For the past few weeks, I've been bustling around, eager to catch up on all those ambitions I had to abandon during college, my days are filled with baking, my nights with reading Sylvia Plath and writing. I'm someone who, when doing something, she does it wholeheartedly, and if she doesn't, she doesn't at all. Flaw in character, I presume.
Yesterday morning, after a night of restless insomnia, I got up and set to work in the kitchen. Having had plans with friends to see the new movie Godzilla, I just couldn't meet them without baking something for them, it is true I bring upon tribulations on myself. Being broke, the only recipe I had the ingredients for was one that I'd seen on Weelicious's website, a couple months back (recipe coming soon). The baking went as it always said, me shouting at the others, about where they had put the blue measuring cup or the fine mesh strainer. But thankfully, having double checked the ingredients, I didn't have to rush the driver into getting me something from the shop.
With the donuts out out the pan in a snap, I was fooled into believing that now I had enough time to decorate them, photograph them, and also pack them in the beautiful and perfect way I had envisaged. Humming along to these thoughts, I picked up my cell phone and there was an email from my freelance employer, telling me how I needed to revise the article I had submitted. Feeling like a death sentence was looming over my head, I covered the plate of halfly decorated donuts and ran upstairs to edit the document.
After fulfilling the task, I heaved a sigh of relief and went back to work. Melted Bournville dark chocolate ended up being all over my clothes while the chocolate chips lay scattered as I tried to make sense of the sugar sprinkles. Somehow, I got all the shooting done, and placing the tray in the refrigerator, began to print out some files with my sister's laptop, which I could only use because she wasn't home. Long story short, I did find another mail from the employer and had to make two more revisions before they were satisfied.
Now here I stood, in the clothes I had been wearing for three days and clothes that could give every beggar a run for their money, with printouts to cut, and baked presents to pack. So I did the one thing I make sure to do in such situations, I freaked out. After having some drink to calm my heartbeat down, I handed over the printed labels to my mum to cut along with the envelopes (She's better at this than her kids).
And after several trips up and down the ladder, I was sufficiently ready to pack the donuts along with some help from my mum. We did all that, the clock ticking quickly. Ten minutes to go, I wrapped my hair in a bun, threw my glasses, handkerchief, phone and camera in the bag and holding those fragile-about-to-break-apart-any-minute donuts in the other hand. Just climbing into the car, I noticed an email that I had to write another five articles by the night fall. And I gulped, a very fearful gulp.
In spite of everything and the mediocrity of the science fiction nowadays, we managed to have a great time. I found that me and my friend R's dad had some mutual relations and my other friend S's younger brother was sure to grumble every time some explicit scene was to appear on the 3D screen. Sharing two cokes among us four as we are always broke in the last ten days of the month (we got R's dad a separate drink, of course) and making dumb theories about what was going to happen had to be the star of the evening. Spoiler! I said that the hero would keep Godzilla as his pet, while someone else said he would be awarded a Nishan-e-Haider which is the biggest Pakistani honor that currently exists. I fell off my seat laughing while people around us glared at us to shut up.
Afterwards we stood on the road outside the Cinema, as I chatted with my R's dad and handed my friends their packed presents. I was too involved in the conversation to notice that S's brother had opened the packaging I gave S, and there were donuts all over the road. I politely held back my exasperation and told her that it didn't matter. Thankfully though, R was able to enjoy hers, dirt-free at that.
So here it was, another tiring yet exhilarating day in my life as a rapidly growing teenager, full of surprises and lessons. And honestly, until writing this here, I had no idea how happy I was about the good parts of my life. The bad parts? Well, I'm still working on that.
Most importantly, I realize now that I do need to have some days without any activity, no matter how many interesting things there are for me to do. I need my rest. I do.
So making these Mille-feuille's or Vanilla Slices or Napoleons as some call them, I chose to got the homemade route and made Puff Pastry ala Gordon Ramsey. It wasn't perfect, most of it broke apart as I wanted to tower the dessert in a circular symmetry, still it was pretty good.
Mille Feuille/Vanilla Slices/Napoleon
For the Puff Pastry
Adapted from here.
2-3 cups strong Flour
1 tsp Sea Salt
250g Butter (Room Temperature)
150ml Water (Cold)
- Sift two cups of flour and the salt into a large bowl. Roughly break the butter in small chunks, add them to the bowl and rub them in loosely. You need to see bits of butter.
- Make a well in the bowl and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water, mixing until you have a firm rough dough adding extra water or flour if needed.
- Cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 mins in the fridge.Turn out onto a lightly floured board, knead gently and form into a smooth rectangle.
- Roll the dough in one direction only, until 3 times the width, about 20 x 50cm. Keep edges straight and even. Don’t overwork the butter streaks; you should have a marbled effect.
- Fold the top third down to the center, then the bottom third up and over that. Give the dough a quarter turn (to the left or right) and roll out again to three times the length. Fold as before, cover with cling film and chill for at least 20 mins before rolling to use.
- Preheat oven to 200 C. Roll out the dough and cut into three equally sized rectangles the thickness of a thin piece of cardboard.
- Transfer the dough to a baking pan (or pans) lined with parchment paper and pierce the dough all over with a fork. Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper and place a baking pan or pie weights on top to weigh down the dough as it bakes
- Bake the dough, in batches if necessary, about 25 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. The weights and top layer of parchment paper pan may be removed the last five or so minutes of baking to help color the dough if necessary.
- Transfer to racks to cool completely.
For the Creme Patisserie/Pastry Cream
Adapted from here.
2 cups Milk
5 Egg Yolks
6-8 tbsp Sugar
3 tbsp Flour
3 tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Vanilla
- In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk almost to boiling.While the milk is heating, mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl, then whisk in the flour and cornstarch until the mixture is smooth.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan, and place over medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and reaches a boil. Continue cooking for half a minute longer, stirring hard and constantly to keep the pastry cream smooth.
- Remove the pastry cream from the heat. Stir in the vanilla flavoring at this point. Place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to avoid a skin forming, and leave to cool. The pastry cream can be used when cool, or covered and refrigerated for up to several days until needed. Stir chilled pastry cream before using.
For the assembling-
Ingredients & Equipment-
Baked Puff Pastry
Piping bag with a large tip
- Cut out shapes from the baked Puff Pastry, as many as you can.
- Place one shape at the bottom. Fill the piping bag with pastry cream and pipe it into the cut shape of the pastry.
- Top with another shape and pipe another layer before finally placing the third layer of puff pastry on top.
- Use a fork to drizzle chocolate on the top and decorate with sprinkles or chocolate chips or even cookie crumbs. Repeat the process as needed. Serve chilled.