Thank you Trader Joe’s folks
Friday November 11th 2011, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

How you chop 500g chocolate bars: you hold them up high and smash them down on the floor. Carefully, straight down, so the seam doesn’t rip in the paper wrapper (although that can be very entertaining to children for the pinata effect). Concrete-slab floors a la California ranch houses a plus.

Maybe repeat. Open bag. Pour.

My friend Nanci’s youngest is having a wedding reception soon–my stars, I remember when he was a newborn–and Nanci approached me, very tentatively, wondering if I might make a chocolate torte for it.

I always make two. I’d love to. I promised her a pair, if she wouldn’t mind freezing them till the day so I could get them done and out of the way.

She surprised me yesterday by saying she was going to Milk Pail, which is a half-outdoor market, to buy the manufacturing cream so I wouldn’t have to go out in the sun, and was there anything else I needed? Butter? Chocolate?

I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to have someone who doesn’t live with lupus remember what it’s like to have it.  No sun exposure! I told her I had plenty of chocolate and butter; she brought me some butter too anyway, because that was an ingredient that was easy to get just the right one of. I told her there was more than enough cream there for four tortes, and if she wanted, I would try to pull that off in my time constraints.

Her eyes voted immediately yes! If it’s not too much…

And so I started. I made the first pair of cakes yesterday, hurrying to get it done before Richard called for help.

They were a tad overdone; these new darker pans are still a learning curve. Well crumb. I put them aside.

Today I turned the oven down by 25 and the timer by 7, tried again and got it perfect. But when I went to glaze them…

…I’d accidentally picked up the Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bittersweet with almonds rather than plain. Nuts! So I went off in hopes they’d gotten the plain in stock by now–had they had them earlier, the color contrast on the wrappers would have tipped me off: they’re close but not the same.

The parking lot was a zoo and the employees there looked like they were putting a good face on things, but with the holiday (an aside: Happy Veteran’s Day. A solemn time and a necessary remembrance) it almost looked more like the Thanksgiving rush in there. Where were all these people coming from!

I walked in and a clerk I’ve often seen immediately asked me with concern how I was; she hadn’t seen me in awhile. Clearly that had worried her. I was surprised, and touched; I assured her I was fine and thanked her.

I explained to her and the manager the situation: baking for a wedding, I’d bought two almond ones and discovered it when I’d opened the first, too late for that one but I traded them the second, adding in a bunch more bars just to make sure I had plenty of the right ones on hand for next time too. Oh! Wait! I’m out of eggs–and I left the checkout. The woman I’d first talked to had by now taken over a line to let someone else go on break, and I waited the second time in hers.

I’ve still not recovered from our late nights of office packing. I was tired. She rang me up, handed me the bag–and I turned and promptly lost my balance. The eggs went smashing out the top (better them than me.) Chocolate down!

She was indignant: “Those bags are supposed to be good up to 20 pounds!”

It wasn’t the bag, I assured her, it was me, I lost my balance, here, that’s my fault, let me pay for them, as she called someone to get me another box.

No no that’s okay.

Let me clean it up? Please? This is my fault.

No, no, and by now I had several employees assuring me, that’s okay.

And so I went home to my already-chopped (see above) bag of almond bittersweet and those two slightly overbaked cakes, definitely good enough to eat but not quite fancy enough for a wedding.

Which is how my local Trader Joe’s employees got that already-smashed bar returned after all (or half of it, anyway.) I forgot to take into account that the volume of almonds displaced that much chocolate, so the texture of the ganache came out a tad thinner than my normal. Like they would know to compare?

The manager laughed in delight at my semi-sweetly ugly cake with the random almonds. For you all. Trading you for those eggs. Oh yes. Twist their arms.

And as I left, ducking out into the rain, every employee who’d seen it was just bursting with anticipation, fatigue disappeared.

(p.s. Hey Nanci. The first two for you are finished now, the next two are cooling and will be ready to glaze in an hour.)

9 Comments so far
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What a love-filled post. That’s how this crazy world should ALWAYS work – minus the lupus, balance issues, etc. 😉

Comment by Channon 11.12.11 @ 7:04 am

I LOVE breaking down chocolate with a chef’s knife. It’s SO therapeutic, especially if I’m having a bad day.

To be fair, with my luck, if I used your method, I would end up with chocolate All. Over. The Floor.

Comment by Jasmin 11.12.11 @ 9:26 am

isn’t it interesting that there in the Bay Area where there are LOTS of people and lots of excuses to be rude, folks just seem to create community — wish they’d figure that out here!!

Comment by Bev 11.12.11 @ 11:11 am

That is a contest-winning entry name: “Semi-sweetly ugly cake with the random almonds.”

Seriously. It could be duplicated in a test kitchen. Go for it, Girl!

Comment by LynnM 11.12.11 @ 11:28 am

I see your life has been running to multiple chocolate baked good lately, too. I would have volunteered to take the one with almonds…I would. I love my TJ’s too…and I don’t go in nearly as often as you do.

Comment by Ruth 11.12.11 @ 4:02 pm

I had been successfully resisting some post-dinner sweets until this post. It is sweet in so many ways.

Comment by twinsetellen 11.12.11 @ 6:33 pm

The angel of chocolate torts strikes again!

Nice trade off: somebody made your day, and you made their day. And loads of chocolate torte.

Hope you can get enough sleep and resting in to recover quickly from the late night office party…

Comment by tinebeest 11.13.11 @ 1:02 am

“Semi-sweetly ugly cake with the random almonds.” Make a great book title.

I do believe that most folks are both good and helpful.

Comment by Don Meyer 11.14.11 @ 9:56 am

My mouth is watering just reading about your tortes!

Comment by RobinH 11.18.11 @ 12:02 pm

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