When it comes to food, some people never outgrow their childhood infatuations.
Speaking for myself, the object of all prandial desire is chocolate. Specifically, milk chocolate. And, although I manage to keep my craving for this caloric indulgence in check most of the calendar year, the addiction reaches epic proportions every Easter.
Why? My mother always claimed that I was traumatized by a melting chocolate bunny rabbit. (She'd inadvertently left one on a warm radiator when I was at a very impressionable age.) She also maintained that chocolate ice cream and brownies were the only forms of nourishment she could tolerate during the long and difficult pregnancy that eventually produced me.
To this day I cannot pass one of those aromatic uptown candy shops (particularly before Easter) without undergoing severe withdrawal symptoms. Or, what is worse, giving in to the primal urge and buying one of every baroque confection in sight, namely three- to five-pound chocolate Easter eggs.
My late mother had yet another word on the subject. "Bert," she would admonish throughout the years, "your problem is not chocolate. It's astigmatism. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach."
Truth to tell, she was right. For after the first forbidden nibble, my chocolate fixation always ran dry, leaving me with mountains of unconsumed spoils--which inevitably spoiled. Chocolate--even in a tempered state--has a highly abbreviated shelf life. It should be consumed within three to four weeks.
In years past I attempted to give excess chocolate to my friends' children (whose dentists hated me for it) or to stray dogs. Even neighbors learned to avoid me. They all joined weight-watching groups the week after Easter.
I've tried freezing excess chocolate, but it's a tricky business, for this velvety substance turns somewhat flannel-like in texture after a stint in the cooler and develops a mildewy bloom that dissipates even a deep-dyed chocoholic's appetite.
Last spring, however, I think I solved the problem of too much Easter chocolate once and for all. Instead of trying to eat my way out, I carefully chopped all the excess chocolate into bite-size pieces that I then stored in airtight plastic bags. Consequently, I had a supply of homemade chocolate chips that saw me through pans of brownies, fudge bars and cookies of every conceivable chunk until Christmas.
The following recipe acquires brownie points in my book when it is embellished with an extra dividend of chopped chocolate morsels.
DOUBLE FUDGE DIVINITY BROWNIES
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/4 cup whipping cream or half and half
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup whipped marshmallow topping
Melt butter with unsweetened chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Beat eggs in large bowl until light in color and slightly thickened. Slowly beat in sugar. Stir in melted chocolate, vanilla, flour, salt, cream, walnuts and semisweet chocolate.
Pour 1/3 of batter into buttered 8-inch cake pan. Using half of marshmallow topping, drop by 1/2 teaspoons evenly over surface. Pour another 1/3 of batter to cover marshmallow drops. Drop remaining marshmallow topping by 1/2 teaspoons evenly over surface. Pour in remaining 1/3 batter.
Bake at 325 degrees until wood pick inserted in center comes out fairly clean, about 40 minutes. Do not overcook. Brownies should be moist. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into 1 1/2-inch bars. Makes 20 bars.
The next dispensation to use up leftover chocolate comes from Mary Guidry of San Bernardino. She's the aunt of one of my closest friends. Her bars--that rival the Fort Knox variety in richness--are multiflavored, mouthwatering and chocolatey.
AUNT MARY'S LAYER BARS
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut
6 ounces broken chocolate bits
1/2 to 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Melt butter in 13x9-inch pan. Sprinkle cracker crumbs evenly over melted butter and press down. Sprinkle coconut evenly to form next layer, then sprinkle chocolate bits to form another layer. Drop several 1/4-teaspoon mounds of peanut butter to form next layer. Drizzle milk evenly over surface, being careful not to allow large amounts to accumulate in corners or along edges. Sprinkle walnuts evenly to form last layer.
Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into 2x1 1/2-inch bars. Makes about 36 bars.