Did all of you have to write and say a speech in school, as part of the curriculum? Here in New Zealand it's a long-standing tradition. I wrote a rather excellent think-piece on the Spice Girls (admittedly, there was no Google so I had to glean any knowledge of them from what was written on the side of chupa-chup packets and from analysis of lyrics like "She's a real lay-dee!"); an award winning speech on well-known cats in literature (I got to the regionals with that speech, and of course I had lots of friends, why do you ask?) and then the next year, I admit, I phoned it in with a speech about chocolate. It was largely put together from quotes found in those "Little Book of Calm" tiny books which were very fashionable at the time. If I remember right, I won the school competition but lost out at the interschool level.
But those books that I quoted, glaze-eyed though they were, had it right. Chocolate is special and no loss at the interschool level for my speech which honestly wasn't that good will take that away from me. Or any of us! Particularly special, on a national level now, is the compelling output of Whittaker's, who this year launched their Berry and Biscuit block.
Berry jelly, juiced up with real fruit, and crunchy bits of biscuits punctuating their caramelly milk chocolate. It's damn good. I should disclose that the reason I'm able to so casually lay pieces of it upon a commemorative plate, and turn it into sorbet like it's no big thing is this: I wrote - entirely without agenda - very nice things about Whittaker's Berry and Biscuit in a national paper, they liked what they saw and sent me some so I could really make sure I liked it. So I decided, because I am self-appointed duchess of ice cream ("see her melting crown!") I would turn some of it into a pure and chilly Berry and Biscuit Sorbet.
But first: some really exciting news from Tim and I. Guess! Guess! Or scan slightly further ahead in the text to where I've written it down. Last year Tim and I embarked on our first ever holiday, which we'd saved for five and a half years for ("feels like thirty", as Jesus commented in Jesus Christ Superstar), and it was glorious. Well there's nothing like landing back home to make you want to claw your way back to another travel adventure again. We're not tap dancing happily about our bank balance right now, but we have been saving a bit of a nest-egg and while it might've been sensible to wait another year before planning the next trip...we thought...what if we just do it this year? What if we just? We can make it happen somehow! So we've put a down payment on flights to America. Specifically: NEW YORK. I need hardly elaborate on how heavily exciting this is. From my first musical I ever saw around age 5 - 42nd Street - to the Big Apple Style and hushed reverence of the city from the Baby Sitters Club's Stacey McGill, to my heedless love of the musical RENT from which this blog gets its name, to every single cool restaurant there is being there...But wait: we're also going to New Orleans, the place I've had a geographical crush on since about age 14, and Nashville, grand home of many a music-related thing. Thrilling. It's all happening in October, so this space, be watching it.
Back to the chocolate sorbet. Not ice cream: the various elements of Berry and Biscuit are not blurred by cream or other dairy, instead only water, sugar, and a little cocoa is used to turn them into an icy mass of excellence. Not that I have anything against pouring cream into everything I see: I wanted to try something different here, and let the chocolate itself shine. Also note, I only used 3/4 of the block because it seems excessive to use the whole lot - if you're shelling out for the good stuff, you might as well have some for fun nibbling times too.
Whittaker's Berry and Biscuit Sorbet
A recipe by myself.
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons dark, dark cocoa (around 20% fat content is ideal for flavour and texture. However, use what you have!)
175g Whittaker's Berry and Biscuit Chocolate
In a decent-sized pan, bring the sugar, cocoa and 1 1/2 cups of the water gently to the boil, stirring often - as much to get cocoa lumps out as anything - until it has been bubbling for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate till smoothly melted. Stir again, pour into a freezer-proof container. Freeze overnight. Stir halfway through if you like, but frankly I didn't find that large ice crystals formed with this much.
Note: if you use any of Whittaker's dark chocolate range, or any dark chocolate that you're confident has not seen dairy products during its production, then this recipe becomes vegan. If Whittaker's Berry and Biscuit isn't available where you are, use a 'black forest' style chocolate or really any unfilled chocolate you like.
How I got to this delicious point is a bit chequered; I tried making this sorbet first time round but used too much sugar and the mixture refused to freeze. Because sugar slows down the freezing process. Since this meant I couldn't feed it to my friends on the date I'd anticipated, before the second feeding opportunity I hastily tried adding more water to it to dilute the sugar and allow it to freeze. In the process dropping a significant, tears-worthy amount of the mixture on the floor. By the time it finally froze sucessfully I had no idea what the actual method and ingredients quantity was. I bravely started again.
Melting chocolate into water might sound a bit weak, but the simple background really allows the beautiful milk chocolate to shine, with the brown sugar and cocoa giving it a helping hand flavour-wise. The biscuit and berry pieces disperse, leaving a hinty trail of crunch and raspberry extract in their wake. Every spoonful dissolves intriguingly in the mouth. It's not as intensely smooth as the sorbet you might find in a tub at the supermarket, but on the upside it tastes brilliant and is spoonable straight from the freezer. And look how easy it is to make! As long as you're careful not to drop it on the floor, it really shouldn't give you any trouble at all.
The only thing that could embiggen this already life-embiggening substance: edible glitter.
Instead of being used to feed friends post-Beirut concert two weeks ago, the fixed-up mixture was taken along to a Gossip Girls and Gin evening, and it actually nearly made someone cry happy tears, it was that good. So even if my words leave you unmoved, let their happy tears be the recommendation you need: this sorbet is just lovely.
We're heading up home this weekend for my little brother's 21st! It's music themed (Tim and I are going to be the White Stripes, my Halloween Elphaba wig getting a reprise here...for both of us) and I'm also making his cake. Can't wait. All the significance of it being a family member, none of the stress of it being your own party. Not that mine was all that stressful, it was amazing fun. Perhaps my favourite part: the next day mum bought out a kilo of ham which had been hidden in the fridge behind all the other food, forgotten at the party. A bonus kilo of ham! Best birthday ever.
Title via: In the Heights, a musical set in NEW YORK, CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE DREAMS ARE MAAAADE OF (did I mention we're going there?) with beautiful music and story by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who rapped for Obama and won many Tonys and is basically one of the most amazing people on earth.
Anna Calvi, Desire - am sad to be missing her show at Laneway on Monday, there's something about her rich voice and rumbly music that I really love.
Annie Golden, Hang Up The Phone - such a crime that they went and cast her in the disappointing Hair movie and then didn't even let her sing! This song's subject is awesomely redundant in this day of multiple ways to communicate, but even more awesome is how every single second of the video is choreographed. Not one natural movement!
Next time: *shrugs* we'll see when I get back on Sunday night what I have the energy to make and whether it's worth sharing.