This is a poached pear half which fell into a pan of melted chocolate, was fished out by me, and then decorated by my 3-year-old grandson, Kevin, with these almond slivers that look sort of like teeth and two raisins (the darker blobs at the narrow end).

It's his Chocolate Hedgehog and he is so proud of it, he can't stand it.


The recipe has so many quirks it wouldn't be worth the effort, except that it IS worth it with a 3-year-old by your side every messy step of the way (next time I'll add more pics).

Kevin calls the creature a porcupine. I don't think he saw this year's Puppy Bowl, which included a few adorable baby hedgehogs.

Be prepared to laugh. A lot.

The recipe -- Chocolate Hedgehogs -- comes from Yum Yum: I'll Be My Own Cook , a cookbook I used when Kevin's mother, Lucy, was his age. (It's out of print, but you can buy it, "new," on Amazon for $115. 78.)

The book was, I think, originally Swiss, so may be a translation, which would account for the fact that it's not totally reliable. Nor are all the recipes so great. There's one for slices of ham wrapped around pea-carrot-mayonnaise salad that we'll never make.

Here's how you do it.

Chocolate Hedgehogs

  • 4 pears, or you could buy good canned ones to save yourself the poaching step and to keep it simple
  • 200 grams (about 7 ounces) of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Don't need to be totally exact, here and you'll eat the rest, anyway. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I have to use the Ghirardelli brand.
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • one of those little bags of slivered almonds in the baking section of the supermarket. Separate out the ones with the sharpest ends to use for the hog's quills.
  • raisins,
     for eyes for 8 hedgehogs = 16

If you don't use canned pears: peel, halve and core the fresh pears. Add sugar to the water, bring to a gentle boil. Place pears in the water and cook for 10 minutes, or until done but still nicely firm to the point of sharp little knife. Remove pears carefully with a big spoon, slotted, if you have one, and put them on paper towels or a clean dishtowel to drain.

The recipe says to save the syrup, but doesn't say why. Must be the frugal Swiss, assuming we'll find something to do with it. Lucy thinks we could make up a fun cocktail....

Slowly and carefully melt the chocolate chips with 5 tablespoons of water (hey -- why not use some of the syrup?). This is when the 3-year-old wants to be right next to you, watching. To be, says Kevin, stirring as he holds on to the end of a very long wooden spoon, "cozy."

Stir and, as soon as the chocolate is without lumps, start the fun part:

Very carefully pick up a pear and, holding it with your fingers by the narrow end, gently lower the fat half into the chocolate. If you've cooked the pears too much, they will squishy crumble into the chocolate and you've got a different dessert. If the whole thing slips in, you fish it back out and persevere as if nothing's happened (see top photo, above).

Put each dipped pear onto either a glass cutting board or a cookie sheet covered in foil. For presentation, they'll end up on a pretty platter or on individual plates, but that's for later.

Here's where the 3-year-old comes into his or her own. Show him how to puncture the hog with the sharpest ends of the almonds and where, generally, to put the raisins. Hedgehogs can have more than two eyes, btw. And lots of quills. Not much can go wrong here, except if the little sous-chef pushes the quills too hard. Even then, you've got enough hogs to allow for a few fatalities.

Put the survivors onto the platter or plates. Save one for Daddy and one for Mommy. And, as the Swiss book says, "Cheers and bon appétit!"

Instant Gratification: 

   "Say 'Gear-ar-delli'!"

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