The Sweet Hereafter: Dolores Driscoll

There is a different side to every story is a phrase particularly present in the novel The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks. The Sweet Hereafter is about a school bus accident that killed many children and  ripped apart a small upstate New York community by exposing the towns most intimate secrets.

 What makes this novel so unique is its point of view. While remaining in the first person, the point of view switches to that of four different characters, each with a different angle, exposure, and result of the bus accident. This makes the protagonist and antagonist change, as well as blurs the lines of this concept. Though the viewpoints change, all the characters ask the same question, who is to blame?

 The first narrator is Dolores Driscoll, the bus driver who lost control on that winter day. She described the day as a red brown blur that will remain a permanent image in her life. Her day began like any other winter morning. It was dark and the snow fell ruthlessly, but it was something she and the town were accustomed to. The morning of the accident, the temperature read -17 degrees fahrenheit, “Too cold to snow,” she said.

 As the kids loaded the bus, she described a red brown blur, perhaps a dog, which crossed the bus’s path. The brakes glided across the wet ground, as the small bodies of the children were tossed around inside the bus.

 Over the next few days, I will play on Bank’s decision to morph perspectives on a single issue, by creating four different recipes inspired by the same flavor: salted caramel mocha.

For the first perspective I prepared a salted caramel mocha cheesecake, salty has never tasted so sweet! And after reading this horribly depressing blog entry, and the entries to come, you’re going to need something sweet… and possibly boozy.

Salted Caramel Mocha Cheesecake:

(Adapted from the February/ March 2008 issue of A Taste of Home as Layered Mocha Cheesecake, p 35.)

Ingredients For Crust:

2 1/2 Cups of crushed chocolate cookies. Do not use the ones with a cream filling.

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 Teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon white sugar

Ingredients For Cheesecake:

3 1/2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules

2 Tablespoons hot water

2 Cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

4- 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/2 Cups white sugar

1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

3 Eggs + 1 egg yolk

Ingredients For Caramel Topping:

1/2 Cup butter

1/2 Cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 Cup sweetened condensed milk

1 Cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted. (Will need a chocolate decorating squeeze tube like this)

1 Tablespoon coarse ground salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together cookie crumbs, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Then mix in butter until it is an even consistency. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and press the crush mixture into the bottom on a pan. I use a cup with a flat bottom to press down the crumbs so it is an even layer.
  3. In a double boiler, melt 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Once melted, set aside to cool. In a small bowl, mix together 3 1/2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules and 2 tablespoons of hot water together, until the coffee granules are melted. Set this aside, as well.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth and lump-free. Gradually mix in 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1/4 cup flour and 1 teaspoon vanilla until it is creamy. Then, slowly add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time until well incorporated.
  5. Using a 1/2 measure cup, divide the batter evenly into two bowls. In one bowl, beat in the melted chocolate mixture set aside from earlier, until it is an even consistency. Add the instant coffee into the other bowl of cheesecake filling and mix until even. Pour the chocolate layer into the springform pan first over the pressed cookie crumbs. Then, pour the coffee layer of cheesecake on top. To prevent air pockets, GENTLY tap the cheesecake onto a tabletop.
  6. Wrap the cheesecake in foil and put into a water bath like shown in direction #6 for my strawberry cheesecake, and bake for 70 minutes, or until the center of the cheesecake jiggles slightly while the outside is firm. Then, turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 2 hours. Remove and allow to reach room temperature before continuing, about 2 hours. Do not remove from springform pan.
  7. Then, melt together 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespoons light corn syrup, and 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk. Stir constantly until the color turns caramel-like and it just begins to boil. Then remove from heat. You must stir constantly or the caramel will burn. Allow to cool for ten minutes before pouring this over your cheesecake. put in fridge and allow to harden to 1 hour.
  8. Put one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips into a chocolate decorating squeeze tube and microwave for 45 second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Then create a cross-hatch patten by drawing even, straight lines in chocolate.
  9. For a finishing touch, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of coarse ground salt over the cheesecake.
  10. To remove from springform pan, take a long knife and heat it over the stove top. Then, cut around the edge of the cheesecake. The caramel around the edges will melt and make it easy to remove. Then, push the bottom of the springform pan up and the cheesecake will easily pop out! (All credit to this step goes to my dad)

“Obviously, you can’t control everything, but you are obliged to take care of the few things you can. I’m an optimist, basically, who acts like a pessimist. On principle. Just in case.” ~ The Sweet Hereafter, Dolores Driscoll 


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One Response to The Sweet Hereafter: Dolores Driscoll

  1. Pat and Angel says:

    Another 5 star from everyone’s favorite baker !! Props to DAD for the technical help down the stretch!!

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