Father's Day - "The Best of Dad"
Every year, on the third Sunday in June, we take a day to honor and celebrate fathers. Today, I’d like to share a little bit about my amazing father, William Steeves. Because you are in The Southern Yankee Kitchen, we are not only going to talk about Dad, we’re going to talk about food. What is my Dad’s favorite food? That’s easy. Dessert. But “dessert” is not a food, you say. Dessert is a category. That is true, but I stand by my assertion that Dessert (with a capital D!) is absolutely my Dad’s favorite food. William Steeves has a world class sweet tooth and an encyclopedic knowledge of the many ways to satisfy it.
His first cookbook, “The Best of Dad”, copies of which were presented to me and my three younger sisters in 1989, was a three ring binder with 208 pages of recipes, kitchen tips and tricks, hand drawn cartoons and a 13 page double column cross-referenced index. It was definitely a labor of love that I cherish. I also refer to it often. “The Best of Dad” included some family favorites such as “Ma’s Potato Salad” and “Onions in Casserole”, but the majority of those hundreds of recipes were desserts. Or baked goods. Or candies. Or something sweet and satisfying.
His cookbook has 6 recipes for Hot Fudge Sauce alone! A true dessert masterpiece, that I only had the opportunity to taste one time, is the 5-star rated “Bombay Abbey with Raspberry Buttercream”, a dessert in three parts (page 130). In Dad’s own words, “This dessert is expensive, hard to make, fattening, but well worth it!” Moist rounds of cake, creamy chocolate mousse and a raspberry puree are molded in layers and covered with a chocolate ganache. A bombé that is truly the bomb! I won’t share the recipe because it takes almost as long to type as it does to make!
While Bombay Abbey may have been one of his more difficult desserts, the one that he practiced the most and the one for which he is justifiably well known is “Old Fashioned Fudge” (page 88). He writes, “This is my famous fudge” and gives it 5 stars. Hear me when I tell you that this is NOT a 5-star fudge. This is a 50-star fudge!! For as long as I can remember, Dad would make this amazing treat at Christmas time. He would mail some to the Aunties in Bangor, Maine and gift other friends and relatives, many of whom would start anxiously anticipating as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were done. He was a perfectionist when it came to his famous fudge and would declare a batch “ruined” if the smallest detail went awry.
As children, we were not saddened by these alleged “failures” because that meant 4 spoons and a pan of delicious chocolate. “Failure” never tasted so good! When I eventually moved to the South, I was put on the mailing list and always looked forward to the arrival of what seemed like a 25 pound box of amazing confections. Each shipment would carry not just the famous “Old Fashioned Fudge” (walnuts and no walnuts), but quick fudge, rocky road fudge, chocolate covered cherries, peanut butter cups and (one of my favorites) coconut peaks. All of this candy making took time. Lots of time and a lot more patience and skill than I can ever hope to acquire. As time went on and we all got older, my Dad decided that he was coming to the close of his fudge making years. He realized that long hours over a hot stove was a younger man’s game, and so he decided to pass his recipe and his techniques on to the next generation of family confectioners.
He chose his first born grandson, my son Brian, to be the next fudge master. Dad and my mom made a trip to Tennessee and Brian, who was in middle school at the time, spent an afternoon under the watchful eye of his “Papa”, learning the magic and mystery of the famous fudge. It turned out quite well and Brian was crowned the successor. At school the next day, Brian shared a few tiny bites of the fudge with some friends. By lunchtime, a mob had gathered in the cafeteria and Brian was selling tastes of the fudge for a dollar a piece. His pockets were full of cash before the principal caught wind of things and shut down what looked to be a very profitable enterprise. I won’t share the recipe here, as it is a treasured family heirloom, but Brian might be willing to part with at least the ingredient list if the price is right!
My Dad is not just a dessert lover and gifted maker of sweets, he is also funny and smart and loving and “not only handsome, but a really nice guy” (as the fortune cookies always seem to tell him!). We all love him dearly and are happy to honor him on Father’s Day and every day!
Below, verbatim, is the recipe for his 5-star COCONUT PEAKS from “The Best of Dad”. Love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day!
COCONUT PEAKS * * * * * from “The Best of Dad” by William Steeves
Makes about 30, depending on size
¼ cup butter
2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
3 cups flaked coconut (about 12 oz.)
6 oz. semisweet bits
2 Tablespoons solid shortening
¼ cup light cream
In medium sized saucepan, slowly heat butter. When melted, gradually stir in sugar, coconut and cream. First put in a little sugar and mix with butter then a little coconut and mix, then a little cream. That way it will be easier to mix. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper or foil on a cookie sheet, refrigerate about 10 minutes or until firm, then shape into peaks with your fingers (wash fingers first), return to refrigerator until firm. I put them in the freezer for about 15 minutes because you need them firm to dip into the chocolate. Melt chocolate in small saucepan with shortening. Hold firm peaks by the tip and dip flat bottom into chocolate to cover bottom. Place on wax paper or foil and twist so chocolate spreads around bottom of candy. Refrigerate to harden.