The Great Plotnik

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Making Mahmoul (Part Two)

(For the first installment of Making Mahmoul, see Mahmoul Part One )

The Great Plotnik returned home with his en'babla (pistachios), his s'meed (semolina), his mahlab, his mahmoul mold and powdered sugar on his upper lip.

Having watched all the videos, he knew the production of the mahmouls would require several hands. The Duck was busy painting the bedroom in a color called "Quiet Moments," and you don't mess with Duck when she is painting, it doesn't matter if it's Quiet Moments (gray) or Santorini Sunrise (beige) or New Orleans Hot Sauce (red).

Who names these colors? Every company has its own names. Benjamin Moore's "Soft Summer" looks pretty much the same as Kelly Moore's "Chamber Music" -- that is, off-white. In the end, it's all off-red or off-white.

Plotnik would like to be the guy who names the colors.

"Hello. I have to paint my fence. What do you suggest?"

"For fences, we always recommend the Wilson Pickett."

At Great Plotnik World Headquarters, Plot is not allowed to paint, the legacy of stepping in two roller pans full of Canary in the Coal Mine (yellow) in the New York days. But the kitchen is his.

Needing helpers, Plot called next door to get Brother (not his real name), age 6, and Sister (not her real name), age 7. He could hear them screaming over the phone. "Yes! Yes!"

They arrived promptly. "Are your hands clean?" Plot asked.

"Mine are," Brother said. Plot looked at Brother's hands. They were caked with mud. "Better wash them again," he said. "Yes," Brother said. "They're really not very clean."

"Can we have some cookies?" Sister said.

"Not yet. We have to bake them first."

"What kind are they?"

"They are butter cookies with a pistachio, walnut and honey filling."

"I don't like nuts," said Sister.

"I don't like nuts," said Brother.

"Why don't you like nuts?" Plotnik said. "Nuts are delicious. Don't you like pecan pie?"

"Are pecans nuts?" Brother said, "because if they are I don't like them."

"Our real dad is allergic to nuts," Sister said, "so we figure it's better not to like them too."

"Our friends don't eat them," Brother said. "You can get sick."

"But…do YOU have an allergy to nuts? And what about peanuts? Don't you like peanut butter?"

"Peanuts are legumes," said Sister. Her parents are both scientists.

"Can we have chocolate?" Brother said. "I like chocolate."

"Me too," said Sister.

"Let's get set up," said Plotnik.

He had already made the dough and the filling and placed them in separate bowls. He set the bowls and the other fixings on the dining table where the kids could reach.

"Here's what we do," he said. "I'll make one myself first and show you. Now, one person has to form the dough into a ball, like this, and then stick his or her finger into it to make a hole."

"Me! Me!" said Brother.

"The next person takes around this much filling and stuffs it into the hole, like this, then closes it over with dough.

"Me! Me!" said Sister.

"The next person puts it into the mahmoul mold, like this, flattens it out, like this, then taps it on the cutting board until the filled and shaped cookie falls out, like this."

"Me! Me!" said Brother.

"You're already doing the dough and sticking your finger in it," Sister reminded him.

The thought balloon above her head said "Listen little dweeb, you've already got a job and you're lucky we're even allowing you in this house,"

"But,'re sticking the filling in and closing them up," said Brother.

His thought balloon said "One of these days, Alice. POW! Right in the kisser!"

Plotnik said "Why don't I start out doing this job? Then we can switch later. Oh. One more thing."

He got out two cookie sheets and a stick of butter. "Here, Brother.  Take this butter and grease the cookie sheets."

Brother narrowed his eyes. "D'you mean…I get to rub butter all over that?"

"Lucky!" said Sister, but she didn't really want to have anything to do with rubbing butter. Sister is focused. She will be a scientist like her mom. She was calculating exactly how many grams of walnut-pistachio-honey mixture it would take to fill each hole. You could see her little laser brain spinning.

"If I take this much it would suffice, IF my BROTHER weren't making the holes. They will be all different sizes. He is such a PUTZ. Why did he get invited anyway? Boys mess up everything. I think I'll suffocate him tonight in his sleep. But if I do that Mom will be mad. Oh. I have an idea, "

Sister sister-bumped Brother and knocked him to the side. Brother's jaw dropped and his eyes got wide.


Sister smiled like DiAnda, The Angel of Pastry.

"OK," Plotnik said. "Let's get going."

"Don't you (sniff) have any (sniff) chocolate?" Brother said.

The assembly line began. Brother ripped off a handful of dough and was about to throw it at Sister.

"That's too much," said Plotnik. "Roll it in your palms like this."

Brother rolled it in his palms and when the dough turned into a perfect little ball he smiled excitedly.

"Oooh," he said.

"Now stick your finger into it." He did that. It was perfect. He handed it to Sister, who was suitably impressed.

The kids' stepdad Papi (not his real name) walked in. "Look at Brother's mahmoul," Plotnik said.

"Allah Akhbar!" said Papi. 

Brother did very well, except when he got bored and tried to make one large cookie out of the half of the batter that was left. That was a signal for the kids to switch jobs.

Sister is a big sister so she thinks she has hereditary rights. She pushed Brother out of the way. Brother is the little brother so he started to whine.

"She pushed me! Waa aaaa aaaaa, Sister pushed me!"

Sister was already forming dough with her hands, and whistling.

Brother mounted an attack, rushing at her and trying to push her away. She brushed him away with controlled disdain, staring at Plotnik and smiling, as if to say "these little gnats you have in your kitchen. They are so bothersome."

"Brother, why don't you fill the cookies for awhile?" Plotnik said.

"Can I have some milk?" he said.

"Can I have some too?" said Sister.

Plotnik got them each a cup of milk. They drank it. That seemed to work. Now, they switched jobs and in less than half an hour all the mahmouls were sitting on greased cookie tins to go into the oven at 375 for twenty-five minutes.

"Can I lick the bowl?" Brother said.

Plotnik would have said "of course" to Isabella or to Desmond (their real names), but Papi was standing there. He and his wife Mapi (not her real name) have asked Plotnik not to give either of their kids anything to eat during the day because then they won't eat their dinner.

"I don't know," he said. "What would your mom say?"

"What WOULD your mom say?" Papi said.

"My mom is not here," Sister pointed out.

"She wouldn't mind. She lets us eat as much sugar as we want," Brother said.

Papi laughed. Plottie laughed too. "Really?" Plotnik said.

"I like sugar," said Brother. "Is sugar really bad for you?"

"Brussels sprouts are bad for you," Plotnik said.

When the mahmoul came out of the oven, Sister wouldn't touch them, but Brother ate one. He licked his lips.

"I don't like nuts," Brother said. "But I do like cookies."


At 12:41 PM, Blogger notthatlucas said...

These two posts were a blast to read - thanks for putting them up. You have the patience of a saint, (and either a ton of courage or you are pretty dim to invite the kids to help with this, although for sure you made their day, chocolate or not).


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