the hinata diaries

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The day I became a Grand Master Eclair Chef

Let me start by saying, I love the Kinokuniya book sale!

For the unfamiliar, Kinokuniya is a large Japanese bookstore chain that has several outlets in Singapore, including one at Ngee Ann City that sprawls over the better half of one floor and in whose labyrinthine shelves one can be lost for days. Aside from the Japanese books, magazines and literature, the store carries more or less everything you could ask for - the usual fiction and non-fiction sections, a language section, Western and Japanese comics, art and design books, totemo kawaii stationery and, of course, a generous cookbook aisle.

The best part is, every six months or so, Kinokuniya goes on a storewide 20% off sale. Which is the perfect excuse to buy up every single book you've set your eyes on over past weeks - stuff you want to read, stuff you should read, stuff you want to tell everyone you've read (o_O!)...

The grand allure of book shopping is that buying new books lets you feel like you're starting a new life. High on the fumes of freshly printed and yet un-thumbed pages, you get excited thinking about who you'll now be - a profound artistic soul waxing lyrical on Milton vs. Spencer? a cutting-edge pop culture specialist? a wheeling and dealing business person with up-to-the-minute views on Chinese trade laws? a diligent student of a foreign language mastering the art of conjugation through furrowed eyebrows?

In my case, all of the above, plus...

... Grand Master Chocolate Chef!

(Yes, I've started printing out the namecards already)

Yupyup, decided to pick up Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme (can someone please tell me how to write accents on Blogger?!?!) and Dorie Greenspan. It's a gorgeous book, dark, rich and timeless like its subject, each page eliciting audible gasps and more sinful than the last.

Fast forward to the weekend, and I'm crouched in concentration over our outdoor kitchen counter, attempting to delicately spoon chocolate pastry cream into dainty eclair bottoms.

Except it's 35 degrees Celsius (in fahrenheit: freaking hot).

It's been 35 degrees Celsius for the last three hours (that's how long it took).

All around, the kitchen is a disaster zone of pastry splotches, gooey pots and pans and little water puddles (you can almost hear wailing sirens).

And I couldn't be happier.

Actually, I'm exaggerating. The chocolate eclair recipe is long, requiring the individual production of four components (choux pastry, chocolate pastry cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate glaze) prior to baking and assembly. But it isn't difficult, and a lot of fun comes from methodically following the recipe in blind faith that everything will come together in the final moments, which it really does. It's also great to finally put together something that you've grown up with all your life, and have been accustomed to consuming without a second thought.

I'm looking forward to making this again and playing around with the components. Pierre Herme called for bittersweet chocolate in each of the parts, I'd like to try with something along the lines of hazelnut, or white chocolate, or a non-chocolate pastry cream (raspberry? green tea? lavender?) next time - it really does seem very versatile. Plus mini-eclairs sound like lovely gifts, who doesn't love eclairs? Friends and family, start dieting now!


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