My friends, knowing I love to cook, often ask if I want to take cooking classes with them. I’ve taken casual cooking classes before, and they’re fun and you make nice dishes, but they’re expensive. And at this point I’m comfortable trying new things in the kitchen. I’d rather just pay for ingredients and try a recipe on my own.
So when my friend Annabelle asked if I wanted to go an eclair-making class, I said no. I invited her over to make them at my house instead. I’d made choux pastry, custard and ganache before for different desserts anyway. In the spirit of cooking class, I turned to a recipe from the Culinary Institute of America.
Annabelle and I made tasty eclairs without any disasters, but I won’t be using the CIA recipe again. I didn’t like the texture of the pastry filling with all that cornstarch, and I had some issues with the choux, which baked way too thin on the bottom. (Though, maybe if I had parchment paper it wouldn’t have stuck as much.)
Anyway, I can buy ingredients to attempt eclairs a few more times before spending as much as a class would have been. And we did eat them all. When the custard ran out and we still had pastries left, I filled them with whipped cream, and I liked that even more.
I won’t post the recipe because, as I said, I wasn’t completely pleased with it. (You can find it here.) I’ll revisit the recipes I riffed off of when I made Chocolate Dulce De Leche Puffs. Or if you have a favorite eclairs recipe, pass it on.
One day a few months back my mom was at the library in our hometown north of Chicago and found out Gale Gand, pastry chef extraordinaire, was talking there. I’ve always wanted big things for this blog, so I did some investigative reporting, turns out she’s a sweet woman and had no problem talking to me between her discussions as part of a panel at Robert Morris College’s Culinary Symposium on Friday, March 27 in downtown Chicago.
I’m not going to list everything she’s accomplished, a quick Google search will tell you how impressive her resume is. That’s not why I was interviewing her; in fact I generally asked her the same questions I’d ask any chef. After meeting Tyler Florence last weekend though, I was curious about the idea of being a celebrity chef and the dynamic of not only proving your prowess in the kitchen, but the ability to sell yourself too.
Does she ever feel nervous doing cooking demos, meeting dignitaries, or even have a rough night in the kitchen? Nope. Never. Ok, once, she said. It was a cooking demo really early on in her career, it lasted two minutes and then it was over.
How could she not get nervous meeting presidents and other legendary chefs? Gale Gand’s father, Bob Gand, owns a music store in my hometown, and in fact, I took guitar lessons there in 7th grade, purchased a few mouthpieces for my trombone and got all my piano sheet music there as well. Needless to say, Gand was performing on stage from an early age. She credits this to giving her the confidence to once tell President Clinton she was the most important person in the room at Mayor Daly’s birthday party. It worked, as she got to sit next to him the rest of the night.