This is the second Halloween in a row that I don’t have a Halloween post. I have had the most ghoulish, bloody cake idea braising in my brain fluids for two years, based on the movie, The Shining, but I have yet to create it. With work burn-out and lack of motivation, I’ve been a very bad food blogger.
I walk into the kitchen, and as I start pulling out ingredients, I’m overwhelmed. This is not me, since I usually take great joy in prepping and creating. Does someone have a pill that can bring it back? An elixir? A motivational kick in the butt?
Everything has been so hard the past 6 or 7 months. It takes me ages to write one post..even without the BBFL memoir. Writing emails longer than three sentences is like hauling boulders, and sometimes it takes me weeks to return comments when I used to be able to whip ’em out in an hour or less. The conundrum is, how can I be burnt out when I don’t post very often? I’ve been very tired for a long time now. No idea why.
Wow, all of the above sounds kind of whiny, doesn’t it? Whining over.
When I saw that this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was Napoleons, I entered a tug-of-war between overwhelmed and lack of motivation. I pulled and pulled and pulled, fighting desperately to avoid the muddy pit. I love fancy, French pastry; I literally feel insane jubilation when it comes to fancy pastries, cakes, or any sweets that are built component by component. Dressing said sweets up to make them look pretty is the ultimate jubilee, the apex, the proverbial cherry or caramelized sugar corkscrew on top.
So much for beautiful rounds of raspberry cream like this. It was too soft to hold a peak.
I won the tug-of-war, but my shoes got muddy. It almost beat me. It is now October 26th..7pm, and I’m about to start my Napoleons. I’m supposed to have the post up tomorrow..the 27th. Thankfully the Napoleons I’m making do not require that much work because I have some homemade puff pastry in the freezer and Suz said I could use that instead of making it again. I have a post with a small photo collage of the process, HERE.
No idea what happened to my melted chocolate. It didn’t seize, but it got a little gunky and wasn’t smooth and liquid. That mess was supposed to be hearts. Then again, I used a simple powdered sugar glaze instead of the egg white based glaze in the master recipe, but I’ve never had problems piping and dragging chocolate on powdered sugar glazes, so I’m flummoxed.
Our October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!
I love Napoleons, but it’s the one pastry where I can actually feel the fat cells swelling on every part of my body with each bite of buttery puff pastry and creme patisserie, so I try to keep the consumption of them down to a minimum. It’s stacked, so it’s easy to triple the amount off puff pastry and double/triple the creme patisserie, then add extra thick, rich glaze swirled with chocolate. I’m very heavy-handed with a pastry bag.
I think I just gained 5 lbs typing that.
You see, if I made a whole sheet of Napoleons..cut into stacks, I would probably eat them all, so I decided to keep it simple and dainty. Don’t get me wrong, mine are no less fatty or caloric than your basic Napoleon but I’m only making three…three small ones. 9 small rectangles of puff pastry filled with a raspberry diplomat cream,. A light pink glaze..a few chocolate dots pulled into hearts..voila..less fat on my body since the other two have already been designated to others.. others who wouldn’t eat the larger, heavy basic Napoleon because they like their bodies and pamper them with healthy stuff and only the occasional indulgence I pamper mine too..with the more than occasional dose of sugar and fat
Yeah, scratch all the above It’s now the 28th. My puff pastry rectangles burned, so I made a half-batch of puff pastry from the challenge recipe because the small amount I had left in the freezer didn’t look too good. This time I cut out four 10 x 4 inch rectangles and baked for only 23 minutes. I cut each rectangle into 4 equal squares (eating the scraps), then sprinkled some sugar over the squares with almonds (I left one 10 x 4 rectangle without almonds for the tops and glaze) and bruleed them with a kitchen torch to make a sort of almond praline crunch. The raspberry mousse filling softened it enough to give it a light crunch. No hard sugar tooth-cracking here.
I used 4 layers of pastry per Napoleon, so that gave me a total of three Napoleons, which was perfect, since, as I mentioned above in the crossed out paragraph, two were already promised to two people. Temptation alleviated.
Do you want to know how I made the beautiful pulled sugar circles I topped the Napoleons with? Watch this video, but wrap the caramelized sugar around a lightly oiled rolling-pin and you’ll get big hoops (don’t they look like hoop earrings?), some single loops. and some that hold together in sort of a loop dee loop. I added a little pink food coloring and raspberry oil to the sugar while still liquid, but not yet at the corkscrewing stage, for flavor and a slight tint of color.
Hmmm...corkscrewing; I feel a dirty joke in there somewhere.
To sum it up, they turned out messy; my usual quest for fancy pastry beauty a little muted during this zombie phase, and my patience nowhere to be found. But, the sugar hoops prettied it up a bit. It was sort of like draping a Versace scarf around a muddy pig; BUT, they tasted good..and like I always say, in the end, that’s all that matters, right?
Now that I’ve waxed my woes NOT poetic and gabbed about my Napoleons, I’d like to get to the most important part of this entry. I purposely made pink Napoleons in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month aka Pink October. However, supporting those fighting Breast Cancer and urging everyone to take the necessary steps to prevent and/ or catch this heinous disease early is an every day/every month/year-round deal..as it is with all cancers.
Breast cancer kills an estimated 40,000 women and 400 men per year, but if it’s detected early enough, the five-year survival rate is over 95 percent. All women over 20, especially after the age of 40, need to do regular self-exams and get a mammogram once a year. HERE IS a great mammogram reminder the American Cancer Society has set up. You will receive an email when it’s time for your next breast exam and/or mammogram. I think it’s a fantastic idea!
If you click on the photo below, to NBCAM.org (National Breast Cancer Awareness Month), you will find a list of organizations, medical associations, and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease, and provide greater access to many services. You can also donate money to this cause through many of them.
I’m submitting these napoleons to Jen at Beantown Baker in support of her Power of Pink Challenge. Click on the logo below to see.
I’d like to thank Suz for this awesome challenge..and if you get a chance, click on the links to my fellow Daring Baker’s blog, HERE, to see their beautiful Napoleons. To get the recipes for puff pastry, creme patisserie and step-by-step photos and directions on how to make Napoleons, provided by Suz..click HERE.
Recipe for Raspberry Mousse Diplomat Cream by Tartelette, which is what I used in my Napoleons. To get the almond praline crunch, sprinkle the baked puff pastry with sliced almonds and sugar, then brulee with a kitchen torch until melted, golden and bubbly.
Finally..there’s a hurricane a comin’. Hurricane Sandy aka Frankenstorm – supposedly the worst storm we will ever experience. I guess Halloween really wants to scare the Northeast this year. Also, for those of you inquiring about Part 18 of Bad Boy First Love, I promise to have it up within the next week, depending on Frankenstorm. I hope he/she just blows us a kiss and drifts out to sea. Knock Wood.