Monday, February 22, 2010

Gone in the middle of the night

Yesterday was a one of the more sentimental days of my life. It was the one year anniversary of my father's death. Gearing up for the obvious sadness that the day would bring, I was still terrified of what I might feel. I thought it would be like someone was throwing salt on my broken heart or ringing out my insides Indian-burn-style, just like it did one year ago. But surprisingly it felt kind of, well...good.

Before you start sharpening the guillotine, allow me to explain. I spent the last year trying to figure out if I was grieving the way I should be, the way I needed to be. Initially, I shut down that part of my brain, the part that kept reminding me my dad had just died. Three months from graduating college and it didn't seem like I had much of a choice. But, after the initial shock, I started to get a grip on what I was feeling. As difficult a year as this one has been, I feel like the worst is over. I understand the world just the slightest bit better and, more importantly, I have gotten to know myself in ways I didn't know I could. Undoubtedly, I still have some much needed therapy sessions to attend to, but overall I think I am in the right direction on the slow path to healing.

The strangest thing I have learned about death, though, is that you still think about that person as if he were alive. I watch a new movie and think, "I have to tell Dad to watch that," and for that split second I forget that he will never be able to watch that movie. Sometimes the ridiculousness of it makes me laugh. The same goes with food. Whenever I make mashed potatoes, I think, "Dad won't eat any of this," (as a child, his mom had always made him finish them before leaving the table, inevitably forcing him to eat the cold mush that he so dreaded). Or I think to make something because I know he'll love it, which is why I opted to make an old favorite yesterday.

My dad always had an intense sweet tooth, so it wasn't abnormal to find him in the kitchen at 3am with his hands in the cookie jar. He would devour a pound of Boardwalk fudge in less than three days, cutting himself a sliver every time he walked past the kitchen. And, even though the days of hearing him rummaging through the kitchen like a desperate mouse are over, I can still make some of his favorite treats. So, Dad, I hope you enjoy.

This recipe is adapted from the back of the chocolate wafer box. Instead of making a cake "log," like my mother's mother used to make, I like to make individual servings because they are easier to serve and they look adorable. Trust me on this one, these little cookie cakes are jawdroppingly simple and unbelievably delicious.

Chocolate Cookie Cakes with Vanilla Cream

1 9oz package of chocolate wafers (I use Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers®)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp maple syrup
chocolate shavings, for garnish
fresh fruit, for garnish

Using an electric mixer, in a medium bowl beat cream until it's whipped and fluffy, about eight minutes.

Add vanilla and maple syrup and beat for another minute, until mixed. You don't want to over whip the cream or it will become thick and butter-like.

Using a butter knife, take one chocolate wafer and layer on a dollop of whipped cream. Stack with another chocolate cookie and another layer of whipped cream until you have five cookies stacked up. Top off the fifth cookie with a layer of whipped cream, wiping away any excess cream that has creeped out onto the sides.

Place on a flat baking sheet that will fit in the fridge. Repeat to make 8 mini-cakes, all five cookies tall. Top each cookie cake with chocolate shavings. Chill in refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Put excess whipped cream in a plastic container and chill until ready to serve.

When you're ready to wow your guests or enjoy these yummy cakes on your own, cut up some fresh fruit (I like strawberries and blackberries) and give the excess whipped cream a quick whisking, until fluffy again.

Serve each cookie cake with a hefty portion of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Yields: 8 servings.

You can always play around with extra ingredients, like mint leaves or orange peel. Me? I like to keep it simple. Store these in the refrigerator covered and be sure to hide one in the back for yourself, these little guys have been known to disappear in the middle of the night.

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