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Choux Pastry, Revisited

Blurry photo, because I had drunk 1/2 bottle of rosé. Alex and I ate them promptly, so no photo re-do’s.

Even though we made choux pastry before (see St-Honorés), we revisited the topic again this past week with my favourite French snack – chouquettes! – and éclairs. Chouquettes are basically empty puffs with big crunchy sugar crystals on top. They remind me of some sort of snack from Taiwan, but I can’t quite put a finger on it. Anyway, I guess you can say that chouquettes evoke childhood nostalgia for me. Éclairs, on the other hand, are kind of new to me. All I know about them are the donut-y Tim Hortons kind that I do not like at all. The “real deal” here, though, are actually quite different, especially when they’re fresh and the choux pastry is still slightly crunchy. After trying them at school, I’ve concluded I’m just not quite a fan of éclairs…the amount of pastry cream involved in filling them is just a bit too much for me. (I know, it’s kind of unbelievable, this coming from the girl who licks butter off the butter knife in France.)

For the second choux pastry demonstration, we had the same chef we had the first time. It was good in some ways because the information was consistent, but bad in others because it would’ve been nice to see another chef demonstrate the same thing to learn different techniques. We had a lot of fun in the demonstration, though – this chef was paired with the only male translator, and those two just put on a stand-up routine with lots of inside jokes and goofing off. The translator was less serious and on very good terms with the chef, so they would egg each other on with silly comments, and the translator would feel free to add his own two cents to the translations. In fact, the translator made gagging noises and gestures when he was translating how to make pastry cream for the éclairs. He was also not too hesitant to inform us that the acorns, or “glands” in French (a similar snack to éclairs, but a different shape with kirsch flavoured pastry cream), have the double-entendre in French…the other meaning being, um, how do you call them…reproductive organs. So while the chef was dipping the glands in chocolate shavings (har har) and glaze, the translator and the chef were constantly giggling, and soon the whole class was laughing at the crass jokes that they were throwing back and forth.

For the practical, I had a feeling we were going to get the younger chef, and I was right. I was happy to see him, because I felt confident about making choux pastry, but at the same time was also excited to be able to get some lingering questions answered. It was also lucky for us that he was in a very good mood, generally observing and making comments, but not too stern like his usual self. In fact, as we later discovered, chouquettes happen to be his favourite snack too, and he was practically bouncing up and down to peek into the ovens while the chouquettes were baking, exclaiming constantly, Oh ils sont beaux! and J’adore les chouquettes!, even Très jolies! Magnifiques! as they came out of the oven.

No sir, I did not and would not share these babies. Yes sir, we ate about 40 of these in a few minutes.

Something funny also happened in class yesterday…it started with my friend who’s in love with the chef. Against her own warnings to herself to be cool, she cut her hand within minutes of the class starting. Unfortunately, she’s not one to favour the sight of blood. The next thing I heard was the chef asking her if she was OK, and then when I looked up, the chef had grabbed her into a big bear hug. I was so confused, thinking that she was crying over a little cut and the chef was comforting her, when I saw that she was actually about to faint, and the chef had caught her in time. Next thing I knew, they were both crouching on the ground, with the chef supporting her and kind of cradling her almost. I could not stop smirking, despite being a little worried. What are the chances for her to be cuddled by the chef she adores! The chef then asked for sugar, and a girl rushed forward with a bowl of sugar from the table. Um, no, the chef looked aghast, he needed to give her sugar to be consumed! I hastily threw some sugar into a measuring cup and added water, spilling all the while, and was staring at it like, “how should I mix this up?” when a light bulb went off in my head and I said out loud, “I have a spoon!!!!” and reached for the spoon we all keep in our left sleeve pockets. The chef gave me a weird look when I had my little epiphany – probably thinking the class was full of loonies – and I delivered the water. Sadly for my friend, she doesn’t quite remember the whole episode, but the chef stayed down on the ground with her for a good ten minutes before she got back up and rejoined the class, bandaged and finger-condomed. I hope people didn’t read too much into the smirk I had on my face the whole time, bahahaha.

At the end of class, the chef was really pleased with everyone’s products. Since we’re actually doing grades now, he walked around and inspected and graded, providing comments. SOMEHOW…I got two words, again. While the chef offered critique and also commented on people’s organization and hygiene (good or needs improvement), he stopped at my station, moved my ugly éclair aside and looked at the rest, pronounced that my (remaining) éclairs were the perfect size, chouquettes were a little small, and moved on! I had to stop him and ask if he had any additional comments about hygiene, to which he replied, oh it’s good. NEXT!

Seriously, I am going to develop a severe case of paranoia soon.

Chocolate élairs…a little too rich for me. Threw most of these out eventually.

After class, of course I had to get a drink with my friend and debrief her on what happened in those minutes where she was not quite with it. We shared a nice carafe of rosé in the last little bit of patio weather, before I came home and wolfed down all the chouquettes. A girl in my class left the chef some chouquettes, but even if I wanted to suck up, I couldn’t – they’re his favourite, sure, but they’re my newly discovered favourite snack, and I haven’t had nearly as many as he has had! Got lots of catching up to do, really!

Another blurry photo. Sorry, lots of excitement, and alcohol, and hunger. I might make another batch soon.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Rishi Thursday 29 September 2011, 22:12

    if you really want to hate eclairs, watch VAN WILDER… I don’t think i’ve eaten one since :)

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