A Little Nibble with Martha!- Cappuccino-Chocolate Bites! -229 eggs, 171 3/4 cups of sugar, 171 sticks of Butter, and 213 cups of flour used so far- 43 recipes to go!

July 17, 2011

Martha's Cappuccino-Chocolate Bites

André's Cappuccino-Chocolate Bites

Sandwich cookies are a terrific treat but man, are they work. Think about it. You only yield half of what you bake since two cookies are needed for each serving. You also have to prepare a filling and then make time to assemble the cookies. The older I get, the more opposed to effort I find myself becoming. I think this is where the commercial success of the Oreo comes from. Honestly, who wants to spend half the day baking these when you can get a whole bag of them down at the mini-mart?

That said, Martha’s Cappuccino-Chocolate Bites recipe makes for some delicious sandwich cookies unlike anything you’d buy in the store. Cocoa, flour, ground espresso, butter, egg and sugar come together to make the cookie dough which is only slightly sweet and tastes of rich mocha. The filling is a simple chocolate ganache made of heavy cream and melted semi-sweet chocolate morsels. The bite-sized cookies (each cookie is less than an inch in diameter) are sprinkled with a light dusting of cocoa and powdered sugar giving these tiny cookies a delicate, jewel-like appearance.

As stated in my last blog post, I baked these for my partner, Dan’s co-workers to be served at a going-away party for a colleague who was leaving the world of retail to strike out on her own in the world of graphic design. I filled a tin with these tiny treats and they were quickly consumed in a din of “Mmmmm”s, “Ahhhhhh”s and a few “Ooooooooo”s.  These cookies have the unmistakable flavor of coffee with their slight and under-sweet bitterness  offset by the chocolaty filling and a lightly salted finish. Absolutely delicious. Would I make them again? Probably not. They were a lot of work. Who knows, though? I may get a wild hair and whip up a batch in the distant future when I’m feeling like I need a challenge or I might just buy a bag of Oreos.

When You Care Enough… (pt 5 – the conclusion)

So Dan had just lost his job as manager of a children’s boutique and I was working during the day as an administrative assistant at Hallmark Cards and during the evenings and weekends as a sales associate at a toy store. Dan never really took a break after Saks Fifth Avenue closed to think about what he wanted to do next. Having worked in the mortgage industry I suggested he look into becoming a realtor. He seemed a bit reluctant. I told him I’d attend classes with him since the real estate industry always fascinated me. The real estate market was still booming during this time and classes for new realtors were filled to capacity. We had just enough money put aside for both of us to attend classes. It was a hectic time. Like I said I was working at night and weekends at the toy store and now on my two evenings off I was in class with Dan.

After six weeks of classes we took our test which we passed with high marks. Dan immediately went to work for a company in Overland Park, KS under the tutelage of an older woman who’d been in the business for over twenty-five years, Charlene.  She was a pip. She was a no-nonsense woman whose head supported  a perfectly coiffed mound of platinum white hair. She wore bright colors and prints as part of her professional and casual attire. On her hands, neck, ears and lapel were artful pieces of costume jewelry she’d amassed through the years. Thirty years my elder, she had many stories of her past to share. Stories of friends who’d passed on. Her home was filled with relics of memory and compelling pieces of art… and the largest collection of elephant statuettes I’d ever seen. She lived alone in a modest home with a large German Shepherd named Shaun who’d bark loudly at the slightest rap on her door. Shaun himself was a living relic of memory. An old dog left for Charlene to raise after her closest friend passed on after a bought with cancer.

Dan loved Charlene. I did, too. She helped Dan navigate his way through the competitive world of real estate while I was navigating my way through the writing portfolio requirement to become a part of the editorial community at Hallmark.

With much encouragement from my new friends at Hallmark and with the support of Marion, my manager, I began carefully completing the writing portfolio. It consisted of writing exercises and challenges such as reading several versions of a sentiment and choosing which one is the most “sendable.” Sendability is a term you hear a lot at Hallmark. It’s important that a piece of writing feel like it was written just for you. Just for you and a million of people just like you. It’s a tricky thing to do. I learned about “I” content from some of my editor friends early on. “I” content refers to the use of “I” in a sentiment. It’s a limiting word. It assumes a card is only from one person. Why say “I hope you have a happy birthday.” when you could say, “Hope you have a happy birthday.”?  I also learned about the most ambiguous word in the greeting card industry… “Special.” It doesn’t mean good. It doesn’t mean bad. It doesn’t even mean that I like you all that much. It’s a kind word that the recipient can fill with whatever adjective they wish. “You are so special.” “Hope you have the most special of days.” “You deserve so much specialness, you special person, you.”

This up-front information certainly helped me through the challenging portfolio and in two weeks time I felt quite secure with the ten page document I’d generated. I submitted it a week later when a position in editorial posted  and then waited with fingers-crossed. I felt good about what I wrote and the timing of submission couldn’t have been better but I had doubts. There were a couple of folks in editorial who had made it quite clear from the moment we met that I was an administrative assistant today and I would be an administrative assistant tomorrow. While it was quaint that I wanted to be a writer or editor like themselves, I didn’t have the experience, the knowledge, the mastery of craft, the skills or the talent to move forward as a professional creative. As angry as these folks made me, they only fueled my desire to prove them wrong. Of course, some of these people were going to be reviewing my portfolio. This worried me. I had trained my replacement in Paula’s office and she and I became good friends. It was her job now to move my portfolio along to be reviewed. It couldn’t hurt for her to know the names of the folks who’d already determined my fate. I didn’t see this as cheating. I saw it as leveling the playing field.

Great news. After reviewing my first portfolio they wanted me to complete a second. The second portfolio would be scrutinized more closely. It would consist of more exercises from writing card copy to developing marketing statements, from rewriting verse to developing new product proposals.  I was quickly approaching my one-year anniversary as a Hallmark administrative assistant when I finally felt satisfied with my portfolio of roughly thirty pages. I held my breath and sent it on for review. A week later I was scheduled into a series of interviews. Nearly ten interviews to be exact. I met with writers, editors, editorial directors and office managers. Everyone was very friendly and asked a lot of questions. As an administrative assistant I spent most of my day being talked to, not talked with. It was nice to be able to actually speak with so many of the people that zoomed busily by my little cubicle.

Two days later I was offered a position as an Associate Editor in Classic Humor.

When Marion hired me she knew I wanted more. She generously put her own agenda aside to give me the opportunity to grow. I feel so very fortunate to have encountered Marion when I did. All she asked was a year of my service which I gave her gratefully. At the end of that year I was a professional editor. I was thrilled. The pay wasn’t much better than what I was making as an administrative assistant so I’d have to continue working nights and weekends but I was on my way. I was the new kid on a playground filled with possibilities.

Dan and I bought a house together shortly after that just about the time the housing market crashed and he left the real estate business to go back to work in retail.

Today I am a writer. I write. I spend most of my day writing, thinking, drawing up plans and developing ideas. Dan is a manager at an upscale retailer. We have a home with three cats who live in not-so-quiet hatred of each other. The naysayers at Hallmark are no longer there. Retired and moved on. If anyone tried to describe my current existence to me six years ago, I would’ve told them they were insane.

It’s amazing how much can change within a year. 2005 changed everything. I was given a completely new career. I began a new relationship. Dan and I faced so many challenges that year. More challenges that most couples face in ten years. Challenges that could easily have torn most couples apart. These challenges, these obstacles made us stronger. They brought us together and in April next year, Dan and I will be legally wed in the State of New York.  There will be a reception in Kansas City, a kick-ass party, an event of gratitude. I hope to see Marion, Paula, Charlene and all the many people who played such an integral part in shaping this new life Dan and I share.

It’ll be our way of saying, “Thank You for caring enough…”

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