Friday, June 3, 2011

We Are Not In Kansas, Anymore


This is Springfield, Massachusetts about 60 miles from Brattleboro
      I should be careful what I ask for. I have always liked thunderstorms, because there is an element of danger outside but, you are cozy and rosy inside, watching the chaos outside. So usually, the fear is  somewhat subdued. Yesterday, fear busted out of its cage, and it needed to be corralled.

     The day started off like any other day, it was beyond hazy, hot and humid. But it was only June 1st, kinda unusual weather this early in the season. But hey, it is New England, so I was not so concerned. The day wore on, and my concerns were: "Do we have enough turkey?", "Hey, the floor needs to be swept!",  and " I better get to go to Achilles Agway because, I am picking out my garden stuff come tornado or not!"


This was the photo, that got me
      I can not even tell you the weather that I experienced, during the time that I was being stubborn. Let me tell you, I live in a valley, and every time NOAA says 90% severe thunderstorms, not even close. When I checked the weather and radar at 4pm, the severe percentage was 50% , so hey it is heading not my way, so business as usual.

     So I get to Achilles and no rain, just really scary clouds ALL-OVER, but I am burying my head in the sand, because I have a mission. Gardening gloves, a shovel thingy and any plants that will do good in morning sun. I must give a "shout out" to the lady that was working at the Agway in Brattleboro that day. She was the bomb, and I am so very grateful for her, taking the time with me to explain, the inner workings of gardening. I am taking pictures, and I will show you, I am a good grasshopper. :)

     So now got my plants, my manure, and all the necessary accoutrement's for successful gardening. Off to Hannaford's I go. When I get inside, I call my husband, and I hear in the background the very noisy annoying warnings and alerts. Only this time, the Weather Channel, has been bypassed by I think, the National Weather Service and it is way louder, and the volume control does not apply to the National Weather Service. This is what he says to me: "Paige, where are you?", "I am in Hannaford's.".. "Stay inside until XX time", "What??!!" "Paige, there was a tornado, that touched down in Springfield, Mass, just a few minutes ago, stay inside!!". I said "What, it is sunny, and just fine here, what? OK, what do you want for dinner?" As I was checking out, the sun, turned to literally darkness. I debated whether to wait inside or go to my car. I went to my car and the sky unleashed a storm, that I have never seen before, in my life. I kid you not, the lightening was just a stone's throw from my car, the thunder at one point really frightened me, and I usually am not one to get scared very easily. The hail was bouncing like ping-pong balls off of the cars in front of me. OK God, you got me, I was afraid.

     For the rest of the time, which would be from about 5:30pm until 6:15pm, I figured out a way to get home with little or no added stress; because we all know Paige, has got enough STRESS. The whole time, the National Weather Service was cutting into Tainted Love on WTSA. I get to Discount Beverage, (the place to get gas on Wednesday, because it is Customer Appreciation Day, 5 cents off) and it is total mayhem. This is not my usual Wednesday. Patience short, not willing to NASCAR a person to a gas pump. I go inside, and realize, unless you have cash for gas, you are SOL. I think I might have had a aneurysm, because I always pay with cash, and the yahoo's that were waiting for the credit gods to reignite the credit highway, were standing in my way of getting my 5 cent off a gallon deal.

      Thanks from Vermont!!! to you flatlanders that think coming to Vermont on Memorial Day weekend is so country, and or rustic. Hey!!, pay attention to the road laws, where it says yield?....hmmmm...wait for it....YIELD!!! I don't care if you have the Donald Trump Edition of a Suburban, it still crashes the same at the end of the day. If I had a nickel for every time, I wanted to lay on the horn for the out-of- towners, who are still driving in the "mindset" of their own town, I would be a millionaire. I will give you, point in case: Vermont Country Deli~exit 2, off of 91 north or south. I don't give a flying butterfly, how big your car is, or how much sesame chicken you need for your "party of 8", you are jamming up the works for the rest of us working stiffs, that have to go either up or down Western Avenue. Please, stay right-sized, we as the the rustic/country folk try to do. OK, off my chest, but I do feel, the Town of Brattleboro should deal with this bunion.

     What better way to deal with human stress ......pastry cream!!! What follows is eclairs from start to finish~~~~here we go :)

Pate a Choux (Part 1)
2 cups of flour
1 pinch of salt
2 cups of water
1 cup of butter
8 eggs

In a saucepan, combine the butter and water. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Over medium heat, bring the water to a boil, add the flour mixture slowly, and with a wooden spoon stir until it forms a ball, then take off the heat. Add that mixture to a standing mixer, and gradually add the 8 eggs one at a time,(this provides the leavening) until it resembles somewhat of a sticky dough. From here you can either use an ice cream scoop and make cream puffs, or you can use a pastry bag, without a tip, and pipe the eclairs. *Important note: oven temperature too low, or removing the puffs before fully baked will result in a soggy, sunken eclair. Oven temp 400F for about 15 minutes and then drop the temperature to 350F until the puffs are crisp and golden and somewhat weightless, the water in the dough needs to be steamed out to leaven properly.

Pastry Cream (Part 2)

4 cups of milk, you can use half and half (if you want a super rich pastry cream)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 ozs butter
3 egg yolks
2 tsps pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract (or you can substitute any 1/4 tsp extract)
1 healthy pinch of salt
1/2 cup cornstarch

In a saucepan combine the 3 cups of milk, 2 ozs of butter and 1 cup of sugar. Place on stove and bring to a scald (this means almost to the boiling point). In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 cup of milk, egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract, pinch of salt, and cornstarch mix until combined. Ladle some of the hot milk slowly, until the temperature of the egg mixture and the milk mixture is about the same. Pour all the egg mixture into the saucepan and heat until the cream thickens(you will know when it happens, just keep your flame regulated and not too high) Pour into a bowl and cover the surface of the cream with a piece of plastic wrap, this prevents a skin forming on the surface. Chill.

Ganache (Part 3)

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs coffee
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Heat cream with the coffee and vanilla until scalding, pour over chocolate chips and let set. Using a whisk mix the chocolate cream mixture until well combined and shiny.
Assembly
So here we go........Take your precooked beautiful,lovely airy, and light eclair puffs, and stab the bottom three times evenly across the bottom, and with a pastry bag filled with the pastry cream, the tip you need is a #6 standard pastry tube. Fill the eclair until heavy and no more could possibly get in there.
Dip that fat baby in your ganache, and what we like to do, is to melt some white chocolate in the microwave (with a little bit of Crisco, this helps to make the chocolate shine and aids in drizzling) heat it at 10 second intervals, because white chocolate is very fuzzy and can seize. Drizzle it over the ganache and make a patterns, by dragging a toothpick to and fro~Just have fun with it, because it won't last that long.

There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles. ~Author Unknown




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