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If ever there was a day to be Upset, yesterday was the day! They say that you should never be mad in the kitchen (or… heaven forbid, pms-ing) because your culinary experience may turn out to be a flop. Miraculously, in the end, everything turned out perfectly… if I don’t think about the messy kitchen, the sticky counters, the makeshift piping bag that collapsed, etc.

Yesterday was my second attempt at making éclairs. I had come across the recipe from one of my fellow bloggers and I just needed to succeed. Saturday’s try at making choux pastry was a fail of epic proportions. So I woke up yesterday morning earlier than the crack of dawn (thanks internal clock!) and started watching videos of chefs making choux pastry so that I could see if I was doing anything wrong. As it turns out, I wasn’t doing anything wrong at all. The recipe was fine, the instructions were very clear – I just needed a 5th egg.

So after breakfast, I wiped down the kitchen counter and started the second batch of choux pastry. I followed the instructions very carefully and added my 5th egg. I piped the éclairs out on a baking sheet and put them in the oven and waited. They came out absolutely perfect. They were exquisitely golden. So I did a dance.

Things were going so well that I decided to make the filling for the éclairs. I was going to keep the original caramel recipe, but I wanted to add a cup of espresso to give it a little bit of an extra kick. And so that is what I set out to do. While the man of the house made me a cup of coffee for the filling, I made myself a cup of tea to enjoy while I was cooking.

I think that may very well have been the last happy moment until I declared the “filling-making games” closed. Oh I’m quite seasoned in the kitchen. Clean stations make a happy kitchen-dweller. That is my motto. There’s nothing I detest more in the kitchen than dusty surfaces, or worse – sticky surfaces… and an abnormal pile of utensils and cooking vessels on the wrong side of the kitchen sink. At one point, I caught myself being so disorganized and messy that I frustrated myself. The stand-mixer was going, the caramel that I had just beautifully achieved was getting a little too amber for my liking and my daughter was yelling something I could not hear among Big Red’s loud mixing and the *PSHHHHH* of the saucepan full of caramel hitting the ice bath I had prepared for it in the sink. In a panic, I started mixing in the milk and coffee. While mixing and wondering if I had just spent the filling recipe, I was trying to deal with my daughter’s questions over the stand-mixer’s decibel level.

Once I was ready to pour the caramel mixture into Big Red, I thought “Oh yay! Home free!”

No way, José!

The instructions (which were perfectly clear and understandable) said to pour the caramel mixture into the egg and cornstarch mixture in a slow and steady stream.

Ladies and gentlemen, when you’re 5’2” and the counter is made for a 6’ man and you cleverly decided to use a sautoir to make your caramel instead of a saucepan… you are quite properly forked. As all this was the case for me, suffice it to say that a slow and steady stream was not happening. Instead, I got a caramel/milk mixture pretty much all over the counter, and I ended up using a ladle and dropping the caramel in by scoops. UGH.

Then – I had to dump everything back in to the sautoir and get it to thicken and remove it from the heat. This would have been a piece of cake if there had not been a foot or foam (albeit delicious coffee caramel foam) that had formed from the mixer on top of the actual liquid. So I found myself constantly whisking with one hand and using a ladle to remove the mound of foam with the other… still answering my daughter’s mucho existential questions!

Just when I thought I was going to lose my marbles (which admittedly were already half lost), I called for help. Thank goodness for the extra helpful hands around the house. Not only was he extremely patient, he snuck in a taste-test and declared the custard a resounding success. I think the words were “You should quit your day job and do this for a living!”

Yes the caramel-mocha filling was a true success. But the kitchen was a disaster which needed immediate attention.

I finally put the finishing touches on the éclairs in the evening. When the baby was in bed, we sat down with a nice glass of wine and enjoyed a few pastries.

I’ll be making them again – but next time, I will consult my lessons learned:

• Make potential disasterly portion of the baking while the baby is down
• Keep a step-stool near
• Make sure there is a saucepan available – don’t cut corners by using something you’re too short to be handling at arm’s length!
• Have wine available – always.

Many thanks to fleurdeselsf for the recipe and the memories ☺

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