Monday, March 18, 2013

since we found out that anything could happen

Well, my batting average is way off. I've still wanted to write, but sometimes now my thoughts get so ensnared in medicine and I don't care to dwell on that in this space, at least not all the time, and as a result, I haven't had much to post. It's not medicine, but medical training that sometimes engulfs me a bit too much.

But I don't feel like complaining about medicine right now, or really ever.

It's spring here, which is beautiful and heady and intoxicating. But like many an intoxicating thing, not so great for me. With spring comes pollen, and with pollen comes clogged up sinuses, headaches, and watery eyes. So the spring often turns me into a shut-in.

There are advantages of course. In the spring, the weather's not so hot here that I feel guilty about baking. And since I'm stuck inside, it's a good excuse to take on some new experiments. I'm not someone who ever becomes an expert at baking much of anything. For me, the process and the experiment is most of the fun. Last weekend, when the allergens first infiltrated the air, I got it into my head to bake cream puffs.

It should be noted that I don't eat cream puffs, I've never been inclined towards them. The broseph loves cream puffs- he was the first person to rave about Beard Papa back before it was the mainstay it now is. But I have to admit that I didn't set out to make cream puffs because I'm a good sister. Besides which, my brother's really become a full blown San Franciscan, which is coming to mean that he talks about pastries and decadence but actually consumes kale juice and quinoa. So, no. I took on cream puffs because of the reason I take on most projects. I thought I couldn't do it.

And what that usually means is that I can't actually do it. Not at first, at least. Cream puffs, like most French pastries, are temperamental. You have to get the dough (which is cooked before it's baked) just the right consistency, and then it has to bake just so, after which, you hold your breath and hope it's light and airy enough to live up to its name. The first attempt last weekend seemed to be going well. I thumbed my nose at all those reports of puffs being difficult to bake. Twenty minutes later, when I was staring at deflated hockey pucks of dough, I was singing a different tune. Well, in fairness, I wasn't singing, I was cursing.

Macarons are a major French mind****. They involve a lot of ingredients, and multiple complicated steps, and so messing them up makes you really see red. Cream puffs, on the other hand, are deceptively simple- butter, water, flour, sugar, salt, eggs. So I was not that daunted, because, and I know this sounds weird, but those are staples I always have in abundant supply in my kitchen.

So yesterday, after nasal rinses and antihistamines and whatever else I could think of to clear the allergies out of my system enough to think straight, I tackled cream puffs again. I went on faith, which is what you must do. Half of the recipes out there for cream puffs tell you to beat enough eggs into the dough "until it looks right" which always cracks me up- because how are you supposed to know what the dough is supposed to look like if you've never successfully made it before?!? No matter. I channeled the force and went for it, crossed my fingers while they were baking, and finally opened the oven door with one eye shut. Only to discover they'd turned out exactly the way I'd wanted them. Puffed up, hollow inside, perfectly golden. There may have been some fist-pumping in the air, and an Elaine Benes-worthy dance in my kitchen yesterday. Filled up with whipped cream, drizzled with caramel sauce, and the next thing you know- cream puffs!

Were they the most beautiful cream puffs ever made? No they were not. Did they taste okay? Heck if I know, I don't even eat the things! I brought them over to a friend, CS, who likes cream puffs, and who was having a rough day at work. She reviewed them favorably, but that's probably why I dropped them off to her- her bar was considerably low as she needed any form of a pick-me-up. We had tea while she had puffs and filled me in on her horrible day. Then we laughed. And I will most certainly be making cream puffs again.

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