Not enough time these days for detailed long posts and it unfortunately won’t get much better in June with all my work travel, but I’m excited to tell you about it  (Kenya! Burkina Faso! How fitting that I’m watching the national GeoBee on National Geographic right as I type this). I baked these little chouquettes a couple weeks ago just because. Well, actually I wanted to compare pâte à choux recipes. One recipe was the one I used in my eclairs, the other one is Pierre Hermé’s recipe (yes the famous macaron guy).

Both recipes are actually quite similar, the proportions of milk to water and butter differing only slightly. I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two on taste, but for some reason, a few of PH’s chouquettes came out a little flat, literally. It could be that I was a bit too heavy on the eggwash which prevented their rise. These were the best chouquettes I’d made to date though, golden, just the right puffiness, a nice depth of flavor and a good amount of pearl sugar. Decreasing the amount of salt ever so slightly is the only thing that I would change next time.

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Tarte Chocolat-Caramel

What do you do when you have leftover chocolate custard and chocolate ganache? Make a chocolate tart of course!

I had some chocolate filling and icing left from the chocolate eclairs I blogged about last week, and I was determined to not let anything go to waste. I had also saved up some vanilla and lemon-flavored almond cream from another recipe. Inspired by a recipe that I had tried a few years ago from the lovely book by Chocolate and Zucchini, I whipped up a simple caramel sauce, re-made the pasta frolla from the pizza rustica recipe and layered everything to create this tasty tart.

Since I just kind of threw everything together, the chocolate ganache doesn’t really have that smooth texture typical of more traditional chocolate tarts* (and perhaps the purist would fault this tart for it). The chocolate ganache bubbled up in the oven, the caramel sauce oozed a little but that didn’t prevent tasters from ooh-ing at it.

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Eclairs au Chocolat

Last weekend, I crossed my first item off my 30 Before 30 list. It felt like a true accomplishment. The recipe for eclairs looked deceptively simple but required much more effort than expected. It’s not just the time needed for each component of the recipe (the dough, the filling, the icing) but also the mental exhaustion from thinking and overthinking about each step. Is my pâte à choux going to rise and puff? Is my crème pâtissière sweet enough, too sweet? Am I putting enough chocolate in the glaçage?

Ever since I started this whole baking experience, my respect for bakers and pastry chefs has been growing by leaps and bounds. With savory cooking you can usually taste and adjust as you go along but with baking and pâtisserie you can’t exactly always do that. I suppose experienced bakers have a feel for what things are meant to look like, and for proportions of sugar to flour to eggs. But as a less experienced baker, there’s only so much you can control and sometimes you just have to trust the recipe, your instincts, your oven.

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La Purée de Joël Robuchon

[Joël Robuchon’s Mashed Potatoes]

My childhood memories of Joël Robuchon can be summed up in three words: cooking TV show. Back in the days, we had 5 channels on TV (well six but the last one, Canal +, was encrypted most of the time and you had to pay a special subscription to watch it). The most popular, to me at least, were channels 1 and 5, because those offered the best cartoon and anime line-ups (ask anybody born in the 80’s about the Club Dorothée and they’ll dream with nostalgia, I guarantee). Over the years, French national TV has changed a lot but one thing that hasn’t really changed is the programming schedule. Take Channel 1 (TF1) for instance: late mornings feature game shows, at 1pm you’ll have the news, followed by some TV series or soap operas, then more game shows in the late afternoon, and the evening news at 8pm and finally some kind of primetime evening show at 9pm, usually a movie or a talk show. It has been this way ever since I can remember, and I love it. I know exactly what to expect and I love the predictability, the sense of familiarity. Whenever I watch French TV, it really feels like home.

Around news time, there are often short 5-min interlude programs. In fact, Jean Dujardin, who won the latest Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in The Artist, became famous thanks to one of those short programs which aired right before the 8 o’clock news on France 2 (he anecdotally went on to marry his co-star Alexandra Lamy). I for one especially like the program that features eco-friendly homes from all over France. But I digress.  My point is, all I can remember of Joël Robuchon was that he appeared in one such program, on cooking obviously.

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As I mentioned in my last post, brioche is one of my favorite viennoiseries*. It is a slightly sweet buttery egg-y magnificently textured baked good and can be found at any bakery in France. I love to buy them in mini-loaves, as little brioches au sucre. They make for a wonderful afternoon snack and it is so fun to eat them bit by bit, pulling slightly at the crust and watching the long strands of dough come out.

The brioche gets its texture from a long work-out, either manual (as demonstrated in this video) or from a heavy duty stand mixer. My first attempt at making brioche was passable but not great; the texture was fairly good but the brioche tasted flat and somewhat bland**. This was my very first time using dry active yeast though, so I still considered it a good effort.

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