Everyday Expat Adventures: The Chocolate Crackle Episode
Vietnamese kitchen don’t have ovens.
Our kitchen has a two-ring gas cooktop. Underneath is a cupboard where the gas bottle is stored.
So when Miss M first became aware of birthday parties, I was faced with the dilemma of a cake.
It’s a child’s rite of passage to help bake a cake, sticking fingers into batter and licking beaters and spatulas. I was worried my daughter would miss out on it all.
Luckily I have made a dear friend in Ho Chi Minh City who has an industrial-sized oven in her kitchen. (Making my initial claim of no ovens a lie. But I had to get your attention somehow.)
And so Miss M and I had our first baking experience at Ms A’s house and it was a far classier affair than it would have been without Ms ‘s presence. The result, a dense sweet cake with Milo-flavoured icing … for my birthday. Because I couldn’t stand another six weeks listening to Miss M demand a birthday cake.
Then Ms A went home for a month — leaving us oven-less in the lead-up to Miss M’s birthday.
But, you know, we’d done a cake.
I thought I’d try a traditional Australian kid’s recipe: chocolate crackles. A popular recipe because you don’t need an oven.
Yes, sheer brilliance on my part.
Two days before Miss M’s third birthday, the first one she’s actually aware of, my grand chocolate crackle plan hit a hurdle.
Chocolate crackles are made with copha, paper-wrapped blocks of hydrogenated coconut oil. And copha is only available in Australia.
But Uncle Google supplied me with a bunch of copha-less chocolate crackle recipes and so I thought we were good to go. Butter, marshmallows, Cocoa Pops (Cocoa Krispies) and sugar. To be mixed together and dropped into cupcake papers, which we used to call patty papers when I was a kid.
So, the copha issue was conquered.
I couldn’t find patty papers. Even though I was sure I’d seen them before. Somewhere in Ho Chi Minh City.
I thought marshmallows would be the tricky ingredient but I found some hidden on the bottom shelf in the confectionery aisle of Metro, the warehouse-like wholesale supermarket that requires a member card — or a foreign passport — to get through the front door.
I could not find a trace of patty papers — I looked high and low in the An Phu Supermarket and across the road at the glitzy Annam Gourmet shop. I went back and forth twice because I was so sure I’d seen them.
Then I panicked … and issued an appeal on Facebook.
And so … the day before Miss M’s birthday, I raced into the city looking for a shop called Thai Hoa, which apparently is the place for baking enthusiasts in Ho Chi Minh City.
Finallly, after lunch on the day before the birthday, a whole day behind schedule, I dragged a chair over to the kitchen bench and Miss M and I got cooking.
It was a DISASTER.
Chocolate crackles are supposed to be a kids recipe. Meaning that an adult melts the copha and supervises the stirring while the copha is hot. But the kids do the measuring and mixing and then scoop the mix into the patty papers.
Substituting marshmallows and butter does NOT give you the correct consistency. You end up with some kind of molten chewing gum, that strings and sticks and is completely recalcitrant. It is no fun at all, and no task for a small child.
Thankfully, Miss M was more than happy to lick the spoon.
Then help me out with a fall-back kid’s recipe. Rum balls. Without the rum, of course.
The chocolate crackles looked OK in the end but they didn’t taste right.
And the rum-less rum balls looked spectacular but they CERTAINLY didn’t taste right without any rum.
However, despite not tasting right, the chocolate crackles and the rum-less rum balls were a hit at both of Miss M’s birthday parties. (One for the kids, one for her Vietnamese relatives.)
And now Miss M is three, a baby no more. Where did the last three years go?
11 years ago