This past weekend wasn’t particularly eventful. The weather was unseasonably warm, so I spent most of each day outside. On Saturday, though, I had a specific craving…Not for something sweet, for a change, but something savory.
So, I headed to my new favorite Café/ Coffeehouse: Foundation Grounds. The name is a play on words, as “Grounds” describe the Café’s wide selection of coffee-infused beverages. “Foundation” most likely refers to the freshness of the food, which is all organic and always delicious.
I read about Foundation Grounds for the first time over the summer, when I was reading a local food blog (that I ended up writing for). The editor wrote up a sandwich called “The Perfect Pear,” which included melted Brie, all organic apple butter, and, as you could probably guess, thinly-cut slices of fresh, juicy pear.
Ever since my first bite of the sandwich, I’ve been hooked. The Café’s bakery case often tempts me, as it’s filled with homemade baked goods ranging from “Brookies” (i.e. Brownie Cookies), to vegan Quiches with flaky pastry crust. The interior of the Café is very small and intimate, and I always bring along a good book. Sometimes, (especially if I have a hot beverage in front of me), it feels a little like I’m in France again, sitting in a café by Place du Martroi.
This past weekend, I ordered one of my favorite salads on the menu: the “Foundation.” Salty, tangy gorgonzola sits atop a bed of fresh mixed greens, tart marinated red onions are scattered on top of the lettuce. The salad is topped off with crisp pieces of apples, crunchy, salty croutons, and sweet, dried cranberries. I hardly needed to add the vinaigrette, because all the other ingredients spoke for themselves.
If you’re like me, you’re often indecisive…I look at a menu filled with things I love, and have trouble narrowing it down to one selection. Luckily, Foundation Grounds offers a pick 2 special, where you can choose half a sandwich, salad, quesadilla, or soup. That day, the soup special was Sweet Potato with Quinoa and Butternut Squash…so of course, I had to try it.
The sweet potato and butternut squash puree complimented each other perfectly, and surprisingly, the quinoa wasn’t too overpowering. It added thickness and interesting texture to the soup, and accentuated the other ingredients. My new goal is to try to recreate this soup at home…
Which brings me to my second goal. Which is to try (and succeed) at recreating pastries that I enjoyed in France in my own kitchen. Since I’ve returned, I’ve made sweet and savory crepes- but that’s basically the extent of my efforts.
When I was perusing another local food blog, I discovered a recipe for “Nutella Cream Puffs.” I had seen the recipe published in a local food magazine, but here it was again, tempting me with description of “Nutella icing” and “gooey chocolate oozing out of warm bread.” It didn’t take more than a few minutes before the wheels in my own head were churning…
Of course, I had never made anything resembling a Cream Puff before. The last time I used a Pastry bag is when I tried to pipe whipped cream onto a cheesecake at my first restaurant job…And more often than not, it ended up all over the front of my apron. So without really considering the pitfalls, I dove into this recipe headfirst.
All I can say is, never underestimate a French recipe. It’s not Apple Pie, nor is it a Chocolate Chip cookie. Even more than other types of pastries, cream puffs require a great deal of precision. I might have eye-balled it a little too much when I measured the cake flour, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to pipe the cream puff dough onto the baking sheet.
As a result, my cream puffs were more like cream swirls. I made the Nutella icing, mostly for my own enjoyment and eating pleasure. I also piped some into my “cream puffs,” and thought of the whole experience as a delicious way to practice.
Admittedly, I also tried to disguise my deformed puffs with extra icing…
In the end, I cut my losses, ate a couple of cream puffs, and called it a night. After all, wasn’t it Julia Child who said “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” ?
I couldn’t agree more.
Nutella Cream Puffs (slightly adapted from The Sweet Art) (Originally adapted from Laduree)
Pour the filling into a piping bag with a small round top. Poke holes in the sides of each cream puff, or on the bottom with the tip of the piping bag and fill with frosting.