Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pâte à Choux, Pâte à Whaaaaa?

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my very first cooking class at Helen's Kitchen in Natick. I had originally stumbled upon a class for pâte à choux offered at Flour Bakery, but when I learned that it was demonstration only, I started looking for other options (I wanted to get my hands dirty, not just watch someone cook!). Lucky for me, my friend Hope referred me to Helen and she happened to be teaching the exact same course in a week, so I signed up for it and showed up bright and early Saturday morning to learn!

First up - learning how to *properly* measure ingredients - weighing not dry cups. Here, Helen is demonstrating how you can get vastly different measurements using dry cups even if it is the same person, same ingredient, same altitude/humidity, etc.

Showing us how to cook the choux - you want to get as much moisture out of the dough as possible (but you don't want to 'cook' it or turn it brown)

Demonstrating how to properly fill a pastry bag

Piping out the puffs - it's actually way harder than you would think!

I'm in pastry heaven :)

Finished puffs! Fresh out of the oven - you have to poke holes in them so the steam can escape

Small puffs should be about 14 grams, so we practiced piping out that amount on the scale to get a feel for how much it was.

Finished product - nice and hollow so we can put in yummy fillings!

Piping out eclairs - again, it's way harder than you would think...

After we all tried out making the choux, Helen showed us how to make pastry cream and gave helpful tips and tricks for getting this tricky filling to come out right

YUM - you can see the flecks of vanilla in it (cause she used real vanilla beans)

Components for eclairs all lined up

Making Diplomat Cream (folding whipped cream into pastry cream)

We're all filling our puffs...

...and I'm piping an eclair! I can now check this off of my bucket list!

The full kitchen

Finished eclairs - they might not look restaurant-quality, but they sure did taste like it

Puffs with different fillings

This was a vanilla poached pear and diplomat cream

Fig Jam and Blue Cheese Mascarpone in these

The line up - pear, fig, and then salmon pate. One of my favorites (not pictured) was a red bean paste and diplomat cream-filled puff - soooooo good...

To finish the class, Helen sent us off with printouts of all the recipes (for dough and fillings!) and troubleshooting tips in case we ran into problems while baking at home. 

Sort-of related - I got to Natick (where Helen's Kitchen is located) early and stumbled upon an estate this gem for my room - it was a steal!

I wrote out a more comprehensive review of my experience on Yelp that you can read, but in summary, this was definitely a 5-star experience! I had so much fun, learned a lot, and I'm not nearly as intimidated by baking as I was before I took this course. Now to the real test - baking these at home without the watchful eye of the expert....

To be continued...(eventually - probably my Christmas baking haha)...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The calm before the storm...

I'm moving...for the first time in 3 years. Oh no, I'm not leaving Boston. I'm not even leaving Somerville. I'm moving into a house a mile away from my current apartment with some awesome people...but a) September 1 is the biggest moving day of the year in Boston, b) I don't have a moving truck booked, c) I'm not even halfway done packing and d) I. DON'T. WANNA. And it's not that I don't want to move into this amazing new space...I just don't want to have to go through the process of moving. UGH. So anyway, I wanted to share you a few more pictures from Simon's visit and the other things I've been up to the past few weeks before I crawl into the hole that is moving in Boston and unpacking and redecorating my new room for a little while.

A few weeks ago I led Bible study - I taught 1st Timothy 4... Definitely took a lot of preparation!

My walk to the train station...I love how beautiful this city is!

Obsessed with Affogatos. I'm sad that they're only offered during the month of's become a weekly tradition now

Christie has been joining me for Affogatos - I think this is our first picture we've ever taken together! And we just so happened to wear matching coral sweaters...

Later that day I got to babysit these kiddos - movie night!


We did a great series on the Apostles' Creed - you should definitely check it out! 

*gasp* they changed up the Chicken & Biscuits to Chicken & Waffles at Commonwealth! I like them both ways...

The next book I'm working through...

Oh happy day! I got the last pack of peanut m&m's

I'm kind of obsessed with Valerie Wieners art... maybe just a little ;-)

How on earth have I been missing out on the wonderfulness that is nectarines for so long??? They're delicious! New favorite fruit...

On my walk last week - it's iconic 

The cinnamon sugar brioche from Flour Bakery is just so...soooooooo good

Last week - dinner with my girlies, Loren and Sarah. I love the chips and dip trio you get at Lolita's

Lolita's always ends dinner with a green apple cotton candy with red pop rocks sprinkled in - I got a huge craving for them and had to go get some!

Last Saturday - one of the last lazy days of summer. Beach day with Lynnae, Kristin, and Melissa 

No idea how there was so much purple sand...

Just laying out :)

The essentials - snacks, water, and a magazine

Group shot

No trip to the North Shore would be complete without a stop at the Clam Box. Yeah you might wait in line for an hour just to place your order, but it's worth it ;-)

Sunday morning - up early to look after this girl while her parents worked on the set-up team

She was all smiles!

Couldn't you just EAT. HER. UP?!?!?

Baby dedication that day.

A premonition of what's to come... 

Totally moved this lounge chair all by myself!

From the beginning of Simon's visit last week

Simon doing Simon-y things :)

Our starter - *love* fresh oysters!

And the view at our table

YUM (shot courtesy of Simon) 

I just can't get over this view. I could totally be a beach bum if I lived some place where I got to see *this* every night

Mmmm mussels

So. Much. Seafood. (Seafood scampi)

The next day, Simon and I headed to Wink & Nod for a pre-dinner cocktail

....and then we headed to The Beehive for dinner

We both got the Caprese Salad with tomato, mozzarella, crispy zucchini flower, and roasted corn to start - it was absolutely delicious!

We also got a side of roasted corn with sriracha butter (my mouth is watering as I type that) and I opted to get the Lemon organic chicken with greek bread salad, kale sprouts, mint, cukes, and yogurt. I hardly ever order chicken but this sounded amazing and I was not disappointed! 

Getting ready for L'espalier - doing my hair and make up :)

I took the day after our big L'espalier dinner off from work since I knew we would be out late...the next day was absolutely gorgeous! We went for a walk around Beacon Hill and then along the Charles

Arthur Fiedler memorial

*Finally* got my Lumo Lift after ordering it off of KickStarter months ago! It helps you with your posture (vibrates when you slouch) and counts steps/calories. It's a great little device!

Ever since I got a smartphone I've been using the calendar on it, but I miss having an actual planner (I still have my planners from college and flip through them to see what I did years ago), so I got one!

It's *color coded* - yes I'm Type A. :-D

On my walk home after a bachelorette dinner for Vanessa last Thursday

South Station was all lit up too :)

Sometimes, life demands ice cream. In a cone. From JP Licks.

Finally started packing on Saturday. You don't realize how much stuff you have until you need to pack it.

I walked a mile JUST IN MY APARTMENT from packing. Am I the only one who thinks that's crazy?!

Cute chubby baby legs! Look at how adorable her socks are! This is one of the many reasons I love being the nursery teacher at church

On Sunday, Gloria and I went out to the USS Constitution

She loved the museum! She put on a puppet show for me...

...played games...

...and learned how to scrub the deck.

Art installation on my walk to work :)

And that's what I've been up to lately! Life is about to get a little hectic with my move, having 6 new roommates, church stuff, students moving back to Boston...*deep breath* Here we go!