Nov 01 2012

Home Teaching by Stealth

Published by Kathy at 7:05 am under General

One of the great things about Halloween is that it’s the one night of the year when almost everyone answers a knock at the door. This is extremely helpful if you have families you home teach who never answer the telephone or the door, but who nevertheless consider you to be their close personal friends.  (For our non-Mormon readers, home teaching is a program in our church where you are assigned to visit a number of homes each month to make sure the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of the occupants are being met.)

Last year, Fluffy and I got the idea of making some sort of treat and having Fluffy take it to our home teaching families on Halloween night while I stayed home waiting for non-existent trick-or-treaters. It worked so well that we decided to try it again this year.

Luckily, I found a great treat to take to people on a Halloween night. The picture on Pinterest looked so charming and so easy to make that I thought it couldn’t miss. It featured a skeleton made of miniature pretzels dipped in white chocolate, standing on a mound of earth that was a chocolate ganache-dipped brownie. The head of the skeleton was a marshmallow with a face drawn on by edible marking pens.

Notice the beautifully dipped pretzels and the cunning faces on the marshmallow heads. Easy as pie!

I looked at the picture and said to myself, “How hard can this be?” You make some brownies, you dip some pretzels, you put a face on a marshmallow, and you have an amazing treat.

Having now made the little fellows, all I can say is that next time I get an idea that something looks easy, please put some cement tennis shoes on my feet and throw me in the ocean. Preferably at high tide.

Unfortunately, there were lots of supplies I had to purchase in order to make this “simple” project. Not only did we need the brownie mix and the marshmallows and the pretzels and two flavors of dipping chocolate, but there was a huge assortment of non-food items I needed. Amazon.com made its weekly sales quota from my order of lollipop sticks (the skeleton’s backbone), edible marking pens, gift bags with ties, and a nifty silicone baker of miniature brownies. I ordered all this stuff weeks ahead of time and even designed gift tags to go on the gift bags. Everything was ready for our creative outburst.

Then I got a major secret shopping assignment on Tuesday, and the restaurant visit combined with the report-writing afterwards took five long hours. That meant we couldn’t even start our skeletons until Wednesday afternoon.

“No big deal,” I said to myself, just as stupidly as I had spoken to myself the first time. “How long can it take?”

It can take three-plus hours; that’s how long it can take. And that’s just the making of the treats. Delivering them was another undertaking altogether.

My first mistake was in the making of those little brownies. Let’s just say Fluffy was the one who made them. (He needs the credit, considering all the work he did.)  I, however, told him how long to cook them. I reasoned that if a pan of regular brownies takes 45 minutes, cooking those one-inch brownies in their individual sections of the silicone brownie baker should take 15 minutes, tops.

Fluffy, ever obedient, cooked the brownies for fifteen minutes. Then we added five more minutes. Then we added five more minutes. Then we added five more minutes. Then we thought they had to be done, so we took them out of the oven to cool.

An hour later, when I tried to take them out of the silicone pan, they completely fell apart. They were still raw, raw, raw. I cooked them for five more minutes. Even that wasn’t enough, but by then everything was a mess. So I took the top halves of two brownies and mushed them together so there was a crispy side on the top and a crispy side on the bottom.

This meant I only ended up with twelve brownies instead of the twenty-four I’d planned on, but that was fine. We only needed eight skeletons, with two left over as extras. Everything was good.

We were supposed to coat the brownies in a chocolate ganache. I have no idea how to make a ganache, so I decided to melt some chocolate chips and coat the brownies in chocolate. That worked out. What didn’t work out was the melting of white chocolate to cover the pretzels. We melted two bags of white chocolate chips, taking scrupulous care to make sure not a drop of water got into the mixture. It didn’t matter. The white chocolate hardened and got grainy, and it all had to be thrown away.

We had a big white chocolate baking bar that Fluffy found with some effort, and he carefully melted it in the microwave. Success! But as he dipped the individual pretzels, both of us realized to our dismay that the pretzels he was putting together looked nothing like the pictures in the prototype. How did those other people dip those pretzels so they still looked like pretzels, anyway? Enquiring minds want to know!

Those skeleton "ribs" don't look like ribs in our skeleton men. We won't even mention the miserable faces.

By now, our formerly clean kitchen looked like an explosion had occurred there. The flannel nightgown I was wearing had more chocolate on it than flowers, and my leaning up against the kitchen drawers had smeared chocolate down the first three drawers of the cabinet. The place looked like a disaster.

Nobody told me this was going to turn our house into a chocolate-flavored pigsty.

Needless to say, when the kitchen was at its worst, we got our only trick-or-treater of the night — our friend John, who came in and helped us with the pretzel dipping. He’s seen our house before, so I was marginally less embarrassed about the condition of the kitchen than I was embarrassed about my chocolate-covered nightgown. I was glad he was there, though. Because of his help, we got ten pretzel skeletons done in only three interminable hours. And he cheerfully told us that this averaged out to only ten minutes per pretzel skeleton!

(John works for Price-Waterhouse, so you’d think his math would be better. Three hours for ten pretzel skeletons comes to 18 minutes per skeleton. At least, that’s math as I do it on Planet Kathy!)

Fluffy predicted that the skeletons would look better once they were wrapped, and he was right. Here’s what they eventually looked like:

As Fluffy predicted, the cellophane bags hid a multitude of sins.

As you can see, they barely resemble the pretzels in our prototype picture. But hey — they were done. In the final analysis, that’s what matters.

No, that’s wrong. What ultimately matters is that we got our home teaching done. As we predicted, Fluffy was even able to deliver skeletons to the people who won’t answer their door or return my telephone messages. They had a twenty-minute visit on the front porch, and all our effort was worth it. In fact, Fluffy visited four families and it only took him two hours. That made it a five-hour project, but we felt so accomplished at the end of it that we were just as happy as we were tired at the end of the night.

I’m already thinking about what to make for Thanksgiving treats. Then, it’s Christmas. As Fluffy used to tell the high priests, anybody can get their home teaching done during the last three months of the year. Even people who don’t normally open their doors will do so if there is food on the other side.  Even if the food was made on Planet Kathy.

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6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Home Teaching by Stealth”

  1. Marinaon 01 Nov 2012 at 10:28 am

    I read this aloud with my husband, and he said he is going to start home teaching on Halloween! What a great idea!

  2. Marian Stoddardon 01 Nov 2012 at 11:13 am

    You can buy coated pretzels at any store with a bulk foods dept., and I didn’t know there was such a thing as edible markers. It’s a really fun idea, and if ‘brownie bites’ are large enough to use, you can buy them in a tub too. I would shamelessly cheat on those points, and if I can remember next year I might try it, they look really fun.

    This is why I have stayed away from Pinterest, I figure I’ll be sucked into losing all my time on it.

    Reverse trick-or-treating is a really good home teaching idea!

  3. Becky Bon 01 Nov 2012 at 11:54 am

    Yep, I was going to say that about the white “yogurt” dipped pretzels. That’s the way to go. :)

  4. Kathyon 01 Nov 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Why didn’t we think of pre-dipped pretzels and brownie bites? What a dim bulb I am! (I hope Fluffy doesn’t read these comments. If he knows how much time we could have saved, I’ll be in the doghouse for sure.)

  5. Linnea C.on 05 Nov 2012 at 12:48 pm

    So, the lesson you learned from the do- it-yourself project of dipping pretzels and brownies is to ask your friends first, before you start, and they will save you. (Yup! That’s where I meant to put the period.)

  6. Kathyon 06 Nov 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Amen, sister!

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