Butterscotch pate choux: recette 8

Pate choux, or cream puffs, are one of the things I know how to nail. I used to be called the croquem-douche because of how skilled and knowledgeable I was at making them. If you do not understand my culinary joke, Google image croquembouche. And now you can laugh. Anyways, pate choux is a really simple recipe. Butter, flour, eggs, either milk or water, and maybe sugar. The dough can be used for churros, eclairs, or cream puffs. It’s a pretty simple ratio. For my recipe, I included sablage. It is the cookie crust you might find on top of cream puffs. Case in point, Bibble and Sip in New York use matcha sablage for their green tea cream puffs. For my recipe, I used a simple brown sugar base. The sablage helps smooth off the top of the puffs, while giving it a really cool, textured look.

For my filling, I made a butterscotch pastry cream. Think butterscotch pudding. Essentially that’s what I did here. Except I made a salted caramel, and added the butter at the end, almost like a lemon curd. It’s a pretty straightforward recipe, but you do need to be wary about the color of the caramel. The moment it turns brown, you add in your milk, and stir. If that burns, then you will taste it and it will be gross. I used malted milk, which you can create with 1 cup water to 2 tablespoons malted milk powder, just to help accentuate the caramel notes of the butterscotch.

Pate choux:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup malted milk
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bring milk, sugar, and butter to a boil. Add in the flour. Continuously mix until the flour forms a dough ball, and gets a nice glossy coating. Take off heat, and start whisking vigorously for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, slowly whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Once everything is mixed and the dough forms a smooth, yellow paste, transfer to a piping bag and pipe onto a nonstick baking surface in 1 inch diameter Hershey’s Kisses shapes. Place the sablage on each cream puff. Bake at 425 F for 20 minutes, then at 300 F for another 10 minutes to further dry.

1/2 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar

Whip together ingredients and place between two parchment sheets. Roll out to about 1/8th inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter, press out enough circles to match the cream puffs. Keep cold under ready to bake.

Pastry cream:
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring salt, sugar, and water to a simmer. Once the sugar begins to brown, add in the butter and milk and whisk. Bring down to about 150 degrees F; below boiling point. Combine eggs and flour together. Temper the egg-flour mixture with the caramel-milk. Pour back into the pot and whisk over high heat for about 3 minutes. The mixture will need to be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon or cling to the whisk. Finish with vanilla. Strain into a bowl, and chill, pressing cling wrap against the surface of the custard so that it won’t form a skin.

Make a hole at the bottom of each puff. Transfer the filling to a piping bag. Pipe the filling into each cream puff. Serve once filled.

Stress: realization 17

Being a former line cook, I know a thing or several about stress. Being forced to work under pressure can sound intimidating at first, but that feeling of when you overcome the challenge and deliver, despite the intense circumstances, it’s the best feeling I have ever felt. Stress, pressure, whatever you want to call it, it’s basically when you feel like you are backed into a corner and you cannot get out. It’s when you feel like you are not adequate enough to solve a problem, and you are scrambling to figure out what you can do with time you have until that clock hits 0. At first, I used to suck under stress. I would freeze, trying to figure out what to do, and my eyes would start to water from the adrenaline as I am rushing to figure out what to do, and second-guessing whether or not this is the best way for me to complete the task at hand. That was embarrassing. I used to get a lot of crap for being that way. To gain the experience to work well under stress, you just need to keep putting yourself through it, while having the mentality that you will try your hardest and not give up until you make ends meet.

Now that is a lot easier said than done. You can say you will scale Mt. Fuji, but doing that is a lot more difficult. You can say that you want to be better at dealing with stress or pressure, but you need to actually put yourself through that repeatedly before you can become adaptable. And, if it wasn’t obvious, stress differs with each kind of situation or task; case in point, I learned how to adapt to working in kitchens and cooking in general, because I have years of experience in that field, but when it comes to things like event planning, it took me a while to get used to being adaptable under those conditions of having to coordinate with so many different people and vendors to make sure an event runs smoothly. The worst for me was having to own up to a mistake and trying to come to terms with making one. Being such a perfectionist, I hate making mistakes. One of my mottos is “never repeat the same mistake, never relive the same regret.” So at the least, from dealing with stress from event-planning and in life, I have learned to let go somewhat; I can make a mistake, but I don’t want to ever make the same one.

Stress can be a great thing as well. I have learned how to become a stronger person just because of how much stress I was put under. But when you are put under too much stress of a foreign kind, it can be difficult. Living with your mentee while being on the same board as them would fall under that category for me. It was basically the stress of having a child. I was constantly losing sleep over making sure that they were okay. Because we were living together, I could not process, cope, and overcome the stress I was going through. I would even go as far as to say that it has scarred me emotionally and mentally. My every thought became making sure that my mentee was safe, happy, okay, etc. Unfortunately, everyone has to go through that kind of stress at one point in their lives. All I can say is that some causes aren’t worth fighting through the stress of. Trying to care for and live with my mentee wound up being one of them. Trying to be an advisor for that board, again, not worth it.

You should use stress to push yourself forward. To make you try things you never would have thought to do before. You should never let stress be something that holds you back or down. When you are stressed, you build adrenaline. Use that adrenaline to overcome the stress. When you can’t overcome the stress for whatever reason, step back, and step away. It is not worth putting your body and mind through continuous stress and agony just to get results. I would like to reiterate that you should not go around looking for stress, nor should you put yourself through it just for the sake of getting better at handling it; that sort of behavior will just cause your body to break down. But when stress comes knocking on the door for you, that’s when you can jump into action and show you can overcome it, and not let it weigh you down. Ultimately, stress is one of the biggest obstacles we all have to face in life. We can’t just all dive in and kick butt with it. We all need to find our own pace at dealing with stress, and get better at it from there. But learning how to handle stress and make your own life less hectic, that is key to living a feather-light life.

Moving forward: dream 16

This post was partially inspired by Namie Amuro’s song Fly from her album _genic. The song opens with the phrase “Now I’m moving forward, that’s the only way I know. The wind on my back because it’s the only way I go. Only one more second, and I will spread my wings and soar. To the open sky.” Being able to move forward, and not look back. It’s something probably everyone who has ever been through a traumatic incident would want to do. Moving forward is hard, but it can be more doable, so long as we are able to let go, forgive, and forget.

I have been in many arguments and fights in my life. Unfortunately, I have lost quite a number of friendships because of them. Misunderstandings, emotional breakdowns, tension rising, all reasons for why these conflicts and fights broke out. For the longest time, I could not forgive one particular individual. My best friend from high school. Even in college, I would use that friend, and this urge to completely demolish them in life, as my sole reason for existing and pushing myself. And while yes, I managed to accomplish a lot with my life because of that hatred, such as graduating college with three degrees, being a president in four clubs, making dean’s list, and working for Michelin starred and James Beard chefs, I did not let go or genuinely move forward. At the end of the day, I needed to assess my feelings and emotions. I needed to genuinely understand the “why” for me needing to push myself so hard, and specifically, why I was so affected by the fight. And that’s something that anyone who has ever felt angered or hurt needs to understand as well. Why did that friend, family, or romantic partner cause you to get hurt the way that you did. Was your relationship with that person worth the emotional pain you are currently experiencing? Were you the one in the wrong?

Come to terms with the situation. Obviously, apologize if you are the one who hurt somebody else, but do not expect them to accept your apology, to give you forgiveness, or for your life to go back to the same routine it was before the fight. Just express your remorse so that you can move forward. Once you have that closure, and show that you are understanding of what you did wrong, forget about that past. Don’t let it hold you down. Don’t hold grudges because they don’t accept your apology. Even if they do, just learn to let go of that past. It’s likely that your relationship won’t be the same, so don’t expect it to. Now if you were the one who got hurt, don’t expect an apology, and don’t expect any compensation for your pain. Tell the person who hurt you why they hurt you, and what they did to accomplish that, and move forward as well. Don’t resent the person if they never learn their lesson. Eventually they will, even if it’s not from you. Obviously, learn from this experience yourself as well, regardless of which side you are on. Understand why that person hurt you, or why you hurt that person. Was it justifiable or reasonable? Do other people act or react this way too? Once you have that lesson learned, then you can really move forward. You learned the lesson, erased the memories, and stopped a grudge from forming. That’s really all you can do to move forward.

For me, I need to learn how to forget that pain. Having my best friend turn on me, and me being angry. While yes, I have gotten so far in my life from holding this grudge, I know I can go even further leaving that burden behind me. I hope one day to finally get closure on that conflict. To be able to tell my ex-friend how hurt I was by them, how much I appreciated their friendship, just so that I can get the pain off my chest. I would love to move forward myself, but it’s hard when the person you are in a conflict with is immature, passive-aggressive, and non-confrontational. I guess in this case, I made a blog post about it, wrote it off my chest, and maybe one day, they will find this post, somehow realize it’s me, and maybe understand how badly I was once hurt by them. Regardless, I guess this is my chance to let go of that. ___ ________, you were a complete jackass to me, but because my hatred of you drove me this far, I completely forgive you. I was able to accomplish so much, and I have a life to look forward to, without the memories we had created together. I’m moving forward. Towards the world of my feather-light dreams.

Optimism: dream 15

Being happy and smiling, it’s how I kept things from getting me down after everything that had just happened with my life. When I try my best to think positive, see the glass as full, the world suddenly is a peachier, more upbeat place. I almost completely forget about all of the dangers and negativities of the world. Obviously, doing that constantly will put you in a lot more danger, it’s still a practice I partially employ so that I can move forward from something that gets me down.

Even when shit hits the fan and everything around you comes crumbling down, just making yourself smile through it might be all your mind and heart really need. Find those things that make you smile and laugh. For me, being able to see the world as a place full of potential, opportunities, and happy moments yet to be made, that uplifts my spirit right away. Then when I see, let’s say, any picture of Boo the Pomeranian, then it just gets better. That adorable little fuzzball knows how to make me laugh and smile.

Just finding the things in this world that make you feel hope, happiness, and fill you with laughter and smiles, as weird and hippy-like as that sounds, it opens up a world of positivity and possibility for you. It changes how you feel about things, how you act in response to others, and for me, I’ve learned to be genuinely happy again for the first time in years. The thought of getting up in the morning and running through the beach, hanging out with my friends, and baking something delicious, it all gives me a new reason to live.

Smile and never look back. It’s easy to think about the past, but life was not meant for you to take it easy all the time. You are always supposed to move forward and find new opportunities. New chances for you to learn, grow, and live. When I see the world now, I don’t see it as a place full of pressure, fear, or obstacles. I see it as a challenge for me to step up and keep fighting back. Keep going until I can no longer go. I will continue to smile, and live for me. This positive, half cup-full world, it’s what I see, in my feather-light dreams.

Motivation: realization 16

Having a strong work ethic is something I have always prided myself on. Just knowing that people are counting on me to get the job done, it makes me feel that much more inspired to work harder. Being motivated is one of those things that you need for every person working with, above, or beneath you to have if you want a successful organization. I still recall from both organizational behavior and leadership on how you are supposed to motivate people. Aligning values: making sure that the people you are working with have the same values as you. People are more inclined to work harder if they are passionate about the cause they are working for. Showing respect: it doesn’t matter if they are your custodian or your CEO, respect them and show them how grateful you are for their contributions. Those two points were how as an editor-in-chief, I was able to get my entire team to work as a single, functional, and cohesive unit.

If you are a leader trying to motivate your subordinates, it’s pretty easy. Set a good example, make sure you clarify and communicate your values for the organization, and so long as you show appreciation and respect for their efforts, or should they come up short, give them a very uplifting form a criticism, then they will generally respond well. An example of an uplifting form of criticism would be to say “I believe you are capable of so much more, and we would love to see that!” rather than “You are lazy and clearly don’t want to do your work.” The former just makes people feel recognized and appreciated, and it’ll make them feel that much more inclined to work harder. Being encouraging and uplifting are my secrets to keeping people motivated. Just letting them know that you acknowledge and appreciate their contributions and efforts, it’ll make that much of a difference.

When you are not a leader and trying to motivate, that can be a lot harder. I previously mentioned how I used to be a secretary of a cultural organization, and how I wanted to quit. It was because I tried to motivate my board, but because I was not a president or advisor, nobody would take me seriously until it was too late and the club tanked. My advice would be, in this sort of position, to approach everyone like they are equals, with the exception of your superiors, and with your superiors, just try to say things in a very respectful but still encouraging way. It is a lot harder to motivate when you are not the leader, because as a leader, you can change the culture of a group or organization, but as a follower, you have much less pull. But so long as you are polite but still insistent in your delivery, that’s really the most you can do as a follower. Obviously, if the need for a new leader comes up, then you can step in, but if you really do feel strongly against the level of motivation in your organization, then it might be better to find another cause where the culture better suites your personality.

As stated in Lewin’s equation, behavior is a function of the individual and environment. You, as a leader, can change the environment, but you unfortunately cannot change the individuals within it. It would be up to them on whether or not they are motivated enough to adapt to the new standard or if they would be better off going elsewhere. Motivation is something all organizations need to function. Without it, people just slack off, and everything just falls to the wayside. It happens in businesses, organizations, clubs, and I’ve experienced the lack of motivation in a lot of cases. Use encouragement, respect, and generally, that’s all you need to get people motivated. When those around you are motivated, it takes the pressure of you to be the sole provider in any setting. When you all work together as a strong unit, then there’s no more real stress. Work becomes enjoyable. And enjoyable work is necessary for a feather-light life.

Ricotta zeppoli with mascarpone caramel: recette 7

I got this idea for a dessert where milk is celebrated. Ricotta fritters immediately came to mind because of how they use ricotta cheese to create this light, fluffy batter. Mascarpone cheese is one of my favorites, and using that finish a caramel sauce just makes perfect sense to give the dessert a nice finish. I used blood orange instead of water because I lived how citrus paired with the cheeses.

Ricotta doughnuts are awesome because you don’t need to proof the dough and they are really fast to make. The biggest trick with actually cooking them is making sure that you have the balls at the right size, or else they won’t fry properly; you will end up with doughnuts that are completely raw and liquid in the center. Generally, I use the fryer at 375 degrees F and I fry for 2 minutes, and then let the doughnuts rest for 1 minute before cutting them open. That carry-over cooking generally does the trick for me.

For the doughnuts:
1 pint ricotta cheese, water strained
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
canola oil for frying

Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Combine together other ingredients. For frying, portion the batter into 1 tablespoon large balls and fry for 1-2 minutes. Drain on a towel to remove additional oil.

Mascarpone caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 blood orange’s worth of juice
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Reduce sugar and juice until it begins to brown. Finish with the cream and cheese. Combine until smooth.

Martyr: realization 15

It took a long time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself. Boo-hoo, I attempted suicide, my friends all claimed that I was the bad person despite having no control over my actions during my depression, I was hospitalized, I had to move out of my apartment. It’s all just in the past to me at this point. I refuse to let these incidents weaken my resolve. Why do I bother making sacrifices when nobody really appreciates them? By constantly victimizing myself, becoming this martyr for my friends, it’s not going to make me happy. Nor will it make them happy. Trying to label myself as the victim in this situation who valiantly took the fall for others, it’s not something I will live by or with. Simply put, I am not going to continue being the sacrificial lamb just so that my friends can be happy nor am I going to feel sorry for myself that I did this. Their happiness should not stem from my misery.

The first case I can think about was when I wanted to quit the cultural organization board that I was originally the secretary for. I hated being in that club. I was miserable: I would cry myself to sleep every night, be overworked, undervalued, and bullied by my entire board. Nobody respected me because I was the secretary. I really wanted to quit. But then when one of my mentees wound up on board, they begged me to stay. So I did. Even when I really didn’t want to. And to make manners more awkward, my mentee got into another cultural organization, where they seemed a lot happier. So I felt like I already made a sacrifice by just staying, and I felt like they were stranding me with this parasite that I was trying to detach myself from. I never understood why I was so angry whenever I saw my mentee with their other board. Until I realized how unhappy being in this board had made me. I had made this sacrifice, taking away my own happiness, because I wanted to be there for my mentee. And my mentee decides that my guidance was not enough, and took off for another club. At least that’s how I felt, deep inside. That I was not good enough. Eventually, I just got so fed up that I quit the club finally. I decided not to be stuck doing something I don’t want to be doing, especially when the person I was doing it for clearly didn’t seem to care. I needed to do things I actually care about.

Another incident was with my roommate (who coincidentally was also that same mentee, go figure). I had a phenomenal housing number; in my school, we were assigned randomly numbers between 0 and 30,000, and that’s how we choose our dorms. I was within the first 100 to choose. I could have chosen a single apartment, all to myself, but I offered to pull my then-friend, would later be-roommate and mentee in, just out of courtesy since my number was really good and I did not want it to go to complete waste. Had I been selfish and simply not offered, then this whole roommate situation I have spent at least 8 blog posts ranting about would not have happened. But I made a sacrifice, hoping that I would gain a best friend for life. Instead, I endured a semester of being neglected, treated like shit, and almost killing myself after basically being told that me cooking for them and worrying about them made me the bad person. And I ended up moving out of that apartment. So what a waste of a top 100 number. But at this point, it was important for me to cut my losses, learn my lesson, and move on.

Between those two examples, the point I am trying to reiterate here is that you should only ever make sacrifices that you can 100% stand behind. I knew, re-joining the organization, that I would not have been happy. I knew that by pulling in somebody else, I was sacrificing the chance to live alone, where solitude is something that I genuinely need. In both cases, I felt that me giving up those things, I would hope that they were appreciated. And they weren’t. Not even in the fucking slightest. Which is why I am saying this right now. Never make a sacrifice for somebody else thinking that they will appreciate it. You might get lucky and have people who are grateful. But when you deal with the people who are ungracious little shits, then you wound up making sacrifices and wishing you never made them. Cut your losses with them and that whole situation. It isn’t worth it to be friends with people who can’t be properly gracious. Always make decisions putting your happiness and your future first in mind. Nobody else’s. That’s the only way you can really live feather-light.