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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Some things never change

We spent a spontaneous spring weekend in Hood River, not so different from a spontaneous spring weekend four years ago. Back then, we were just finishing college. We saw "Star Wars," drove up to Panorama Point, ate remarkable quantities of Katie's mom's eclairs, and, even with a stop at the outlet mall, made it back to Eugene in time for a Sunday-night barbecue. (Even then, our lives revolved around food.)

I stood at Panorama Point four years later and thought about how everything had changed. I thought about the girls of four years ago, how they had no idea of the places they'd go and the things they'd do. Nothing so special or unusual, really. People go to graduate school. They find their first grownup jobs, and then they find their second grownup jobs. They live by themselves and learn to cook and make new friends and lose old friends and pay off their cars and become indispensable at work and acquire their very own dogs. Hearts stop and start and stop and start again. All of these things happen to everyone in the world every day. And yet somehow, while we weren't looking, these very ordinary experiences had turned us into grownups.

But there we were, back in the Hood River Valley, as if a good fairy had given us the opportunity to revisit our former selves. And then I started thinking about how nothing had changed. We ate spaghetti and chatted with the parents. We spent hours sprawled on Katie's bed talking about boys and books and current events (even though the conversation was peppered with name suggestions for Leslie's next baby and discussions of what we would be wearing to various upcoming weddings). The songs were new, but we still rolled down the windows and sang along to the radio. We helped make the eclairs this time, but we still ate more than I would have thought possible.

Everything was different, and nothing had changed.

Maybe in four more years, we'll be planning our own weddings or picking out names for our own kids. Maybe, as we drive down Highway 35 or sit in the garden or race against the camera's timer to pose against that rock wall at Panorama Point, we'll think back to that spring weekend in 2006 and laugh about how young and silly we were. "Remember?" we'll ask each other. "We thought we were so grown-up."

But the important thing is, we'll be there. And some things, thankfully, never change.

Here's one:

Katie's Mom's Eclairs

For the eclairs:
2 packages (3 oz each) banana instant pudding (the original recipe calls for vanilla pudding with banana liqueur)
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs
For the frosting:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 vanilla (Katie's mom uses rum and orange flavoring; she also doubles the frosting recipe but often uses less powdered sugar. "None of this has to be exact," she says.)

Prepare pudding, using three cups of milk; beat in whipping cream. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat water and butter in a three-quart pan to boiling. Reduce heat. Stir in flour. Stir vigorously over heat UNTIL MIXTURE LEAVES SIDES OF PAN AND FORMS A BALL. Remove from heat. Beat in eggs all at once, beating until smooth.

Shape dough by scant three tablespoonfuls (you can make them any size you want), three inches apart on an ungreased (Katie's mom uses a very light spray of Pam) baking sheet in fingerlike shapes 3/4" long and 1 1/2" wide. Bake 30-40 minutes in preheated oven (bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and 375 degrees for 25 minutes). Cool away from draft. (The eclairs should be slightly browned. If you are unsure, remove one and cut it to make sure it is not too soft.)

Once eclairs are cool, slice off the top of each one and fill it with as much of the banana pudding mixture as you want. We used a lot.

Heat chocolate pieces and evaporated milk over low heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup and vanilla (or rum) until smooth. Katie's mom uses an electric mixer to avoid lumps of powdered sugar. Frost eclairs and cover. Refrigerate no longer than 2 hours. They are okay the next day, but will be softer. You should probably just eat them all right away.

posted by shan at 12:57 AM;


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