Tag Archives: travel

Remembering Paris {Chouquettes recipe}

Ever since I named this blog, I knew I had to make chouquettes. I’ve made pate a choux before, and turned them into cream puffs. Chouquettes, though, have never graced my kitchen. Chouquettes were something I enjoy in Paris, not something to make. Chouquettes are something you eat out of a crinkly paper bag on your way to the metro. Just thinking about chouquettes fills my nose with the scent of Paris. It never occurred to me to recreate my memories of chouquettes (though I certainly try to recreate my other favorites).

The major stumbling block, though, wasn’t the dough. I’d made it, and found it easier than expected. The stumbling block was the sugar.

If you aren’t familiar with chouquettes, they are covered with delightful pearl sugar that is perfectly sweet and crunchy. Pearl sugar is often used for decorating baked goods, particularly in Scandinavian baking. Since most of my baking is, well, ugly, I don’t have much use for decorative (however delicious) sugar, and didn’t have any in my pantry. It took me a while to get around to buying some, since my local grocer doesn’t carry it, and I had to venture to a baking supply store.chouquettes

The laughable part is that once I had the sugar, even though it was on the counter, I forgot to put it on the chouquettes until they had been in the oven for three minutes. With bated breath, I opened the oven door, slid the oven rack out of the oven and smashed, gently, the sugar onto the half-baked chouquettes, praying they wouldn’t fall because of it. And yet, they didn’t.

I was rewarded with eggy, slightly sugary (only because I didn’t add enough sugar…), light and airy chouquettes. And in hardly no time at all, which are really the best treats.

Chouquettes

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Gougeres from The Best International Recipe

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup pearl sugar

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Set aside. Beat the eggs and egg white together with a fork in a small liquid measuring cup. Keep 1/2 cup, discard the rest.

Bring the water, butter, milk, salt, and granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir it occasionally until the butter is melted. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour until well combined and the mixture forms a dough that clears the sides of the plan, about a minute. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring until the mixture turns shiny and sandy and small beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process for about ten seconds with the feed tube open to cool the mixture slightly. With the machine running, gradually add the beaten egg in a steady strength. When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and process for 30 seconds until the mixture forms a smooth, thick, sticky paste.

Fill the pastry bag with the mixture and pipe onto the prepared baking sheet, forming 2-inch mounds about 1 inch apart. Press the pearl sugar onto the mounds on all sides, covering the mounds as best you can. They’ll puff considerably in the oven, so don’t worry about putting too much on.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 without opening the oven door. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they are no longer soft and are instead firm and golden brown.

Remove the chouquettes from the oven and pierce each one on the side with a paring knife. Return them to the oven, turn the oven off, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Let the pastry dry until the center is just moist (not wet) and the puffs are crisp, about 50 minutes.

Enjoy, and think of Paris.

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Sensory Experiences

This ain’t your mama’s Disneyland, folks…

AG cupcake

Disneyland has changed, my friends, over the past five years or so, and is attempting a food revival. Gone are the days when the only sustenance available was churros and turkey legs! Okay, maybe there were never days when that was all you could get; I’m sure hot dogs and hamburgers were always available, too. I remember as a child eating at the Village Haus in Fantasy Land, and getting expensive hamburgers that weren’t all that impressive. Okay, you’re right, I don’t actually know that they were expensive, because I was 5.

Still. My positive memories of eating at Disneyland mainly revolve around smelling the churros. Not eating them, mind, but smelling them. Continue reading

Chouquettes

Piled high in a basket next to the cash register, they seemed to call out to me. We entered the small bakery, with only enough room for four or five if you rubbed shoulders, and, as a smile crept onto my face, I knew instantly we would walk out with a bag of chouquettes. We also bought a couple of pains au chocolats, but the chouquettes. They were beautiful. I couldn’t decide if I wanted mine topped with pearl sugar or chocolate chips, so the obliging French vendeuse mixed my bag of 20. We walked out of the cramped space into the chilly October morning and made our way to the Ecole Militaire metro station, dipping into the crinkly paper sack as we walked. We popped chouquettes into our mouths, and I vacillated between the two varieties, still unable to pick a favorite, but sure of one thing. Paris was, most definitely, my favorite place to be.

Titles are so difficult for me. They plagued me during my entire university education. Trying to capture the essence of a paper in a handful of words always seemed a little difficult, but I always figured it was because my ideas weren’t focused enough. Even as a graduate student, though, when I was much better at focusing, it was still difficult. I took a seminar in autobiography and the culminating project was, naturally, an autobiography. It wasn’t difficult to find an appropriate topic and genre; food writing and the association of home was natural. However, selecting a title, and one that was available as a web address to boot, was difficult. My topic was incredibly narrow and focused. However, I spent nearly as much time thinking about the title as I did writing my brief essays. In the end, I found an appropriate title, but a clunky one. One that will not be repeated here. Continue reading

Provence on My Table

While digging around in my pantry, my eyes fell on folds of blue printed fabric. I have scanned past the tablecloth countless times since it found its place years ago, never really seeing it. This day, though, I lingered, gazing at the folds, wondering if it would fit my dining table, not remembering entirely what it looked like. Instead of leaving it in its place, I pulled it out, feeling the cheap cotton with my fingers, remembering more and more as it unfolded in my hands.

Rain sprinkled around us as we took shelter beneath a canopy, crowded around folding tables piled with tablecloths and sets of napkins, all in brightly colored Provencal fabrics. The rain dripped down off the edges of the canopy and dribbled down our sides, precariously half exposed to the late summer storm. The city today was Arles, but it might as well have been Avignon or any other number of beautiful Provencal towns; the beautiful fabrics were everywhere to be seen. I had been in France for only a handful of days by this time, my first time out of the country. And I found myself in a group of girls as part of a study abroad program through our university. We were to live in Paris for a semester, but we started off the semester with a beautiful week in Provence. As we huddled together, avoiding the warm rain that September day, I flipped through the stacks of fabrics, looking toward the future thinking how wonderful it would be to bring home a beautiful Provencal tablecloth for my future home, an item for a hope chest, if I had one. I selected one with a blue textured background and bordered with olives and green vines with just a hint of yellow. It wasn’t the most elegant or most beautiful, but it was as much as I wanted to spend. It was, I reasoned, perfectly casual, and I would, therefore be more likely to use it often. At the time, I had no idea how large typical dining tables were, and even if I had, it wouldn’t have helped since all measurements in France were in metric. I bought one, hoping for the best. Continue reading