By rights, if anyone has the right to stop me from baking it's me. If you'd like to gain a large amount of weight in a short amount of time I recommend the following course of action: have abdominal surgery immediately before the holiday season. I was more or less gutted in mid-September and subsequently banned from any kind of exercise for the next three months (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas). It was a glorious time--a time of prolonged periods of couch-lying and eating everything in site. Not so glorious was the discovery that I had put on nine pounds since September.
I lost most of it once I was able to start moving again, but I'm still four pounds up, which means that I have been watching what I eat. I hate that. Everyone else in my house is also watching what they eat, because it's January and that's what people do in January, so I have been cruelly cut off from my first love, my oven.
Fortunately there are ways around that.
My primary problem was that there are precious few tasty gems that you can produce from a microwave. I needed an oven to continue my reign, or at least something that could behave like one.
So I hunted for inspiration.
On Thursday, Rowan made crème brulee for dessert. The tiny torch shook as the sugar browned and bubbled under the blue flame.
Midway through my book, while Rowan was having a variety of nervous breakdowns lined with syrup and cupcake wrappers, I realized that it would be criminal not to arm this girl with a torch. I'd never owned one myself, but it seemed like a perfect vehicle for culinary stress relief and I was immediately jealous that she had one and I didn't. I spent something like two years bemoaning my lack of a torch to my family and friends, while making pointed remarks about all of the creme brulee we could have already enjoyed.
Then I got this for Christmas:
Back when I wrote the quoted scene, I had a vision of a culinary torch as something petite and hand-held--it's specifically referred to as a 'tiny torch'. I got a man's torch. And I absolutely love it.
It arrived just in time, because it wasn't long before I was called upon to create something delicious. Brandon and I were entertaining our friends Jim and Jess after we'd had dinner at a local restaurant called Mulberry St. Our collective history with Mulberry St. is brief, but dynamic. The first time the four of us went there we didn't have things like houses or kids, and we were in the midst of a short-lived and psychotic infatuation with Tom Collins' mix. We ordered something like fourteen drinks apiece and ran up a $300 bar tab. (Tom Collins was also the magical cocktail behind the most depraved party I have ever thrown in my life--suffice to say that it started as a murder mystery party and ended with nudity and people drinking in the bathtub.)
The second time we went there I was pregnant and ordered lobster ravioli. When my dish arrived I noted with dismay that the pasta was black and white striped and my pregnant mind morphed them into giant bugs and I got sick.
But enough of that! Let's set some food on fire!
The plan was to go to dinner and then back to our house for dessert. Being in charge of dessert, but not wanting to ruin anyone's diet, I concocted the following, with a strict explanation as to why it was going to be good for us.
Bananas brulee (bananas are fruit, ever so good for you, and it's just a little bit of sugar on top...the tiniest bit!) with dark chocolate sauce (hello, antioxidants!) and fat-free frozen yogurt (for health!).
I also made decorative caramel discs, but it's not like anyone actually eats those.
When we got home from the restaurant--where I had, no shit, the best white pizza I've ever had in my entire life--I prepped my torch for blazin'.
Rowan's torch was tiny--mine is longer than my torso.
I'm not going to say I was scared of the torch, but my body language indicates that I may have been the slightest bit intimidated. It was a very big torch, and it required assembly and knob-turning--things that I was not really prepared for. After a few moments of fiddling--where, it should be noted, I did NOT blow anything up, I was ready to brulee.
If you look at my feet you'll notice that I was standing as far away as my arm span allowed.
Tiny bit of sugar...tiny, tiny bit...
Once torching was complete it was time to assemble, and this is the closest I think I've ever come to a Dessert That You Might Get at a Hotel.
Seriously though, this was delicious. And all thanks to the not-so-tiny torch. The sugar was like punching through glass, but it melted in your mouth and I can see exactly why Rowan chose to construct a brulee just prior to giving a teenager a painfully awkward sex talk. (I had a joke about penetration and custard all set here, but I'm going to take the high road and just leave it alone.)
Here's what you'll need!
For the bananas:
Bananas and sugar. That's it. Slice the bananas and cover them with sugar--despite my assurance to the contrary, you really do need to use a heavy hand for this step. Torch the sugar until it caramelizes and you're done!
For the chocolate:
I made the sauce myself using this recipe from Sophisticated Gourmet. I went the agave nectar route and used *almond extract instead of vanilla and the sauce was perfect. And full of antioxidants!
*I have a thing for almond extract. If something is chocolate, no matter what it is, I add a touch of almond. It really brings out the flavor, I recommend it to everyone.
For the sugar disc:
Melt 1 cup of sugar over medium heat until it becomes golden brown (this happens pretty quickly, so you have to be on your guard). Take note: melted sugar is hot as HELL and it will rip the skin off your body, so be extremely careful. Using a spoon, drizzle the sugar onto a silicone mat, overlapping until it becomes a solid unit that can be lifted. Let it harden completely before touching. This step should be done fairly close to serving time because these get very sticky.
For the yogurt:
Go to the supermarket and buy frozen yogurt.
I hope I've inspired everyone to embrace the torch and think outside the box during those hard times when your family won't let you near the oven. If they persist in repressing you, you can always make 'em eat gruel.