Crushed digestive biscuits. Melted sugar drizzle with orange rind. Dark chocolate ganache.

I could envision…almost taste…the dessert as I drove back from work last Tuesday. It was just an idea, one of those culinary day dreams I typically sink into whenever my mind has the luxury of wandering at will. It sounded so perfect, every element going in to create an explosive combination. It would have the crunch of the biscuits, the crackle of the cooled sugar drizzle, and the supple touch of my chocolate ganache layer – with butter, chocolate, sugar and orange rind coming together to form a simple, but classic time-tested combination. I couldn’t help but grin with satisfaction as I pulled into the garage…this would be such a breeze to whip up for Sally‘s afternoon gingerbread party that I’d be attending on Friday, yet SUCH a killer combination. Pure genius.

So why did it end up like this? (this = pot of melted sugar with flames erupting from within)

Or more importantly, what was the moral of the story? What was that one unifying theme that ties together all the flaws of my (brilliant) dessert concept into a simple, coherent lesson? The moral is critical to reconciliation, critical to that cathartic moment that I should have had after shoving close to 400g of dark chocolate, 500g of melted caster sugar and 20 digestive biscuits down the trash chute.

After giving it some thought this week (once the initial shock of nearly burning down the kitchen had receeded) I came up with the following potential options for morals of my twisted dessert tale:

The Botched Biscuit Bar Story

Story: I began building my dessert in layers, with a layer of spiced dark chocolate ganache (cooled and set in the refrigerator), crumbly digestive biscuits, caster sugar that had been melted and mixed with freshly grated orange rind, and then another layer of chocolate ganache to seal the deal. Left it to freeze overnight, so that I could cut it up into mini bars that would be drizzled with an artistic rind-spiked melted sugar flourish the next evening.

Ending: My digestive biscuits, hammered and crushed with a rolling pin, had failed to coalesce into a perfect, sliceable crust. When I tried to cut up the mini bars, the digestive biscuit layer caved in and was impossible to cut through in any manner that looked less than barbaric.

Even my artistic melted sugar flourish wouldn’t be able to save these nasties.

Moral: If you’ve shattered something to bits, don’t expect it to magically stand up together for you again. (I know what you’re thinking…no, not even if you mix it up with chunks of butter. Been there, done that.)

The Trash to Truffles Story (sequel to the Botched Biscuit Bar story)

Story: When faced with chocolate, biscuit and crackly sugar debris in place of my envisioned beauteous dessert bars, I decided to do the only respectable thing one could do with a gloop of spiced dark chocolate:  roll it up into truffles and dust them with cocoa powder. That seemed like a pretty neat – even sophisticated – idea…dark chocolate truffles with the crunch of digestive biscuits and citrus melted sugar at the core.

Ending: I popped one of the gloop-reincarnated-as-a-truffle in my mouth, and it tasted like…well, like regular melted dark chocolate, with a faint, almost imperceptible murmur of a crunch somewhere in the background. Since there had been two layers of chocolate ganache to one layer of digestive biscuit crumb and barely a drizzle of orange sugar lashed in between, the chocolate overpowered everything else when rolled up into a ball. My truffles had the markings of a failed crime scene cover-up, which any discerning palate (which I can safely say, every foodie and blogger attending Sally’s gingerbread party could attest to owning) would be able to detect and catch me out red-handed.

Moral: If life deals you trash, don’t try to sell it off as truffles.

The Twice Bitten, Third Still Presumptuous Story

Story: With two major failures behind me, I was still determined to try salvaging my dessert. The goal was to differentiate my truffles away from being melted chocolate clichés by reinfusing some of the citrus sugar crackle that I’d originally intended my creation to have. Solution: Dip each truffle into a boiling pot of melting sugar stirred with fresh orange rind. The sugar would then harden into a sweet crust that would crack open in your mouth to reveal a semi-molten chocolate truffle.

Ending: Where do I begin…the truffles melted into unsightly shapes the second I dipped them into the pot of simmering sugar (obviously. what was I thinking.) The melting sugar got contaminated with melted chocolate, and quickly lost its perfect streaming consistency. As I tried to keep the melted sugar in liquid form – low burner, then water bath, then low burner again after I clumsily tipped the pot of melted sugar into the water bath – the liquid sugar quickly crossed the optimal temperature, bubbled up and got burned. Thick and burned sugar that congealed on the unshapely truffles and had to be gnawed at to get to the melted chocolate truffles within. The total antithesis of the sugary crack! and chocolate gush experience that I had planned for only minutes earlier.

Moral: Twice bitten, hang your head in shame and for Godsake, leave the kitchen.

The I Told You So Story

Story: As a last recourse (and because I hadn’t yet arrived at the morals of the previous three stories), I decided to try melting one last batch of sugar, and trace it into sugar baskets like the kind my mother used to make for us years ago. (Please note:  By now, my original dessert concept had been completely stabbed to death and buried. I was resorting to copying/pasting a well-tried recipe that didn’t have my ingenuity scrawled all over it.)

Me: Mom, remember those sugar baskets you used to make back in the day? The ones where you’d trace lacy melted sugar designs on an orange, and then remove it off the orange once it had hardened into a pretty little sugar basket?

Mom: Yes, but it’s 10pm now. I’ll show you how to do them tomorrow.

Me: Ok.

[Me (thinking): I’ll just attempt to do it now myself, how hard can it be?]

Ending: I ended up tracing the pretty sugary designs not just on the chosen orange, but also on my thumb and fist, promptly scorching the skin right off my hands. And as the final act of dessert doom, the pot of sugar subsequently erupted into flames and put an end to anything edible that could have emerged from the kitchen that night. [As I watched the flames, two thoughts immediately popped up in my mind: (a) I should really put this fire out before my folks wake up and see smoke. (b) I should totally get a picture of this first…where’s the Canon? In that split second, I sagely went with option (b)]

Moral: Don’t play with melted sugar, especially not if mom told you so. Disobey, and thou shalt get burned. And no cool pack or tub of aloe vera shalt heal the pain.What moral should I take away from all this? Any of the four above? Any overarching ‘meta’ theme that encompasses them all? I’ve contemplated this long and hard this week, and I’m still struggling to pin one down. Though on a related note, on my drive back home from work today, I had the sudden glimmer of an idea…what if I’d done everything – crushed buttery digestive biscuits, melted sugar drizzle laced with orange rind, smooth layer of dark chocolate ganache – in individual shot glasses? Not bars, but little shots of the textures and flavours I was looking to combine? That would totally get around having to cut through the layers, and would be such a breeze to whip up. Pure genius I say, I couldn’t help but grin as I pulled up into the garage…

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

9 thoughts on “Crushed digestive biscuits. Melted sugar drizzle with orange rind. Dark chocolate ganache.

  1. Rajani says:

    Love your post – its hysterical!!!! but you’re brave Arva!!! how many bags of sugar did you say?

    But I got an idea while reading – what if you take two digestive whole and sandwich with some caramel rind sauce and dip into melted chcolate and sprinkle with the rind sugar a little on top… it could work kind of.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      yep, it was really funny when I look back at it, but I was nearly in tears at the time!!

      Luckily, just one bag of sugar…I did consume a fair bit of it that day in tasting and what not, but most of it went down the trash :(

      I love your sandwiched recipe Rajani, the thought of using the digestive biscuits (though had thought of sandwiching the chocolate ganache in the middle and drizzling with sugar on top) did enter my head, but I thought crushing them up would make it seem like I would added some complexity to the dish. Clearly backfired! ;) Will have to keep your version in mind for the next go-around!

  2. Sally says:

    Caramel burns are excruciating. I boiled some cranberry sauce once by accident and stuck my thumb in to test the temperature. I ended up gibbering at the pharmacy, slighly delirious with the pain which was all the worse as my dinner guests were arriving in 10 minutes. Sorry about laughing at your expense but your saga was very entertaining.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Eeks, that sounds horrid! Yes, warm caramel and sugary sauces can be such teasers…they just beg to be tasted, and burn you when you do!
      And no worries about laughing at me…for some contorted reason, I still smile when I think of the pot on fire, and my rushing to grab a camera to photograph it ;)

  3. Saleem says:

    I know now why we never got to taste anything and the utensil that got burned is still cursing you – so are Paul and Chinta for trying to clean that!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      thanks for the words of support dad! ;)

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