The Cream Puff Offense

Last night started out with the first martini in 11 months but it didn’t result in its once stoic relief. I dumped it, served my election night menu and stayed with the husband who helpfully added his own comments with the television political pundits about the slew of counts beginning to come in. He’s a trained reporter, a multi-degree American historian and cockeyed optimist but was as effective on my psychic and nerve system as that martini had been. With Florida doing nothing to change my mind about it, I wimped out and headed upstairs to steep in a deep bath infused with lavender-scented Epsom salt, while a green mask dried to crackling on my face. After covering myself in coco butter, the dog and I stretched across the bed to read.

However, wifely duty eventually forced a return downstairs until the dog insisted the people he owns must heel to their strict training about his evening walk and bedtime. We finally obeyed but it was really due to his humans’ shared head/stomach aches. Upon returning, one of us swallowed a double dose of melatonin and everyone settled into their respected sleeping positions.

The clock shouted it was 6:33 when we awoke. Neither of us moved, dreading what awaited downstairs. “Let’s get it over with,” the husband finally said. Plus the dog had plopped his oversized head on the bed to remind us he needed a walk and breakfast. I unfolded the newspaper, the husband turned on the TV and simultaneously came to the conclusion that 2020 would continue to find it hysterical that we entertained a sliver of hope she’d suddenly change her bloody ways.

Husband took the dog for his walk, going out into a beautiful autumn day under a cloudless blue sky, the trees still clinging to the last of their fall glories. Weather, it must be said, that mimicked the startlingly loveliness of the city’s on 9/11.

I shuffled back to the kitchen in my blanket-like robe and took out the cream-puff, then curled onto the couch and settled in for the very very long day ahead.

Julia Child’s Recipe for Pâte à Choux (Cream Puffs)

For those who are watching their weight after 11 months into the pandemic, skip to the bottom for a really good suggestion to steal yourself for the days ahead.

1 cup water

6 tablespoons butter cut into pieces

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

pinch of nutumeg

1 cup sfted all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

Bring water to boil in a medium size sauce pan. Add the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted.

Remove the saucepan from heat and immediately pour in the flour all at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderate high heat for 1 or 2 minutes more until the mixture forms a mass and leaves the sides of the pan.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and make a well in the center of the paste with the back of your spoon. Immediately break an egg in the well and beat it into the paste for several seconds until it is absorbed. Add the remaining eggs one at a time and repeat the beating until they are all absorbed (don’t worry if the third and fourth eggs absorbed more slowly). Beat for an additional moment to make sure the eggs are is well blended and the paste smooth.

To bake

You can use a pastry bag or, as I do, a large tablespoon or serving spoon.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange shelves on the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

1 egg beaten with 1/2 teaspoon of water in a small bowl.

Butter a baking sheet. Squeeze the paste onto the sheet, making circular mounds to the size you want (smaller for hors d’oeuvres, larger for dessert). If using a spoon, plop a good amount down on the sheet and press the back of the spoon along the sides to form a circle. Space the mounds 2 inches apart.

Brush the mounds with the beaten egg over the top and sides, being careful not to soak the paste.

Bake for about 20 minutes. The puffs are done when they have doubled in size and are golden and firm to the touch. Turn off the oven.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and pierce the sides of each puff. Then return the sheet to the cooled oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes. Take out and carefully transfer the puffs to a rack to cool completely before filling.

Suggested fillings

Basically anything sweet–whipped cream, lemon curd, mouse, a thick jam, ice cream. Leave plain or cover with chocolate sauce.

Additional help for mind and body

There is an actual medical diagnosis for what many of us are suffering. It’s called election stress disorder, first observed after the 2016 election when therapists began to notice an enormous spike in anxiety, depression, and a general sense of helplessness among their clients. The disorder has only increased and grown wider spread over the last four years.

The folks at Headspace have post an informative article on the disorder that includes a series of effective meditations.

I ran through several of the meditation practices offered at the bottom of the Headspace article. Even if meditation is not something you care to try or you are new to it, try the shortest one that’s barely a minute long. It may alleviate a little bit of anxiety, perhaps even as much of a crumb as my cream puff offense did this morning.