It started several weeks ago, and became quite epic. As we dug out of the Plethora of Celebrations and Midterms we realized another Holiday was coming. And we checked in with each other to see if anyone at The House was going to do anything about it.
When everything was said and done, someone was indeed going to do something about it.
Last year The Boy and His Girl were a couple and it was their first Valentines Day with each other or anyone else who wasn't related to them. Which was sweet. He got her a Simply Pink Poppet which is not the same as this but it's close.
But he had gotten pretty sick at that time and couldn't do much of anything else for her, so this year he wanted to do something to "make up for it".
This is the point where I need to observe that
a. The Boy is not yet 16 and
b. His Girl didn't feel that way about this year, or last year, at all.
So when asked about plans (as they are a heavily chaperoned pair, and his plans require group arrangements between families) he informed me that he would like to prepare a meal for her. Which was very sweet.
But she was thinking of preparing a meal for him too - So I was starting to envision a kind of Valentine's Potluck - where they split appetizers, main course, dessert and sides . . . and I was secretly thinking "Oi! this could get complicated. "
We gave them another week to figure it out. Some outside things played into their decisions. My Perfectly Normal Husband was going to have to work that day, so I would be available for chaperoning and shlepping if necessary. His Girl and he were deciding where it would be easier to cook and The House was chosen as the more convenient location for they both have Sisters but his is a bit older and hers is good bit younger. While I'm not sure what went into the final decision (since they are chaperoned, not spied upon) it was eventually decided he would make a Valentine's Day Dinner for her.
So it was now 3 weeks before V-Day. He discussed options with me, and chose the menu. All this week I will be posting the recipes he chose and the pictures of him and the Poppets making them, and the stories that go with learning new things. So I will be blogging more about the menu selection later - there are four recipes, plus this. I will post one per day and link back to the previous ones.
It was an epic dinner. The dessert took three days to make.
As he sat with the cookbooks spread out and listed the things that she liked, one of the things that came up was that she enjoyed cappuccino. He had made a very conscious choice not to get her a material gift so that it would not be "too much". They were still kids after all. But he did have funds saved up and he wanted to use them for the meal. He had mentioned getting a cappuccino machine previously (Which to be honest was a bit of a sore point since he had broken mine when he was a toddler and I hadn't replaced it since.)
I told him that if he wanted, he did have enough money saved up to get a lower end machine if he would like to serve cappuccino in his dessert plan. Then we would have a cappuccino machine here and he would also no longer be held responsible for his wanton act of destruction when he was four - not that I was holding a grudge.
He said it would be nice if we had one and told me to look. I was hoping to find small easily stored one - but was having no luck.
Now we must digress a bit to the way Poppets come into the house. My two Coffee Poppets have been here a while and know their way about, and have created a few new ways of their own. The Taunting brought many other Poppets to the house and The Boy, and The Girl of the House have small populations of their own, usually all of the Poppets get together and integrate pretty quickly, but the Many Holidays were so hectic, that some of the Poppets had barely come out at all.
So it wasn't until all this Cappuccino Conversation that The Boy's Very Own Coffee Poppet who came here by way of Grandma's House popped out of his box and introduced himself to the Highly Caffeinated and Slightly Less Caffeinated Coffee Poppets.
Maybe he was hibernating until he heard about the machine.
The Boy informed us that his name is Cappy.
The Boy and I were unsuccessful in finding the right Cappuccino Solution for The House, but Cappy knew a source, and suggested that the Poppets who ran the Poppet Cafe might be interested in helping.
There was immediate agreement with Cappy's plan. There was a legend of a stovetop steam based cappuccino maker with a Clik-Clak mechanism that helped steam the milk.
It wasn't from around here. They had to go where Steam was very important to get it to the House.
Cappy led the way and the other Coffee Poppets handled the negotiations on my behalf as well.
Dr. Black appreciated the idea of not adding yet another electric appliance to the mix and knew that the proposed machine was smaller. He arranged the transport. All of the steampunk poppets escorted the Bialetti Mukka Express to it's delivery point.
And they left behind some very excited Coffee Poppets.
Cappuccino for Valentine's Day! And Purim! And Mother's Day! And Birthdays! And UnBirthdays! And Days that have "y" in them!
They immediately got The Boy and I away from our computers to observe the wonder and the glory of the New Thing.
Luckily, we were fine with letting them unwrap it - I'm not sure what happens when you get between Coffee Poppets and a new coffee delivery system and I'm not really willing to find out.
Inside the package was a measure, a CD and a booklet. You know how some booklets of instructions have approximately 17 languages in them, but somehow English is always first? This was not one of those booklets. Oh there were a bunch of languages alright. And English was in there but symbolized by a little British Flag, without a US Flag to be seen, and that British Flag only came in after Italian and French.
After looking at the instruction manual we checked out the CD and we were really happy that we did - because I was so NOT kidding about the "Clik Clak" mechanism and I was much happier to see a video demonstrating it. Even knowing what it is and what it does now, it still scares the heck out of me when I hear it. It sounds like the top is going to pop off and there's no way of knowing "when" because it just does it when it's ready.
Now we are thoroughly familiar with the finer points of the Bialetti Mukka Express. Having read that we had to make three cups of espresso and throw them away, we realized we were going to have to get started immediately if we were going to get good at this before Valentine's Day.
The Trio of Coffee Poppets was persistent but we just didn't know when we were going to get that much time. Making the cappucino doesn't take very long but the cleaning and care instructions are very specific and time consuming. Then we got a Blizzard which gave us oodles of free time to perfect our technique and "season" the pot. Which I really think means make sure all of the industrial oils that might remain in the aluminum are gone by the fourth cup.
So here's what the Bialetti Mukka Express looks like before you start.
How much water you put in the bottom portion apparently depends on whether or not you use a gas or electric stovetop. If you do use an electric stove top you should have a ceramic cover, which I happen to have, because I'm a snob who likes evenly distributed heat.
Lucky thing too, because you're not supposed to put it directly on a heating element and if we had no way to make our cappuccino and we were stuck in the blizzard we would have been very sad humans.
So we poured the water into reservoir tank where what they call a "line" actually is a ridge that looks like part of the construction. We had figured it out but that's one of the places where we were glad they gave us the CD.
And then you put the metal filtery bit on top of the reservoir tank. Cappy discovered it was bouncy.
Then you were supposed to put in your ground espresso roasted coffee. The Boy stopped the process at this point. "But we don't have espresso!" But it just so happened that we did. I picked it up in the pre-blizzard Valentine Shopping. I had thought I had purchased ground espresso. The Highly Caffeinated Poppet however, was happily diving in and out of whole beans like a toddler in a ball pit.
"We shall have to have freshly ground espresso instead!" immediately throwing things out of the cabinet in his rush to the grinder. "Oh how we shall suffer!" He chortled gleefully.
He's really quite excitable. I'm not sure having espresso around him is a good idea.
Now that the beans were ground, (and they did smell delicious, and strong, and fresh - Oh how we suffer!) we moved on to the next step. We are supposed to fill the filtery bit with the grounds and we are NOT supposed to tamp it down. We also have to make sure that all of the ridges around the thing are clear. Because if they aren't the machine creates a lot of pressurized steam that has places to escape and if things don't go boom, they will at least spray hot steam and messy half made espresso everywhere. So we made sure we didn't do it. Much.
See the Ghiardelli Chocolate? That's the base for The Boy's dessert - I'll be writing about making that tomorrow.
To make espresso in the Mukka Express you do everything except add the milk. If you are making cappuccino you have to fill the top part up to the indicator line ( which looks like a ridge) with milk.
And you have to press the button down on the Clik Clak mechanism.
Cappy of course, would not hear of anything else.
You can actually make a latte - or as the British based instructional CD told us a "Simple Delicious Milky Coffee". Which makes me wonder if they don't have lattes in Britain and where the derivation of Latte comes from. Or if it's one of those things that happen when a script goes through a translator before it gets to the voice over talent. It's cafelatte in Italian, Americans call it latte here, but latte by itself means milk, it says "latte" in the English version of the written instructions and "cafelatte" in the Italian version of the written instructions.
So I think that when the translation company got the original Italian script they translated "cafelatte" directly and literally into "milky coffee" not knowing that English had incorrectly borrowed the back half of the compound word. I also wonder if there are confused english speakers in Italy getting milk when they are expecting coffee and confused Italians in Britain getting coffee drinks when they order milk.
Translation for multiple countries of the same material used to be a big part of my job so these things may just be amusing to me. Now American owners of Bialetti Mukka Express may think that the British say "milky coffee" instead of latte. My own experience tells me that the voice over script was probably finalized by the translation service but print materials are usually checked over by native speaker to catch possible problematic nuances.
It kind of makes you wonder how different cultures manage to communicate at all. I think it's kind of awesome that we do - even if we make mistakes sometimes.
To make a latte instead of cappuccino you add much more water and you don't push the button down so it's not pressurized from anything other than the espresso steam.
In any case we were going for cappuccino, so we filled up the upper part with milk to the ridgy line, pushed the button down and waited for the patented Clik-Clak mechanism to do it's thing.
And with a sound that was a lot less subtle than the one in the video, it did indeed do it's thing.
And so we kept making cappuccino until we perfected our technique - The Boy did quite well, but I had one small incident with the upper and lower parts not being completely sealed. . . . everything is fine and cleaned up.
And now we're regularly getting this:
So the first of the new recipes that were being brought out for the Valentine's Day dinner was a success, thanks to the Steampunk and Coffee Poppets and Cappy taking a direct hand on His Boy's behalf.
Tomorrow, will be about the Chocopoppets helping him with the Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse Terrine. Complete with the actual recipe.