Miss B is on winter break from school – two weeks off in the middle of July between the second and third terms of the Australian school year. We’ve been alternating between lazing around the house (designated as “koala” days) and energizing ourselves to undertake vacation-suitable activities (“kangaroo” days). The other day we went to a matinee of Brave, which Miss B was moderately excited about seeing and I was about equal parts excitement and trepidation. Excitement because I still get excited about going to the movies, and this one was two firsts: the first time Miss B and I had seen a movie in a theater alone together, and the first Pixar film with a female protagonist. Trepidation because the reviews I’d read were mixed, and I dreaded another typical princess movie, with a few ignorant Scottish stereotypes thrown in for good measure.
As it turned out, my reaction to the movie was much stronger and more positive than I could have anticipated. Yes, it has its flaws, but they couldn’t change the fact that at the core of the story was a strong, intelligent and yes, brave female character who grew and changed throughout the course of the movie and didn’t sit around waiting for some prince to come along and sort things out. The scene at the tournament of the clans, where Merida takes matters into her own hands and demonstrates her archery skills, brought tears to my eyes. But what made them spill over was the fact that, in stark contrast to almost every other children’s movie I’ve ever seen, Merida’s mother is not only alive and well, but also plays a strong and positive role in her daughter’s life. Their relationship challenges – which, stripped of their fairy-tale hyperbole, are pretty typical of any healthy mother-daughter bond during adolescence – are central to the story. One commentator I read described it as a “mother-daughter love story”, and, as a daughter and a mother, seeing that onscreen in a children’s movie actually moved me to tears.
Miss B, on the other hand, continues to be bemused by how much time I spend weeping during children’s movies. (This was almost as bad as Up.) She enjoyed it, but her enthusiasm was tempered by being scared out of her wits by the bears. (Luckily we didn’t opt to see it in 3-D – she spent half the movie clinging to me like a leech as it was.)
And I bet you’re wondering how this all ties in to a recipe? Well – school vacations beget lots of hanging around with children – your own and other people’s. And, since school-age children are apparently always hungry, especially for sweet things, I’ve been experimenting with child-friendly desserts that I can concoct in my temporary, understocked kitchen (TUK). My latest trick involved making a batch of Mistake Cookie dough, rolling it into logs, and chucking it in the fridge until I needed it. Before I used it up, I had made two batches of sandwich cookies – one filled with chocolate ganache and one with raspberry jam – as well as a classic fridge cake.
adapted from several recipes
Are these popular in the US? I had never encountered one until I lived in England, where they seem to be a fixture of childhood. Turns out the same goes for Australia. I was drawn to making this when I had promised to bring a dessert and the only time I could make it was 24 hours before the event; since it needs to chill in the fridge, it’s a great do-ahead dessert, and the minimal equipment required is perfect for the TUK.
210 g/7 oz dark chocolate
30 g/1 oz maple syrup
120 g/4 oz butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
5 g/1 tsp vanilla
210 g/7 oz Mistake Cookies (or other crumbly cookies of your choice)
60 g/2 oz coconut
Line a loaf tin with foil or baking parchment and set aside.
In a double boiler, melt chocolate, maple syrup, and butter together over medium-low heat, stirring regularly. When melted, set aside to cool slightly, then mix in the egg and vanilla.
Coarsely chop cookies and place in a medium-sized bowl, then sprinkle coconut over. Pour over chocolate mixture and fold together gently, then spread in prepared tin. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours to set, or for longer if need be.
When ready to serve, remove from fridge and turn cake out onto a board. Peel off foil or paper and slice. Serve just as is, or with some form of cream if you want to fancy it up.
Have plenty of wipes or damp paper towels on hand for cleaning up chocolate-coated children and adults following consumption.