We've lost immediate family, moved across the country twice, adopted a cat, baked countless pies, and made lasting friends. Ryan and I are more in love than on the day we wed, and yet the road has been hard. I couldn't help but pray that Noelle and Brandon would walk an easier path.
She wore white, I wore blue, and we twisted our darkening hair into curls held up with pins.
My mother radiated in a stunning blue dress as she ran up and down hallways, arranging flowers and greeting long-ago friends.
My father sat on the porch of the hotel, laughing with his brother and sister as they shared a morning cup of coffee.
And then the wedding, the walk down the aisle, the reading of verses and poems and vows.
Ryan sang at the wedding with my 8 year old niece, Hallie, and their voices filled the room with melodic wishes of continued and increasing love.
I cried when I thought about the way we walk hand-in-hand, a habit we developed as young girls and continue to practice in adulthood. I didn't want to let go. I didn't want to see her hand taken up by another.
I cried when I thought about my own wedding, about the people present then and the empty seats now. I cried when I saw baby Ryan, so joyful yet unable to walk down the aisle with his older brother and sister.
Even though I wish Noelle so much joy and happiness, my heart broke on Sunday, and it still feels broken now.
Weddings are often spoken of in happy terms--and indeed, Noelle's wedding was a joyous event--but they are also tinged with sadness and mourning. A new chapter begins only after the old one ends. And we've had so many endings this year.
These cream puffs bring a smile to my face, and after all the tears...I need to laugh. They are fun to make, and even more enjoyable to eat. I made a traditional pastry cream to stuff inside the shells, but a simple whipped cream or even a vanilla pudding would be a delicious adaptation. This recipe came from Cook's Illustrated and worked well, however, I only came out with 16 cream puffs even though the recipe supposedly yields 24.
*Yields around 20 puffs
PÂTE À CHOUX
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
6 tablespoons water
11/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray large (12-by 18-inch) baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set aside. Beat eggs and egg white in measuring cup or small bowl; you should have half a cup (discard excess). Set aside.
2. Bring butter, milk, water, sugar and salt to boil in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. When mixture reaches full boil (butter should be fully melted), immediately remove saucepan from heat and stir in flour with heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and mixture clears sides of pan. Return saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using smearing motion, for 3 minutes, until mixture is slightly shiny with wet-sand appearance and tiny beads of fat appear on bottom of saucepan (the temperature of the paste should register 175 to 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
3. Immediately transfer mixture to a food processor, and process with feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly. With machine running, gradually add eggs in steady stream. When all eggs have been added, scrape down sides of bowl, then process for 30 seconds until smooth, thick, sticky paste forms. (If not using immediately, transfer paste to medium bowl, cover surface flush with sheet of plastic wrap sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and store at room temperature for no more than 2 hours.)
4. Fold down top 3 or 4 inches to form a cuff on a 14- or 16-inch pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip. Hold bag open with one hand in cuff and fill bag with paste. Unfold cuff, lay bag on work surface, and, using hands or bench scraper, push paste into lower portion of pastry bag. Twist top of bag and pipe paste into 11/4- to 11/2-inch mounds on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 to 11/4 inches apart (you should be able to fit about 24 mounds on baking sheet).
5. Use back of teaspoon dipped in bowl of cold water to smooth shape and surface of piped mounds. Bake 15 minutes (do not open oven door), then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm (puffs should not be soft and squishy), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Remove baking sheet from oven. With paring knife, cut a three-quarter-inch slit into the side of each puff to release steam; return puffs to oven, turn off oven, and prop oven door open with handle of wooden spoon. Dry puffs in turned-off oven until centers are just moist (not wet) and puffs are crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer puffs to wire rack to cool. (Cooled puffs can be stored at room temperature for as long as 24 hours or frozen in a zipper-lock plastic bag for as long as 1 month. Before serving, crisp room temperature puffs in 300-degree oven 5 to 8 minutes, or 8 to 10 minutes for frozen puffs.)
6. Pipe cooled pastry cream (see recipe below) into each puff using a pastry bag. Drizzle or dip with chocolate sauce. Powdered sugar works well too!
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. If using vanilla bean, add this as well.
2.Whisk yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar begins to dissolve and mixture is creamy. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pal yellow and thick.
3.When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk half-and-half mixture into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to pan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
4.Return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy. This takes about a minute.
5.Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla (if using vanilla bean, scrape the pod and add seeds). Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over medium bowl. This will remove any curdled bits that might have formed during the cooking process.
6.Press plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream to prevent skimming and refrigerate until cold and ready to use.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores