Thursday, January 22, 2009

Winter Warmers: The Alice B. Toklas Fudge

It's the stuff of legend, at least in hippie-dippy Berkeley: the Alice B. Toklas brownies with the magic ingredient, hashish. I needed a treat for a dessert buffet, we had the book, James found the recipe, and the fudge sounded like a great winter snack, even without the active ingredient, that contained none of his food allergens.

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book was published in 1954 by friends to assist Alice financially in her later years. Her writings are quite interesting, especially those recounting the time she and Gertrude Stein spent in rural France under the Nazi occupation, and how people survived.

The infamous recipe is actually for fudge, which is not necessarily chocolate, as we think today. "Fudge" refers to things smooshed together, hence the expression "fudging it." Found in a late chapter added to Alice's own writings as "Recipes from Friends", it was contributed by one Brian Gysen, under the title "HASCHISCH FUDGE (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)". There's an impish quality to the writing, with lines like "it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies' Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR".

Internet research points to Brion Gysin (1916-1986) as the artist who provided the puckish text. There's a wonderful website, Calligraffiti of Fire, showing his work over a long career, and a short biography. He moved from England to study at the Sorbonne in 1934, and lived in Morocco during the early 1950s. The fudge, he says, is based on a Moroccan recipe to ward off the cold in damp winter weather. It is heavily laden with two spices found in the Ayurvedic tea we are enjoying this winter: black pepper and cinnamon, plus coriander and nutmeg. Some internet accounts indicate that Gysin sent in the recipe as a prank and was surprised to have it included in the final book.

In a prankish spirit, I made up my own version of the fudge, minus the "active ingredient." It turned out to be quite tasty, getting better over time. It can be made in advance; it makes up in easily consumed pieces; and it's not likely to be brought to the buffet by anyone else.

Grind together (I use a dedicated coffee grinder for spices):
1 tsp. black peppercorns
4 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp. coriander seed
1 nutmeg.

Chop and mix together 3/4 cup each of dates, figs, peanuts, and almonds. (I set the food processor on chop and added the spice mixture).

Melt 1/4 cup butter or margerine over low heat, and add 1 cup sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the sugar mixture to the rest of the mix and blend until the mixture is slightly sticky. Turn the mixture out into an 8" square pan and press down. Let rest before cutting into small pieces. It can also be rolled into small balls, more the size of brandy balls than meat balls.

It's a fine treat for a winter evening, a good conversation starter, and an example of the great tastes that can be found without resorting to chocolate.

1 comment:

Fudge Lover said...

That sounds great, I'm going to give this fudge a try, but without the 'active ingredient' at first, then who knows what we can add to the fudge recipe :)