Choux Chantilly

December 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

The metal gates of the passage du Grand Cerf clang open on a late Sunday morning to reveal a red carpeted passageway, off of which we find the apartment which will host our first, and likely only, cooking class in Paris. I should start by saying that baking is something I usually like doing alone, or with my family, or one friend. Several of my best friends can attest to times we have excitedly decided to make gingerbread houses for example, only to have me take over the whole project because I wanted it to look “just so.” Or times when I have refused to hand over the wooden spoon to my little brother because I like being the one mixing for that moment when the cookie dough begins to come together and starts looking like real dough.

I like sitting in front of the oven, peering into the little window, with the oven light on, watching cakes rise, watching the tops of soufflés turn golden brown, watching the edges of cookies crisp in the seconds before you take them out of the oven. I could do this for the entire hour it takes for the bread to finish baking. Or for the fifteen minutes in takes for these little choux pastries to rise and the pastry to puff around little balls of air, making perfect little capsules in which to pipe Chantilly cream or pastry cream, perfumed with vanilla bean and folded with some extra butter (you know for that glossy finish, and because, let’s admit it, it’s France, and a little extra butter goes into everything French).

So I’m afraid I spent much of this Sunday afternoon sitting on the floor in front of the oven window watching the first batch of choux puffs fail miserably as they turned into flat, eggy patties, and then smiling excitedly as the second batch puffed up brilliantly into sugar-crusted balls of hot air. And then I spent the second half of Sunday licking pastry cream off my fingertips, abandoning any semblance of dignified consumption.

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