It’s amazing what happens when one piece of a seemingly complex puzzle falls into place, and you realize it was never complex at all. Simply different, maybe a little foreign, and rare — for the time being. That’s how it was with chouquettes, but they’re merely a template — a very simple template — for all the wonderful things you can fill choux pastry with. I’m riding that French pastry train through the woods, past pristine rivers and pines, and into Paris. Next stop: Éclairs. All aboard! Choux-choux! Continue reading →

Chouquettes (Pastry Puffs)

IMG_7475There is no better expression of love than a good episode of The Simpsons. Watched together, on the couch, with two big bowls of pasta and maybe a furry kitty between you. It’s what we did the first night we moved into our very own apartment together, just the two of us, four years ago, taking those tiny but bold steps towards something bigger and lasting. Whenever we’re blue, or distraught, or maybe just watched something too intensely depressing, we turn to The Simpsons — together. We re-watch scenes over and over, noticing tiny details that we hadn’t caught the first 38 times around. We double over in laughter. We quote Mr. Burns, Grampa, Marge, Homer, Ralph Wiggum, everyone. And it never, ever gets old. That’s love, right?

Love is also made of pastry. Candies and chocolates are great. So are brownies, and cookies, and cakes. But sometimes — like maybe on Valentine’s Day — you want to do something extra special. Something that maybe doesn’t take a whole lot of work, but is French, and is, as such, fancy, and instantly impressive. I’m talking about choux pastry — pâte à choux. That gorgeously crisp pastry dough that puffs up in the oven, leaving a just barely custardy space inside for pastry cream, or whipped cream, or ice cream, or nothing at all. I’m talking profiteroles, I’m talking eclairs. But first, I’m talking chouquettes. Continue reading →

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

There are, in the great encyclopedias of cooking and baking, very few things that require as little written embellishment as the humble cinnamon raisin swirl bread. It is perfect the way it is: sliced fresh, toasted with butter. The aroma wafting from a toaster as it crisps it up smells like childhood, like home. Never complacent to buy a loaf of something that’s been packaged in plastic, when I saw a recipe for it on the Tasting Table, I had to get it in my oven. Continue reading →