Thank you for the incredibly sweet comments and emails regarding the last post. It was not my intention to rally support, merely to point certain individuals to the door. You guys are the best. xo
There’s something I need to tell you about Neva…
yes, that neva
I didn’t love Neva when we brought her home. I mean, of course I loved her – but I didn’t LOVE her, not like I loved my Kaweah girl. I loved Neva out of obligation and because she was my responsibility. This puppy was all kinds of feral. Neva had so many accidents in the house that we ended up taking her out to potty every half hour because she had a bladder with the capacity of an eye dropper. She’d pee in the yard and then come back inside and happily pee on her doggy bed two minutes later – oblivious to the difference. Sure, she was a puppy, and puppies don’t know ANYTHING, but Neva was like a special needs puppy because it took her longer to learn things compared to most pups. That and when we thought she HAD learned something, she would regress and get commands confused.
cute as a button, but a complete terror
Neva was highly excitable and overreacted to everything (people, dogs, bikes, cars, birds, leaves, rocks…), baying loudly like a donkey, growling and barking as she scrabbled and clawed her way against the leash toward whatever it was. When we were outside, all she wanted to do was run off and follow scents. No amount of food (she’s a lab, for crying out loud!) would bring her back. There were times when I debated for a split second whether to let her run off forever or to try and catch her. During her puppyhood, we met LOTS of other puppies who were calm, sweet, loyal, and focused on people. Neva was the opposite – her progress appeared to be inversely proportional to the amount of time we invested in her training.
she had to bite *everything*
Little pup spent plenty of time socializing and playing with other dogs, but she didn’t understand that most adult dogs wanted nothing to do with a sharp-toothed hyper baby dog. Neva was never aggressive, but she was persistent with her attentions. Dogs are pretty clear about their feelings with one another. Unfortunately, our girl did not clue in on the snarling or raised hackles and sometimes (lots of times) got the smackdown from older dogs.
mr. wyatt lays down the law, but neva just wants to love him
Our nickname for Neva was Miss FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). She never had separation anxiety issues (thank goodness), but she didn’t like the thought of something good going on without her. Neva was not especially affectionate with us. On the rare occasion that she got hurt or scared, she would stand behind one of us or try to climb into our laps for comforting. But more often than not, she looked at us as housemates with opposable thumbs rather than her pack.
passed out in the car after a loooong hike
We spent a lot of time not having fun so that Neva could have fun. She loved the outdoors as much as we did, yet spending time with her outside made us miserable. Instead of hiking, we were constantly wrangling the dog. Instead of hanging out on the stand up paddle board, she jumped off and swam to shore where one of us had to run interference to keep her from bolting off to who knows where. Instead of backcountry skiing, Jeremy skinned uphill without poles (to manage Neva’s leash) and wedged downhill rather than getting turns so Neva wouldn’t get cut by a ski. Whenever we planned to do something the question always arose, “Do you want to bring Neva or leave her at home?”, but the real meaning was, “Do you want to bring Neva or would you rather have fun?” More often than not, we brought her along because we just kept hoping that someday she’d become a good dog.
aaaand, she’s off again
Neva was not much of a cuddler, which broke my heart because Kaweah was SUCH a cuddle bug. When we came home, she didn’t get out of her bed to greet us or even show any excitement that we were back. It felt like Neva didn’t enjoy being with us except when she wanted something to eat. If we sat next to her to pet her, she would get up and lie down four feet away. She acted like she wanted to run away from us every chance she got. After the first eight months, I began to accept that maybe I didn’t have to love Neva the way I loved Kaweah. Yet I also wondered if I loved Neva at all. We resigned ourselves to giving Neva a happy life, even if she didn’t seem thrilled to be with us.
trying to shake off and cross a stream at the same time
The change was gradual, to the point of being imperceptible. Some time in the last six months, we noticed that Neva started to cuddle. She also allowed us to rub her belly or spoon with her. When she is happy or anxious, she likes to rub her side against vertical fabric like couches, hanging towels, beds, and lately our legs (when wearing pants). For the past several months, each night she started out in her bed when I turned out the lights, but by morning Neva would be snuggled between us on our bed, softly snoring away. While Neva is far from a Good Dog, she raises our blood pressure a little less each time we take her for a walk, a hike, a ski.
the goofiest goofball that ever goofed around
I never expected Neva to be Kaweah. And I should point out that I am under no illusion that Kaweah was perfect – far from it! Neva was just an order of magnitude more work than Kaweah. This might be because Neva is notably less intelligent than Kaweah. Kaweah was not the sharpest tack in the box, however Neva is a veritable ball bearing. But gosh if that little pea-brain hasn’t grown on me. I think she matured quite a bit in her second year, for which we are all grateful. I have also observed that Neva looks to Jeremy as her person, which makes me very happy, because I love him and I love that she loves him. I feel as if we are finally reaching that stage I was hoping to achieve within the first month of her arrival – a pack. I didn’t start out loving Neva the way I wanted to, but I realize that I do truly love that crazy little girl. And I find myself telling her, “I love you, baby puppy,” more and more every day, from the heart.
my heart: these two
Alright now, Valentine’s Day is coming up and I think most of you know that I don’t really care for it in the traditional sense. For me, Valentine’s Day is a reminder to be kind and loving to everyone everyday. It is also the perfect excuse to make things that people love to eat. I have made these chocolate cream puffs several times in the past year for various gatherings. I thought of them as my Frankenstein puffs because the recipe is cobbled together from parts of other recipes. I finally tired of having to reference multiple recipes, so I am posting this in one place as a favor to my future self (as I’ve said before, I blog for me, but I share with you). Ultimately, it’s all about the cream puffs. I recommend making the pastry cream first.
pastry cream: chocolate, sugar, cornstarch, butter, eggs (yolks), milk
heat the milk
whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar together
temper the egg mixture with hot milk
Pastry cream is simple once you master two things: tempering the egg yolks and having an attention span greater than that of an 8-year old. Tempering in this instance means slowly raising the temperature of the egg yolks so they don’t cook. If you add all of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture at once, the yolks will cook and you will not get pastry cream. Whisking a little hot milk into the egg yolk mixture merely raises the temperature a little without cooking the yolks. Keep adding more in this manner until the yolks are completely incorporated in the hot milk. Next, cook the custard over moderate heat while constantly whisking. Don’t step away for a second, don’t even think of turning your back on it. Just keep whisking and whisking until the custard turns thick and creamy. Pastry cream is a wonderful thing.
strain the custard mixture back into your pan
whisk until the pastry cream thickens, then whisk in melted chocolate
finish the pastry cream with a pat of butter
chill the pastry cream (you can make it 2-3 days ahead)
The pastry cream will need to chill for a few hours, which is why I suggest making it first. If you want to break the recipe into two days, you can make the pastry cream up to 3 days ahead. I did this and some of my photography friends dropped by unexpectedly and I gave each a spoon to dip into the chocolate pastry cream. Hey, they liked it.
If you have any pastry cream left, you can move ahead to the next part of the recipe – the puffs. The ingredients required for choux pastry (which makes puffs, gougères, and eclairs) are simple: water, butter, flour, and eggs. Mix these up in the right way and you get airy, puffy golden deliciousness.
for the puffs: water, eggs, flour, butter
bring the water and butter to a boil
stir the flour in all at once
vigorously stir the eggs in, one at a time
When stirring each egg into the dough, it will seem like the egg is just spinning around without actually mixing into the dough. Be patient. Keep at it. It will eventually stop slipping about and disappear into the dough, turning it shiny and silky. When the last egg has been stirred into the choux dough, you can either pipe or drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The bigger the blobs, the more space you need to allow between each blob as they expand during baking. Round out the pointed tops of each puff with the tip of a finger dipped in water before they go into the oven.
silky choux dough
piping the puggs
smooth out the tops with a finger dipped in water
bake until golden and hollow sounding when tapped
The puffs cool in no time, which means you can get to work on poking holes in them shortly after they come off the baking sheet. I use a chopstick to pierce a hole in the side of each puff, wiggling it around on the inside to open up any chambers that may form in the cavity. A piping bag is probably the best way to fill the puffs with pastry cream. Whatever implement you use to poke a hole in the puffs, just make sure the hole is large enough to fit your plain pastry tip. I’ve learned when the hole is too small, it just pushes the pastry tip back into the bag which is a bit of a mess to fix. Squeeze enough pastry cream into each puff so that it is full, but not overfull.
poke a hole in the side and hollow out the inside
fill with pastry cream
Once all of the puffs are filled, it’s quick work to whip up the glaze, which in this case is a chocolate ganache. Pour hot cream over chopped dark chocolate and let it sit for a minute before stirring it into a smooth and velvety glaze. Dip the top of each puff into the glaze, then allow the puffs to sit upright while the glaze sets. If the glaze begins to separate after a few dips, just give it a good stir until it is smooth again.
the glaze: chocolate and cream
pour hot cream over chopped chocolate
stir until smooth
dip the puffs in the glaze
These puffs are essentially mini chocolate eclairs, but they are the perfect two-bite treat to bring to parties, serve to guests, or surprise people you love. People don’t feel like they are committing to a little cream puff the way they do to an eclair, and round is a universally wonderful shape. These puffs will store covered in the refrigerator for up to a day and they are especially good accompanied by a ripe raspberry. So cream puffs for everyone and lots of love, too.
jeremy thinks the chocolate cream puffs are best served with coffee
a happy little bite
the cross-section of loveliness
chocolate pastry cream
from Pierre Hermé via Dessert First
2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
6 tbsps (75 g) sugar
3 tbsps cornstarch, sifted
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup water
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup flour
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3 oz. heavy cream
Make the pastry cream: Boil the milk in a small saucepan. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Temper the yolks by whisking a ladle of the hot milk into the yolk mixture (this prevents the egg from cooking by incrementally increasing the temperature). Whisk in a little more of the hot milk. Whisk in the rest of the hot milk. Strain the liquid back into the saucepan (to remove any cooked egg bits). Set the saucepan over medium heat and whisk vigorously until the pastry cream comes to a boil. Continue to whisk over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the melted chocolate and remove from heat. Place the pastry cream in a bowl and set the bowl over an ice bath. Keep stirring the pastry cream to keep it smooth. When the temperature reaches 140°F, stir in the butter. Stir to cool the pastry cream completely, or do what I did and cover it with plastic (make sure the plastic touches the entire surface to prevent skin from forming) and pop it in the refrigerator. Can be made 2-3 days ahead of time.
Make the puffs: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring 1 cup of water and the butter to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Turn off the heat and stir all of the flour in at once until completely incorporated. Return the pan to the stove over medium heat and stir the dough to help it dry out for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the stove. Stir the eggs in one at a time, mixing well until the egg is incorporated into the dough before adding the next one. Drop tablespoon dollops or pipe tablespoon mounds of dough onto the baking sheet about 1-2 inches apart (more distance for larger puffs). Dip your finger in water and smooth the tops if there are any points of dough poking up. Bake for 30 minutes until golden in color and hollow sounding when tapped on the tops. Turn off the oven and crack the door ajar (or use the handle of a wooden spoon to keep the door cracked). Let the puffs remain in the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Remove and cool completely.
Make the glaze: Place the chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a pan until just bubbling at the edges. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a minute. Stir the cream and chocolate together until it forms a glossy, glaze. If it hardens too much for dipping, you can pop it into the microwave for 5 or so seconds, then stir until smooth and continue to use.
Assembly: Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain 1/4-inch tip with some of the pastry cream. Using a chopstick or other tool, poke a hole in the side of each cream puff, making the hole large enough to fit your piping tip. Wiggle the chopstick around inside the puff to hollow it out. Fill each cream puff with about 1-2 tablespoons of chocolate pastry cream, by inserting the pastry tip in the hole and squeezing pastry cream until full (but not overfull). Dip the tops of the cream puffs into the dark chocolate glaze and place them upright to let the glaze set. Makes about 36.
more goodness from the use real butter archives
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