Tuesday, May 17, 2011
As Mother's Day approached this year, my husband and daughter asked me what I wanted to do that day.
I must admit that I had forgotten all about Mother's Day.
Normally my siblings and I would spend a few weeks prior to the big day brainstorming for gift ideas for our mom. Then the men in our family would do the cooking and we would all gather for lunch or brunch.
Not having to do the meal planning or the dishes made it a very special day indeed.
My mom passed away in February 2009 and I know it is just a "Hallmark" holiday but I must say it is still very strange not to have a mom to honor on the second Sunday in May.
When I was a kid I used to write her mash notes of the roses are red violets are blue nature. When I was able to save up my pennies I would try to find the mushiest card I could find with as much glitter as possible on it.
But we have been without her now for numerous holidays and family gatherings. She missed my daughter's 18th birthday and she will miss her upcoming high school graduation. We couldn't share the good news of college acceptances or the still strange to me news of my daughter's latest tattoo.
And no matter what event we are gathering for, I always wonder what dessert she might have brought to share with all of us.
This year there are no plans to gather as a big group to celebrate the day. Several of those husbands are ah, shall I say, no longer welcome at gatherings and many of the kids are away at college.
But she was on my mind as my husband and daughter picked my brain for gift ideas. I started to wonder what dessert my mom might like for me to make for her on her special day. I have posted several stories about some of her signature desserts such as ringalings and buckeyes.
It occurred to me that there was one dessert I hadn't thought about in a long while -- cream puffs.
I did write about making eclairs for the first time and how I realized that they were really just a fancy cream puff! And I had to laugh when I had my first profiterole -- a cream puff with ice cream. And for $8! My mom would have laughed her head off.
You don't find many recipes for cream puffs in recently released cookbooks although they do seem to make a comeback every decade or so in cooking magazines.
But my mom made cream puffs often -- for Christmas, Easter Brunch or for a Sunday dinner. Using packaged convenience products like cake mixes were considered very modern in the 1960's and 1970's when I was growing up so my mom used Jello pudding mixes to fill the cream puffs with vanilla or chocolate pudding.
I wasn't particularly fond of them; I found the texture and taste to be a bit bland. And I was pretty sure my husband and daughter would turn their noses up at a dessert that looked like it was something served at a ladies tea. Give us a ringaling or buckeye instead.
But what if I punched up the taste a bit? I quickly considered and dismissed several filling ideas including green tea, coconut, lemon and coffee as too fussy.
When I finally decided on Nutella -- the hazelnut and chocolate spread that I consider to be one of the finest examples of European junk food -- I knew I had a winner. And Nutella is also a modern day convenience food -- another nod to my mom.
Since this quest was in honor of my mom, I used her cream puff recipe from her much thumbed through and splattered cookbook -- the 1963 edition of McCall's Cookbook.
This cream puff recipe is very simple -- just four ingredients: butter, flour, salt and eggs. And no elaborate technique or fancy pastry bags required. If you own a tablespoon and a saucepan you are in business.
The only change I made was to make mini puffs -- or little puffs as they are called in McCall's Cookbook. I used my smallest cookie scoop to place about a teaspoon of dough on my cookie sheet.
For the filling I made a vanilla pudding (or pastry cream) but added two tablespoons of Nutella to the warm milk mixture.
So on Mother's Day 2011 I had a bit of my mom with me as I munched on a cream puff as I headed out the door to a SF Giants baseball game with my husband and daughter -- the perfect Mother's Day.