Bonjour, je m'appelle Ashley!
Sweet things make me smile and not-a-little-bit giddy.
I've always found comfort in sugar and vigorous whisking, pearlized details, and antique tea cups. Lace fans, old books, and a pantry full of tea describe my personal pinnacle of sweet things. I've spent a few months in France recently, and have returned to Texas, hence my other blog.
While abroad, I learned just how much I love pastries and food in general, however, the flavor was not the only attraction. Presentation is everything. Eating something that was as delicious, as it was beautiful, hooked my attention. I resorted to taking photographs of so many dishes and tea trays, that I could post about them alone.
The prettiness of food is a rare gem to find in the US. I found myself so taken with the display, most of the time, I felt hesitant to plunge my fork or teeth into anything, on account of my eyes having not properly feasted upon the sight before them. (Yes, I am addicted to wedding cake shows and other blogs that have the interest of making food gorgeous and taste-bud-tantalizing.)
When I first began college, I worked on the set of the television show Friday Night Lights. I was a cheerleader and worked long nights, a few random days, and peddled away at auditions. Between these bouts of attempted stardom, I baked to pass the time.
Tiered cakes, with hand-beaten butter cream, and perfectly textured fondant constantly graced the counters and refrigerator of my friend's mom's residence, where I was living. I grew frustrated with the constant waste, as the cakes were always so large.
I then decided to attempt petit fours, as in my head, they are adorable pastel wonders with pastel or chocolate coating and flowers on top. Wrong.
Mine ended up falling to pieces and looking like the regurgitated mess of a drunken fairy. Chocolate hardened unevenly, the cake was too soft for the weight of the chocolate, and the filling oozed from between the layers, as soon as they began to defrost. Like I said: mess.
They were oh so delicious, but were horrendously ugly. After that fiasco, I spent the next few years in student housing and my baking halted. The decorations that were attempted, did produce lovely snacks and smile-inducing joy, but they were always so large, much of them would go to waste. As you can imagine, I've been pondering a solution to my need to make pretty things that taste like Disney-fied fairy wings or something out of Pinkie Pie's kitchen. (Yes, I am bronie.)
Well, yesterday, while reminiscing about France and browsing the Ladurée website, I had an epiphany.
While the US is in the midst of a French macaron-craze, I must say that I would choose the former between the two. The French macaron IS perfection, of course, but there is only so much one can do with the beautifully portable, petit sandwich.
I've decided to teach myself how to create a religieuse to my liking and improve upon it in any way possible, with no formal, background training. This will be my kitchen log. My Klog? Hmmm.
If you don't know what a religieuse looks like, here:
It is a large puff pastry filled with a creme or custard of some sort (the common fillings are coffee and chocolate flavored cremes) covered in icing or poured fondant, and assembled with a smaller puff pastry on top. It is meant to resemble a nun, hence the name. Funny, I find them sinfully yummy.
In the photo, the light happened to create a pin-spot aura around the puffed perfection, and believe it or not, this was not the prettiest one I ate in France.
With this new endeavor in mind, I set about to find the perfect recipe. Problem? I am not currently in possession of a stand mixer.
After scouring the internet for a device that should prove sufficiently useful for my cause, but not decimate my tiny, college-student budget, one was found and ordered. You may wonder how I have baked before now without an electric mixer. Two words: muscular husband.
...and so, similar to many spiritual religions, I plan to be devout in practicing the craft, stay true to myself and my beliefs, and probably spend at least one day a week devoted to this assignment.
God help me.