Around Christmas, using some deep-discount coupon plus book rewards points, and justified as a present to "A Couple in the Kitchen," Amy bought the gorgeous then-new cookbook by author Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table. And are we ever glad she did. This is perhaps the most well-written, instructive, helpful and simply beautiful cookbook we own, bar none. A feast for the eyes and the foodie soul, this book, not only offers recipes, but hints, advice, and variations or suggestions for making the author's recipes your own, all with the expertise that comes from her many years of living in France.
About a month after buying the book, we learned of the bloggers' group "French Fridays with Dorie," in which food blog enthusiasts vote on and make one recipe from the book each week and then blog about it on "French Fridays." This week is the first time we've had the time/means/energy to participate and boy did we choose a "doozie." For this week's recipe is not just one recipe, but three recipes in one! To make eclairs, one must make the pastry itself, the pastry cream, and the glaze for the top. And it's a dessert, which means we have to bake! (And we're not really known for our baking skills).
Pate de choux
To wit, it took us two evenings to make our eclairs. Not because of lack of time, but because the first night, we experienced Pastry Cream Fail. Yeah...we didn't boil the pastry cream quite long enough, so when we went to fill the eclairs, we had cream that was runny, loose, and tasted like corn starch. Not good. A bit frustrated, we stored our not-perfect-but-tasty pastries in an air-tight container and left the project for the next evening.
Meanwhile, Chris spoke to one of the chefs at his school, which has an amazing culinary program. He told Chris where we went wrong, and that night, we were back on task. We even did a little innovating with our recipe, adding a couple of teaspoons of Grand Marnier to our pastry cream, and making a chocolate ganache instead of the usual confectionary-sugar glaze for the top. Who doesn't love orange and chocolate?!?
The recipe (page 473 - buy the book. Really!) makes 20 eclairs, which the two of us certainly have no business eating. So we shared - a couple went to D and J, a couple went across the street to the "Bagel Fairy" who puts bagels in our mailbox on Sunday mornings, a bunch went to Amy's school (shhh...don't tell about the Grand Marnier!), and of course, one went to Chef. The response was overwhelmingly positive and we were quite proud of ourselves for (finally...) making a successful pastry from scratch. Thanks, Dorie!