Sunday, August 31, 2008

Climbing the Mountain, Or Why I Don’t Bungee Jump

It’s part of the human experience to try and push oneself to new heights. Most of the time. Often, we find ourselves settling into routine because it’s comfortable, familiar, easier than taking chances or moving beyond the realm of the known. I’m sure even astronauts sometimes say, “Oh, look, the Earth from space. Again. Sigh.”

There are others who continually strive for new experience, to challenge themselves. Some of those people are admirable. Others, slightly insane. I’m looking at you, wilderness survival guy on the Discovery Channel.


While I long for adventure, I’m also constrained by my own sense of practicality as well as knowledge of mortality. So, while it sounds intriguing, you won’t find me base jumping, storm chasing, street luging, or going to Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. I spend my days writing about death-defying adventure, so, for myself, I adhere to a slightly more feasible, less life-threatening list of culinary challenges. The prospect of making cupcakes no longer thrills me (though I definitely enjoy the end result). On this list of challenges are such daunting Mt. Everests such as puff pastry, dacquoise, croissants and pâte à choux.

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier

Am I fan of the éclair, the cream puff, the profiterole? Not especially. But I needed to make pâte à choux because, in the words of George Mallory, it’s there. I was also pleased, when learning of this month’s DB Challenge, that there were multiple components to the éclair recipe. Therein lies the more esteemed aspect of the pastry chef’s art. Anyone can bake a cake and make a simple powdered-sugar buttercream, but pâte à choux, pastry cream and chocolate glaze all held the possibility of failure, and thus, challenge.

Mt. Blanc
Mt. Blanc

What did I learn from this experience? The mountain is much smaller than it had looked at the base. Granted, it wasn’t a completely smooth climb, fraught with occasional stumbles and slides, but, when I reached the summit, I could bask in the glow of my accomplishment—éclairs with butterscotch pastry cream and chocolate glaze. I even delivered éclairs to my friends, which, for me, is a sure sign of success. The two different cakes I made for last month’s challenge were not distributed to the public because I was mortified by the utter failure of the glaze, rendering gateaux that were delicious but aesthetically displeasing. In fact, the hazelnut gateau went straight into the garbage in a fit of pique.


But not so with the éclairs. I stood on the mountaintop and hoisted my flag, announcing that I’d made it.

So, how do I get down from here?

I remain,
Yours, &c.


whomajigi said...

Get yourself a recurring blog woman! This was such a pleasure to read! Fantastic write up and they look amazing!

MichaM said...

I whole-heartedly agree with whomajigi! Your photos are beautiful...
Nice job!

Anonymous said...

Climb every mountain and keep the sweets coming. Delicious all around.