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 →
There 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 →
Picture it: Paris, 2001. The dollar is stronger than the franc, which would be replaced with the euro just a year later. Gigantic bottles of Evian cost less than 50 cents. Orangina is all the rage. And you can stuff your face with pain au chocolat for less than a dollar a pastry. It was a dangerous time to be an American in Paris, when every day was meant for gluttony, lest those previous months studying and meandering down those cobblestone streets go to waste before a return stateside, where even decent breads and viennoiserie cost several dollars a pop. “Indulge,” says the little voice inside your head. “Have one more,” says the little you sitting on your own shoulder wearing red pajamas and wielding a pitchfork. The little you on your other shoulder, wearing a white gown and sporting a halo above her head, is silent. She, too, is indulging in one more pain au chocolat, shards of crisp, buttery crumb falling from her lips and into the folds of her white, silken gown.
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Runners are an interesting breed. Throw us together on a Saturday night and there may be whiskey and push-up contests. In the mornings, long runs leave much time for vocal introspection — no thoughts, no subjects are off limits. There’s the usual catch-ups of the previous evening or week, soul-bearing conversations of life and love, (literal) potty humor, and, of course, what we’d like to eat when the miles are finally at an end — or, in many cases, often after running past the wafting aroma of crispy bacon from a corner deli 10 miles into a 20-miler, right at that very moment. And thus, it was on one of those runs, several months ago, that a few of us started daydreaming about croissants. Marathoners, ultra-marathoners, and IronWomen in our crew, none of us shies away from a challenge. And so became “That Time We Made Croissants” — from scratch.
Let’s get this out of the way right here, right now: croissants are easy. Yes, you read that right. So long as you pay attention to the steps, the ingredients, the measurements, and the timing, anyone can make croissants. The trouble with them is that they take a ridiculous amount of time. Meaning, you need to devote an entire day to these bad boys. Not all of it is hands-on. Most of it is actually spent resting, chilling, and freezing the dough — there was time for us to go for a run, watch a movie (and drink wine), and go out to dinner (and drink wine) during three lengthy rest periods. In all, it took us about 11 hours from start to finish. And it was totally worth it.