Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Palette Cleanser

This afternoon, I opened my desk drawer and reached into my stash of Dove chocolates for a little chocolate square wrapped up in a neat little package of tinfoil. (I know Dove isn't the best quality chocolate, but for a chocoholic like myself, it's a cheap way for me to get my fix.)

That's right, I said it. My name is Morgan, and I'm a chocoholic. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to indulgence.

When I was a first year at UVa, (that's "freshman" for all you non-pretentious readers who didn't attend Mr. Jefferson's University), I kept a big bag of hershey kisses in my nightstand. Every day, I would take one, unfirl it from its silver wrapper and pop it into my mouth. I would sit at my desk, typing away on one of my numerous English Lit papers, and press the smooth, flat side of the kiss against the roof of my mouth. I would sit there quietly and savor the moment as it melted slowly into creamy chocolatey goodness.

You see, I don't need a whole piece of chocolate cake or a dozen cookies to satisfy my sweet tooth (usually). I just need a little shot of sweetness to get me through the day.

Boy, do I sound like an addict in denial or what?

But I do firmly believe that a meal hasn't fully come to completion until you've had dessert, a trait I get from both my parents, although my dad, who often wants to order dessert after brunch, indulges more often than my mom. I actually used to measure the quality of a first date by whether or not my dinner companion would have the chutzpah to suggest dessert, since first date dining etiquette dictates that women appear to sustain on the small salad that we coyly push around with our fork. Thus, I could not order the giant piece of carrot cake that I really wanted, and ask my date to leave the two of us (that's me and the cake) alone so I could lick the icing off the plate in private. No; instead, he had to be the one to suggest sharing the creme brulee so that we could commit the ultimate couple act of sharing it, making eyes at one another across the table, licking the sugar off our lips seductively, knocking my spoon "accidentally" into his, and ugh now I'm nauseous from all the lovey doveyness. Or maybe it's the 5 pieces of chocolate I just ate.

Ok, so now that I've shared with you way too much information about my dating life, back to my Dove chocolate. If you've eaten one of these little nuggets, you'll know that each one comes with a little piece of "wisdom," sort of like a fortune cookie. Usually they're pretty pedantic and silly, but today when I opened mine up, it read "Believe in and act on your dreams." I smiled to myself and began to unfold the tinfoil wrapper further, smoothing it out as best I could. I was somewhat caught up in my reverie, thinking, how fortuitous that I would pick this fortune on today of all days, and that it was just so funny and perfect and-

then I ripped the corner off. Whoops. *Will not take this as a bad omen, will not take this as a bad omen...*

You see, it was just today that I was looking at the two pastry arts programs I'm most interested in attending. I even emailed one of the schools about setting up a private tour next month. So getting a fortune about believing in and acting on my dreams was pretty ironic. Thanks, Dove for validating my life choices!

In honor of this dream of mine to become a pastry chef, I've decided to make some changes to the blog. Yes, finally, I'm getting to my point and will stop rambling on and on about all this chocolate nonsense since don't lie, now you kind of want some m&ms. And if you didn't before, you do now.

I recently became the proud owner of Indulge, 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark, pastry chef at The French Laundry. I was so excited to dive into Indulge and after suffering a minor panic attack when I thought my precious package had been stolen (since it WAS NOT delivered at 6:30 pm on Monday, like the online tracking said, but rather, was delivered the NEXT DAY sometime in the afternoon. GET A WATCH UPS MAN! AND A CALENDAR! STOP LYING TO ME), I finally settled in to read my new cookbook, cover to cover.

Ok, so that was the plan. In reality, I didn't read the book in its entirety the first night I had it, since it's rather long and I wanted to take my time and savor all the recipes. But it was the type of cookbook I couldn't wait to get home from work and read through. I would sit at my desk at work and dream about the delectable creations awaiting me on those glossy pages.

You see, when I first started this blog, I was just sort of looking for something to occupy my time and get me in the kitchen more, so I chose a chef and book that I thought I would like. But thinking more about this project, I wanted to feel more connected to the food I was making, and more challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone. I do like to cook, but pastry and desserts is where my real passion lies. They're what I really love to create, so when I came across this cookbook, I really got inspired and knew that I would need to make a change. Not only is Claire Clark the pastry chef at one of the best restaurants in the country, she is also a former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu, so who better to use as my personal tutor into the world of pastry arts?

I was a bit concerned, given that I'd already made my way through about 20 recipes in Back to Basics, and switching gears would mean getting some equipment and supplies I don't already have. Plus, considering how precise baking is, I was a little worried about my new kitchen space which can sometimes be a bit of a disaster. And of course, there is always the concern that with so many delicious sweets at my disposal, I will gain 100 pounds and look like a water buffalo. Friends and family, don't be shy. If necessary, I give you permission to yank the chocolate-covered beater from my hand and force me in front of a mirror to show me the consequences of this project. I will thank you later.

After weighing all of these risks and talking it over with some of my confidants, I just knew that cooking my way through Indulge would be such a pleasure and a challenge that I couldn't say no. Plus, I think it will make for some more interesting reading for all of you. I'll cook some dishes from Ina's cookbook every once in a while, and I'll keep you updated about how those turn out. But, for now...

First Indulgence: Vanilla Ice Cream with Chantilly Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce

1 comment:

  1. OMG I want chocolate soooooo soooo soooo bad. This entry was so cute and really funny.

    I am very excited to read about the new things you will be making, though they do sound more complicated and thus it is unlikely I will be able to attempt as many of them :)

    p.s. I promise to tell you if you start looking like Britney Spears circa the fast food, cheeto's, Kevin Federline part of her life. Because that is the kind of sister I am.


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