For years, I've been giving up sweets for Lent. In middle school, I was addicted to Big League Chew, tape gum, and Big Red. For 40 days every year, I gave up all three. In college, my roommates and I gave up all forms of chocolate, and for the last few years, I've gotten extra sadistic and given up anything with added sugar. That means no chai lattes, no jelly on my PB&J's and of course, no cookies, cake, brownies or ice cream.
The funny thing is, I'm not even really religious. Then why do I subject myself to such torture year after year? Anyone who knows me will confirm that sweets make me very happy. I'm not one of those "when I'm sad, I can't eat" kind of girls. When I'm sad, I eat sweets and when I'm happy, I eat even more sweets. It's hard not to when a bright blue cookie shop beckons as I walk to and from the subway every day. And did I mention that my office is in Chelsea Market, home to some of the best brownies on earth?
When your life revolves around dessert, a little detox is necessary every now and then. Lent helps me see that I don't have to eat at least four cookies in one sitting. And if for some crazy, horrible reason I had to live without apple crisp or Grandma's Crumb Cake, I now know I could (although I really, really hope that never happens).
The first few days are always very hard, but plenty of all-natural sweets are almost as satisfying. One year, I ate a lot of oranges. This year, I got into those plump, succulent Medjool dates that are sticky and sweet and I never need more than one or two. My pants sure fit a lot better and I always have more energy. I'm not saying I like living without sweets. It's just a nice change of pace.
This year, I didn't have to wait until Easter dinner for my first dessert in 40 days. My friend Jessie got married the night before, and a little after midnight, these sugary sacks were served. Stuffed with chocolate cake and a fudgy sauce (and caramelized bananas on the side), it was a great way to break a sweets fast.
On Easter, I made John Scharffenberger's Silky Chocolate Pudding, a recipe I read about on The Wednesday Chef.
Just as Luisa promised, it was velvety and luscious. It took almost no time to make, although it should have stayed in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. After about fifteen, my family caved.
Inspired by a salty whipped cream at The Farm On Adderley that pairs perfectly with a milk chocolate mousse, I whipped up two bowls of cream to plop on top of this pudding. One was plain and the other? Yup, I gave it a few shakes of salt.
The salty whipped cream certainly caused an uproar, but I thought it tasted good with something so rich and chocolatey. No one else seemed to agree, but I guess they're still scarred by the salty Blondies I served for Easter last year. That time, I tripled the amount of salt (by accident).
I also splurged on some overpriced egg-shaped cookies to serve on the side. Filled with a tart, lemon filling, they were delicious, though I'm still shocked they were $2 each.
Later that evening, as Daniel and I watched the season premiere of the Sopranos, we alternated between slices of that leftover lemon cake from Bouley and pieces of guava paste and queijo minas, a Brazilian cheese. You'd think I'd ease back into my dependency on dessert, but every year, it never takes too long before I'm back to my old ways. Waking up with a flat stomach is always fun while it lasts. The other 325 days per year, I just can't stay away from sweets.