Back in my early days of teaching, I was notorious for the lack of compliments for my students. I would much rather give critique and comments than compliments. I don't know if this stems from having parents who definitely erred on the side of NOT giving compliments, but at any rate, I was not known for being all nice and touchy-feely.
As a mother, I know I'm very much the same way. Even though I may be proud of something Son or Daughters do, I more often than not, choose not to give the compliment. When Daughter #1 is practicing piano, I more look at the things for her to improve instead of the things she has already improved.
The same goes for any schoolwork and homework. I expect her to do well and when she does not - let's just say that there is a lot of extra work trying to get her to learn whatever she has missed. But a recent incident has made me question if perhaps I am too stingy with my encouragement and compliments.
A few days ago, while I was working in my office, I turned to see Daughter #1, crumpling paper and stuffing it in the recycling bin. I casually asked what it was, and she just said it was a drawing she didn't like. I was immediately suspicious and so when she left, I dug into the bin until I found it. It was a math test where she had gotten two answers incorrect. (Note to Daughter - if you're trying to hide evidence, definitely do not wave it in from of mom's recycling bin.) I studied it quietly for a moment, and then called (gently) Daughter #1 over.
She saw the test and burst into tears before I had even had a chance to open my mouth. I quietly expressed to her that I wasn't mad about the test, but I was VERY angry about the fact that she had tried to hide it from me. She sobbed bitterly and said that I was mad at her. I gently explained that I was mad at the hiding, not at the test itself. I went on to explain that it was very important for me to see any tests that she got, so that I could see where she was having problems. Eventually she calmed down and she promised not to hide the tests from me.
But it made me wonder - if I was a mom who just gave a lot of encouragement and positive reinforcement, would she have hidden the test from me? Was my exacting expectations causing her to fear me and instead of seeing me as the person who could help her? Did she see me as some scary monster she had to keep appeased? Did my attitude and personality make her scared to share her weaknesses with me? I didn't really like where this thought process was going.
I decided to try and be a bit more encouraging. And let me confess, it is hard for those words to come out. It is not natural to me, to be this encouraging mother. I have always much more been of the thought that if I set the standard and expect them to meet it, that was the right way. However, the thought of Daughters and Son fearing me, my anger, and my criticism has forced me to re-evaluate some of my parenting, yet again.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not spewing fountains of compliments left and right by any standard. But rather, I am choosing very specific things to point out and compliment with the hope that they see my love and understand that I just want them to do better, when they can. I'm trying not to be stingy and hoard the compliments, but rather, give them out in a measured way.
Along with being stingy with my compliments, I'm also stingy with the good ingredients in my pantry. I sometimes stockpile really delicious chocolate, say when I get a birthday gift certificate, or someone gives it to me as a present. (It is true - someone has presented me with a 1 KG block of Valrhona before- a fantastic present I would not easily buy for myself.) I use standard cocoa and supermarket chocolate, even though I have some fantastic chocolate in the pantry. The same day that I discovered that I was stingy with my compliments I looked up and saw that I am also stingy with my chocolate. I decided that since Husband was home from a long trip, it would be a chance to showcase some of the yummier chocolates and make a flourless chocolate cake.
This is Death by Chocolate Cake is just that - the best of chocolates, showcased in a super silky, fudgy, truffle-like concoction that pretty much says it all. The texture is not like any other cake I've had, and when I brought it to my house church to share, it got rave reviews. Some people described it as a mousse like texture, and some people had more than their fair share. It is a cake for adult palates and for those who truly love and appreciate good chocolate. Definitely use the best that many can buy (Scharffen Berger,Valrhona, Callebut) and don't be stingy. Although the cake uses fantastic expensive ingredients, it is definitely easy enough to make more than once.
The main time consuming part of this recipe is chopping chocolate. (It takes some time - but you can use a food processor.) The tricky part of this recipe is a water bath (if you've never done one.) A water bath is simply placing the cake pan inside another pan and pouring warm or hot water around it. This ensures the special texture of the cake and allows it to gently cook all the way through.
I can't wait to make this again, as I still have about 2 more pounds of truly delicious chocolate to practice not being stingy with.
Chocolate Intensity Cake
Serves 8 to 10
From Tish Boyle’s The Cake Book
8 ounces Scharffen Berger or Valrhona 62% cocoa bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brewed coffee
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with a round of parchment and grease paper as well.
2. Place chopped chocolate in a large bow and set aside.
4. In a medium bowl ( or measuring cup), whisk eggs vigorously until yolks and whites are completely blended. Whisk in vanilla extract and salt. Whisk the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place pan in a roasting pan or large baking pan. Put in the oven and pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake cake in water bath for 35 to 45 minutes, until center is shiny but set (it should jiggle slightly.). Transfer cake pan to wire rack and let the cake cool for 20 minutes.
6. Run a thin bladed paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place either a 9 inch cardboard cake round on top of the pan and invert the cake onto it OR carefully line a glass plate with parchment and invert cake on top of it. Remove pan and carefully peel off parchment on the bottom. Refrigerate cake for at least 2 hours, before glazing.
6 ounces (170g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (use Scharffen Berger or Valrhona)
⅔ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Place chopped chocolate in a bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate to the pan. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and glaze is smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Transfer glaze to a small bowl. Cover surface of glaze with plastic wrap and let cool for about 10 minutes before using.
Glaze the Cake
1. Place chilled cake, still on the cake round, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. If your cake is on a plate, simply pull it out of the fridge. Slowly pour all but two tablespoons of hot glaze onto center of the cake. Using a small metal offset spatula, smooth the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, letting excess glaze drip.
2. Put remaining glaze in a small sealable ziploc. Seal the bag and cut a tiny hole in one of the corners. Gently squeeze bag over the top of the cake drizzling cake in a zigzag pattern. Refrigerate cake for at least 1 hour before serving. Slice and serve. (remove parchment strips if you went with that method)
Truly fantastic cake recipes...all my favorites are from here.
One of the chocolates I used (but I bought mine from Whole Foods)
Valrhona - the king of chocolate...bought from Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma (1 kg is about $35)