa powder. Now, uh, this isn't going to be easy, okay? Remember, this [cocoa] is 10 to 24 percent fat. That is water. They don't want to get along. We're going to make them but start slow and be ready to whisk for awhile. This is one of the reasons I really like a saucier for this because you can get the whisk down around in the corners. It's harder to do with a sauce pan.

Saucier

    Now you're going to be sitting here whisking and you're going to start thinking that this is never going to come together. But believe me, as soon as the cocoa butter in the cocoa powder loosens up and melts, this is going to come together into a nice smooth sauce.

    There. Now as soon as it looks smooth, add your last ingredient, the vanilla extract. Why add this at the end? Because it's mostly alcohol and alcohol is far more volatile than water. So if it boils too long, it'll just, well, boil out. So it's always the last thing in.

Add Vanilla Extract At The End

    Now let this come back to a boil at high heat but watch it close. As soon as it starts to bubble, back it down to medium heat and let it reduce slowly until thickened. How long is that going to take? Uh, uh. Not going to tell you. There's just no way to know. Depends on the pan, depends on your cook top. You're just going to have to pay attention.
    This is what you're looking for when it's done cooking. Sure it looks a little watery now, but believe me in just a few hours this will set up into a perfect syrup. But now is the time to move it around, if you want to. And I like to keep mine in a, uh, in a little, uh, squeeze bottle. This [pan/syrup] is hot. This [hand] isn't. Let's keep it that way. Be very, very careful here, especially when you start the pour. You never can be sure where it's going to go. Go very, very slowly here.
    Now, uh, you know one of the best things about making your own chocolate syrup is that you get to control the ingredients. The, uh, stuff that, uh, Coco Carl puts out on the shelf, that's probably the cheapest cocoa powder he can get his hands on. You can use real quality stuff and that's going to definitely affect the flavor of your syrup. [pauses, still pouring] I didn't say it was fast.

To reheat sauce, place squeeze bottle in hot water for 10 minutes.

    There. I'm going to let that finish, uh, draining by itself. The other thing is you want to leave this open for awhile to, uh, let any condensation out. Uh, and let it cool on the counter before you put on the lid. Now it looks like I've got a little bit left over. I wonder if ... [glass of milk appears] Well, would you look at that. [pours remaining in milk]

Daniel Peter of Switzerland is credited with
the original recipe for milk chocolate in 1876.

SCENE 6
The Den & Kitchen

    This history books tell us that at the height of his power, the household of Montezuma the second consumed 50 gallons of hot chocolate a day, every day of the year. In fact, rumor has it that the great Aztec's last official act of state was to pour a tall frothy one for a blonde guy named Cortez who really enjoyed the drink and repaid the favor by wiping out Montezuma's entire civilization.

    That doesn't sound very nice, does it? You know what? Neither does this. Oh sure, I've heard the arguments. Mixes are convenient. Mixes are foolproof. Mixes are, are, they last forever on the shelf. What you never hear anybody say is that mixes taste good. Of course it doesn't have to be that way. You're just going to have to take responsibility for your own cocoa. Here's how.

Coco Carl
Coco Cup

    Two and a half cups of powdered milk, two cups of powdered or confectioner's sugar, one cup of cocoa powder—Dutch process for this—two teaspoons cornstarch to thicken and stabilize, and a scant teaspoon of salt. Sorry kids. No kosher salt on this one. It's not fine enough. Stick with popcorn salt or even pickling salt. And I like to slip in a little cayenne pepper. Sometimes more than a little. I don't know exactly why it works so well. All I know is that the Aztecs did it and they seem to really know their cocoa. I suspect it's got to do with the way the, uh, the chili's capsaicin reacts with the polyphenols in the ... oh, never mind. Just trust me on this one.

2 1/2 Cups Powdered Milk
2  Cups Powdered Sugar
1 Cup Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
2 tsp. Cornstarch
1 tsp. Salt
Cayenne Pepper

    To serve yourself a lovely cup simply fill the, uh, vessel of your choice about a third of the way full. Then add just enough boiling water to cover and mix. This is going to create a slurry or paste and that's going to make sure that you don't have lumps and that means a nice, smooth, beverage. There. Now just go ahead and fill the rest of the way with water. Now, if, uh, you're not in possession of a muli ... moo ... Mexican hot chocolate stirring stick**, just go ahead and use a whisk. It's just as good. Enjoy. [is handed a plate of marshmallows]

AB: Ooo. No. I'm a purist. Thanks.

Molinillo Pict

A Molinillo

Picture from the Santa Fe School of Cooking
Used with Permission

Fill 1/3 With Cocoa Mix
Boiling Water To Cover

    Cocoa powder as well as mixes made from cocoa powder will keep about 2 years in the pantry as long as they're sealed tight and kept away from light. Of course, uh, higher quality powders—easily distinguished by their higher prices—have more fat so they're not going to last as quite as long. Why? Because, uh, fats oxidize.

Hot Cocoa Mix
Natural Cocoa

    To those of you who lost a wad in Coco Carl, Incorporated, I suggest next time maybe you invest in some quality cocoa powder instead. I also suggest you waste no time in trying out your new knowledge by cooking up some of the most popular goodies on earth all made possible by the powdery remains of Theobroma Cacao. Food of the Gods and Good Eats. See you next time.

Coco Carl Out of Business
Coco Carl Indicted

    [reading newspaper] Ooo. Indicted. Ouch. Ooo. Mmm. [laughs] He's in big trouble.


Proof Reading help from Sue Libretti and Anthony Foglia

*Translation:
AB: You know, uh, being clumsy, I think I'll choose the new one of the five [sic]. And although I love bothering you, I won't stay. As always, you have been your usual self.

**Molinillo: Spanish for "grinder" or "little grinder"

Hit Counter

Last Edited on 08/27/2010

The real article above the fictitious Coco Carl article

Partisan Economic Fight May Dominate '02 Session
Scott Shepard - Cox Washington Bureau
Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Washington --- Just four months ago, Republicans and Democrats gathered on the Capitol steps in a singing, flag-waving display of solidarity against terrorism. Now, the strains of "God Bless America" have all but faded away in Congress.

The harmony been replaced by partisan bickering as the lawmakers return this week. It is a sign that their full agenda will be driven as much by election-year posturing as by sincere attempts to address the needs of a country engaged in war, slowed by recession and returning to budget deficits.

Add to the volatile mix the problems from the bankruptcy of Enron Corp., and you have a recipe for stalemate.

"The Enron investigation will soak up a lot of air time that otherwise would go toward debating the issues," said Darrell West, a Brown University professor and author of "Congress and Economic Policymaking."

"Look for Democrats to attempt to 'Clintonize' Republicans by focusing on scandal and personal malfeasance," West said. "Democrats will use the Enron issue to make their broader point that the GOP cozies up to corporate donors while refusing to provide prescription drugs for needy seniors."

At least nine congressional committees are investigating various aspects of Enron's collapse.

The outlook for legislative action is not as bleak as it might appear, because the prospect of political extinction often breeds a willingness to compromise.

"Congress can pass major legislation in midterm years, because the consequences of not acting can be so dreadful that fear will get them to move together," John Pitney said. Pitney is a former Republican strategist who now teaches political science at Claremont College in California.

In 1996, for example, after nearly a year of political jousting, President Bill Clinton and the Republican majority in both houses of Congress reached an agreement about overhauling the country's welfare system.

Six years earlier, President George Bush and the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress overhauled the budget process, even though the agreement's tax increases broke the president's memorable campaign pledge of "Read my lips: no new taxes!"

"I have no illusions that the work ahead will be easy," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said about the upcoming debates in Congress. But after positions "once regarded as non-negotiable give way," Kennedy said, compromise is possible, even on the most contentious issues.

However, that point seems far away on many issues, especially the economy, traditionally politicians' No. 1 concern in an election year.

Bush, despite a campaign promise to "change the tone in Washington," has made it clear that Democrats will delay parts of his 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut law only "over my dead body."

Democratic leaders of Congress have tried to blame the recession almost entirely on the president's tax policies. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) recently lamented "the most dramatic fiscal deterioration in our nation's history," apparently failing to consider the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Democrats have given unqualified support to Bush's war on terrorism and his efforts to bolster security at home, but they see political opportunities in challenging him on his handling of the economy and on a number of domestic issues left over from last year. They include:

> Enacting a patient's bill of rights.

> Expanding Medicare to provide prescription drug benefits.

> Blocking proposals to privatize Social Security.

> Passing an energy bill that promotes conservation and efficiency standards but prevents drilling for oil in the Arctic wilderness of Alaska.

> Increasing homeland security and conventional military forces rather than deploying a defense system against ballistic missiles.

> Reforming laws on campaign financing in order to minimize the influence of money.

The domestic issues are "totally separate" from the war effort, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said. Lowey is chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the group charged with helping elect Democrats to the House.

"Americans want you to support the president and his conduct of the war," Lowey said. "But how you deal with the economy and jobs is a fair issue of discussion."

Republicans counter that the Democrats merely are following the now-legendary political slogan from Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign: "It's the economy, stupid."

Democrats are taking their cues "directly from the James Carville political playbook," intent on "obstruction of the president's agenda on economic security," said Jack Oliver, deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee. The debate on Capitol Hill begins in earnest Feb. 4, when the president sends his budget to Congress. It will herald the return of deficit spending after just three years of surpluses.

At a breakfast with reporters last week, White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels declined to discuss the budget or deficits in detail. But he contended that the next fiscal year's deficit will be "by historical standards, very, very small."

In contrast, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the country is facing "oceans of red ink" in the years ahead.

Even as some of his advisers see signs of the recession abating, the president also will resume his push for the economic-stimulus bill that failed as Congress adjourned for the year in December. The president "would rather act and try to increase the chances of a quick and strong recovery as opposed to leaving it to luck," Daniels said.

It is questionable whether voters, their confidence rising since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, will even care about the economic stimulus package come November.

"It appears most Americans believe the economy is already on course for improvement," said Lydia Saad of the Gallup polling organization. "Americans may be wondering what all the fuss is about."