For the Love of Choux.

As a self-taught "chef" cooking every day is a flex of skill. I am constantly trying to challenge myself, expand the knowledge at my fingertips + the depth of flavor my tastebuds can recognize and appreciate. That being said baking probably brings me the most joy. It’s technical, measured + can go wrong in so many ways. I have to be in “the zone” when baking. Making sure I read and understand the instructions more than once. You can’t exactly just skim a baking recipe and wing it like a regular recipe. You can get a flat cake, bread that doesn’t rise, or worse yet something that’s inedible + unfixable. 

I have a sweet tooth that I’m pretty sure that I inherited from my grandma (the lady craves sweets ALL day). I’ve been trying to curb what sweets I eat by trying to only eat ones of higher quality. I know, I know - what is the point of eating junk food if it’s not junk? The thing is I’m getting too old to ingest unholy amounts of corn syrup + ingredients I don’t know how to pronounce. Also, my GERD is getting real sassy now. She is not about that artificial ingredient life! Little Debbie, Drake’s, and Entenmann’s just don’t hit like they used to. They don’t taste that great anymore to my 35-year-old tastebuds so I’ve decided to bake sweets from scratch when I’m craving them.

The instant satisfaction of opening a prepackaged snack is no longer existent, which kinda sucks but I get to dig into way more delicious desserts than what comes in a cardboard box + is individually wrapped in plastic. I love big ol’ fat chocolate chip cookies, cakes, pies, anything with chocolate, and truly LOVE a cream puff. My faves are from Beard Papa’s. Thank the heavens above they’ve survived the pandemic. I will legit pay ANYTHING for one of their crunchy choux pastry shells stuffed with delicious vanilla custard cream. They’re so dangerously delicious that if I am within a 2-mile radius of the store I will have to make time to stop by and grab some. 

I have tried to recreate their cream puffs + I must say that I just can’t get my choux pastry as crunchy. I haven’t even bothered trying to make the custard. Choux pastry is not the easiest dough to make. It’s first cooked on the stovetop then shaped + put on a cookie sheet in the oven. I have been making choux pastry on and off for years, always trying to make my dough better than the previous attempt. Even if the temperamental pastry comes out decent I will always be my toughest critic and say it could be better. 

This week I really was craving some cream puffs + eclairs. I set out to make the dough + was trying to capture the process on camera. Of course, by trying to do crap on camera (which is NOT my forte) while cooking I got flustered and dropped 2 teaspoons of salt instead of sugar into the mix. I was lucky enough to salvage everything by scooping out the salt that was sitting in a pretty little mound on top of the flour. I proceeded to take my phone and chuck it on the table. I took a very deep breath and I reminded myself that I need to be in “the zone”. I don’t need to capture the process. I’m doing this for my enjoyment + fulfillment. 

2 hours zoomed by in the kitchen making eclairs + it was the most fun I had all week. This is why I cook. It’s my creative outlet that is a physical extension of myself. The pastry was not Beard Papa’s caliber, but I’ll still eat it anyway. There will always be room for improvement - I’m a perfectionist who has yet to achieve perfection. Not really sure if I’ll ever achieve it - as I said before, I’m my toughest critic. In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying myself and eating delicious things in the name of exploration + growth.

Cook. Eat. Repeat.

Natalie