Kiss and Tell – Making Choux Pastry

Kiss and Tell

 What better way to introduce an early Valentine’s Day post than with one of the most interesting European customs.  How people greet each other.

 When Americans greet each other, it’s often with a hug.  Americans love to hug. Whether it’s a far-off cheek-hug from an acquaintance or a big bear hug from a long lost friend. One thing I miss about the US, are the big hearty hugs from friends and relatives. Europeans, however, don’t seem too keen on the full body contact.  

 In most European countries, many people greet each other with at least one slight kiss on the cheek.  First let me explain, these kisses are not full lip kisses but rather cheek-to-cheek grazes followed by an air-kiss.  Like the kind you see the ‘girls’ giving each other on Sex and The City episodes. Even though this custom seems fairly straight forward, it can be one of the most confusing rituals to outsiders. 

 It’s not uncommon to be confused.  How many kisses?  Which cheek do you start with?  Do men kiss other men?  Is kissing acceptable in business?  Can I just shake hands? Or what about hugging?  All are very valid questions. 

All over Holland, the rules are this:  Greet with three kisses, starting from the right cheek. Unless you are related or gay, men typically don’t kiss other men.  In business it is acceptable to shake hands unless you know the person very well.  If you do, then a kiss-trio won’t raise any eyebrows.  

In some other countries, the rules are not so clear.  Take France for instance, where ‘une  bise’ customs vary from 1 to 5 kisses (yes

Kissing Map of France

 5!) depending which part of France you are in.

When in Paris,  2 kisses are the norm and even hetero men kiss other men.  In Normandy, you can’t get away with less than 4 and on some islands, you’ll be kissing all day! And there, men never kiss other men unless their related.  How confusing is that??  How on earth is one to know?  To the right is a kissing map of France stating local customs by area.

 

 

So folks,  as a public service,  when travelling to Europe,  please check with the local Kissing Customs to avoid embarrassing moments.  Happy travelling and pucker up! 

Croquembouche

For this post,    I’m going to give you all one of the simplest but most impressive techniques in French cooking…How to make Choux Pasty.  Choux Pasty is probably named because the finished products look like little cabbages. (Choux means cabbage in French) If you don’t know,  Choux Pastry what is used to make Cream Puff shells.  And WHO doesn’t LOVE creampuffs??  This particular pastry, as simple as it is to prepare,  is also the base of some of the most impressive desserts of all time. Here in the Netherlands, tiny crispy filled choux balls are filled with cream and covered with caramel or chocolate to make Profiteroles.  In France,  it is considered so luxurious, that a ‘Croquembouche’ or tall tower of tiny cream filled cream puffs swathed in an ethereal cloud of spun caramelized sugar is the traditional French wedding cake. 

Today’s recipe uses Choux Paste as a base.  This recipe was named after a famous bicycle race that is overshadowed by the more famous Tour de France.  Paris-Brest-Paris or (PBP) occurs every 4 years.  For a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert, make a Paris-Brest in heart form.

Paris-Brest

Paris Brest Pastry

Choux Pastry:

1 cup (135 grams) all purpose flour or bread flour

1 teaspoon granulated white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons) (85 grams) unsalted butter

1 cup (240 ml) water

4 large eggs lightly beaten

 Glaze:

1 egg beaten

1/2 cup (50 grams) shaved almonds

 Whipped Cream:

1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa, nutella, or Hazelnut flavored “International Coffees” powder

 Garnish:

Powdered (Confectioners or icing) sugar.

 Basic Preparation of Choux Paste: 

Gently heat the water, milk and butter together until it just begins to boil.  Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the flour immediately until you have a thick smooth paste. Add the eggs a little at a time beating well until the mixture becomes a shiny paste.

 Note: This is the base for tons of great recipes. For savory dishes and hors d’ourves, leave out the sugar. See below for ideas)

 Heat the oven to 350F (175C). Grease a cookie sheet. Put the warm paste in a piping bag, or use a large spoon. Form the paste thickly into a circle. Don’t be afraid to pile it high, about 3 inches.  Brush lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle with shaved almonds. Bake about 30 minutes until crisp and dry.  Cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a med-large bowl, beat the cream, vanilla, sugar, cocoa (nutella or hazelnut powder) until still peaks form.  

Just before serving, slice the circle carefully lengthwise in half.  Remove top of circle. Fill with cream mixture. Replace top of circle.  Dust with powdered sugar.  

Tips:  For interesting hor d’ourves,  form choux pastry in small piles (about 1 tablespoon of paste).  When cooled, slice open the top and fill with your favorite salad (tuna, chicken,egg, etc…) .  Replace top. 

Baked, unfilled Choux pastries, freeze well.  Make a bunch and keep in the freezer.

4 Responses to “Kiss and Tell – Making Choux Pastry”

  1. Millie Says:

    Oh you make me sit here and drool….. have to keep wiping the keyboard. As a kid had a neighbor who used to love to make cream puffs and would trade my mom for apple pie. I had seen those wedding “cakes” on tv and they certainly do look yummy. Mustn’t forget to thank you for the lesson on kissing…..

  2. Rosie Says:

    Very interesting your kiss and tell. Is the tower of bubbles the same as the Italian christmas tower. They look great. Nice to hear from you. Good Luck with the website Love Mom

  3. carol albert Says:

    good morning, I have a few europeans here, and i always forget i am going to get double kissed , I usually end up with a kiss on my nose as well. Love the croquembouche, I did one with a friend years ago. love spinning sugar. iI think I need to do that again soon. (best on a dry day!!

  4. Lizzy Genovese Says:

    Can’t wait to see you make that in your sister’s cafe!!!