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They’re actually supposed to be something known as a Paris-Brest, a particularly special variant of a cream puff.

It all started with a bicycle race called the Paris-Brest-Paris (named after its route), which began in 1891 and is still run today, although not as an actual competition apparently. This celebratory version of a cream puff was created to commemorate the race, because everyone knows that pastry cream is exactly what you need when you’re riding a bicycle for 1200 kilometers (roughly 745 miles).

Traditionally, the Paris-Brest is a cream puff that is piped into the shape of an 8-inch ring, cut in half after baking, and filled with an almond-spiked pastry cream. It’s said that the ring shape mimics the shape of a bicycle wheel, which I suppose is true enough considering that they’re both circular. The dessert can be quite impressive to look at and undoubtedly requires some pastry-making skill.

I like to think I have some pastry-making skill and could make a Paris-Brest if I had the time and energy to do so. But, I have a two-month old baby, and time and energy are in short supply. I decided to simplify things and just make cream puffs.

I’ve made the pâte à choux before, long ago when the Doristas made the goat-cheese puffs in 2012. It’s easy to do, but – as I noted then – once started, they require full attention. Just like a baby! The pastry cream is pretty much the same type of thing, in that it demands full attention once it’s started. I made the pastry cream Wednesday evening while Geordie watched Hannah, and I was exceedingly pleased with it. It may be an involved process, but it’s a relatively short one, and one that ends with glorious results. One moment, the milk and egg and sugar mixture is all liquid and loose – the next, it’s lovely and thick and creamy. Very fine, indeed. The choux pastry I didn’t have a chance to make until today, in the afternoon. Hannah cooperated, for the most part; she woke up just as I was mixing in the eggs, cried a bit while I spooned out the puffs, and then pouted all the while they were baking. I think she’s just upset that she’s going to have to wait quite a bit before she can have one herself.

I’d pout too if I were her.

creampuffs

They’re not the prettiest little cream puffs ever made, but they’re delicious. I wish I’d made less of them, because I’m extremely tempted to make them my dinner. Much like the goat cheese puffs, I find these completely irresistible. The puffs are delightful enough by themselves, but the addition of the pastry cream puts them completely over the edge. Delicious doesn’t actually do them justice. They are beyond terrific. I want them all the time, except I also want to lose weight, so that’s right out.

I’ll be dreaming about these cream puffs tonight, that’s for sure. They’ll be haunting me for weeks. I can’t wait to make them again. Perhaps when Hannah is a little more autonomous. It certainly is a nice little treat I can’t wait to share with her in a few years.

To see some very lovely and proper Paris-Brest creations, check out the French Friday links. This seems to have been a popular dessert with the Doristas, no matter how the pastry came out. And no surprise!

Although I am a big fan of seafood, mussels were never much on my radar until I was about halfway through college. My best friend Heather introduced me to them. I did not pay particular attention to how she prepped or cooked them because, at that time, I was far more interested in just eating food than making it. That didn’t come until later. Although I had mussels with Heather a couple of times, I never thought to eat them on my own or even order them while out at restaurants. My loss.

This is my third time making mussels, the second time from Around My French Table. They almost didn’t get made. It’s a long story involving sleeping in and not driving Geordie to work (we only have one car), so suffice to say that my husband is awesome, and he went grocery-shopping for me after work and brought home mussels. I love him.

Mussels don’t require much attention, which makes them my favorite shellfish to prepare (lobster would be my favorite shellfish to eat, but not only are they expensive, I still haven’t quite figured out how to dismantle them as quickly or efficiently as Heather does). After scrubbing and de-bearding them, they get thrown in a pot with some cooking broth for a few minutes. Done. Eat immediately. Yay!

moulesmariniere

I admit, I’m still taking some shortcuts in the kitchen, and I probably will be for a while yet to come. I found a bag of frozen Israeli couscous and spinach at Target, and that served as our side dish. I thought it went well with the mussels, but Geordie felt that the “spinach was too overpowering.” It might not have been the best choice of a side dish for these amazing mussels, but it worked for me. The mussels were clearly the stars of this meal anyway.

These mussels. Oh, man. These mussels made me want to have mussels once a week.

It’s pretty simple, especially when you don’t do the onion and the shallots (ew and ew). Olive oil to start, followed by a quick saute of garlic. White wine, a little lemon zest, some seasoning (mmm, thyme), and that’s all. Bring to boil. Dump in mussels. Cover, simmer, (stick frozen bag of side dish in microwave), stir, sit, done. Some of the mussels maybe could have used a little more cooking time, but not so many that it ruined the meal. We had plenty of mussels and plenty of broth, which was soaked up nicely by slices of French baguette.

Bonus: after removing a dozen mussels from their shells and mixing them into my Israeli couscous, I was able to hold Hannah and eat at the same time. She enjoyed this, alternating her time between staring at my food and staring at Geordie across the table.

I really enjoyed these mussels – we both did. Moules marinière is a classic French preparation, and it proves why the classics are often the best. There’s nothing particularly fancy here, and what resulted was a nice, homey dish enjoyed with a couple glasses of white wine. I don’t make mussels very often, but when I do from now on, this will probably be my preferred way of cooking them.

To see how the other Doristas feel about this classic dish, check out their links. Happy cooking!

nikohannah

Hannah Jayne
born November 24th at 6:04am
7 pounds, 7 ounces; 20 inches

And yes, I’ll post a birth story. It was a long, three-day process, but she’s here now and perfectly healthy. We’re so blessed to have this beautiful little rainbow in our lives.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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