My courtship with my husband evolved over food. On our first date, he made me dinner, a sweet and tangy chicken stew that we balanced on our knees in his tiny studio. The next night, I cooked for him: a simple French meal of sole with a light sauce and some grilled asparagus. We shared the dishes we grew up with, discovered the tastes we had in common. Bite by bite, our love grew. We moved in together very quickly, found space for my cast iron casseroles amidst his pans, and began cooking together to feed our friends.
It’s been 17 years since we pooled my wooden spoons with his spatulas, but I still cook every meal for him… with love. The kids are just along for the ride. I craft my menu with his likes in mind, and modify them slightly by keeping the sauces off for my pickier children. Our lives are dizzyingly busy, chock-full of conflicting baseball games, dance practices, and school concerts, but I can still express my love each night with dinner, even if I don’t have the time or energy to be as lovey-dovey as I was when we first moved in together. Cooking for a man who enjoys eating is a joy.
Two nights ago, Steve was pacing our kitchen like a caged tiger, opening the pantry, picking up packages of sweets, reading ingredient lists, and tossing them back in the pantry in disgust. It was the fifth night of Passover, a holiday only he keeps in our household, and he was desperately craving a satisfying dessert. He wanted chocolate, he wanted crunchiness, he wanted a dessert to knock his socks off.
And so, layer by sweet layer, I built him what he called the most decadent Passover dessert he ever had. Because of the Passover restrictions, there was no flour, but that didn’t diminish the indulgence of the dessert in any way. The crunch came from layers of soft meringue. I topped them with chocolate chips that I then drowned in brown sugar toffee. My daughter was my willing accomplice, crafting her own love letter to her dad while licking the bowl.
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- ¾ cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- Preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with waxed paper or silpat.
- Beat egg whites in large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 ¼ cups sugar, beating until meringue is stiff and shiny.
- Spread meringue evenly on 2 prepared baking sheets in 4 circles the same circumference as the trifle bowl. No need to be too exact about this. A messy trifle is beautiful to behold.
- Bake until pale golden, about 8 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Bake until meringue is slightly firm to touch on top but soft inside, about 8 minutes longer.
- While meringue cooks, melt sticks of butter in a small saucepan with the brown sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.
- Lower the heat and continue to simmer for another 3 minutes for the toffee to come together and thicken.
- Once meringues are ready, remove baking sheet from oven. Run knife carefully around pan sides to loosen meringue.
- Using a spatula, peel meringue off.
- Put one layer of meringue on the bottom of your trifle bowl. Layer with chocolate chips. Cover with a layer of caramel toffee. Repeat until all the meringue layers are used up, reserving the last of meringue to crumble on top.
- Put in fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1-2 hours to harden the toffee.