At the beginning of the year, I had goals. Not resolutions, mind you, but goals. I'm still not really sure what the difference is between the two, but do know that I created a Google doc called "2013 Goals" willed with a series of fitness, financial, travel, and dietary ambitions that I was going to achieve within the year.
Looking through the list, I'm impressed with what I accomplished and amused at what I neglected. I tried being refined sugar-free for one month (spoiler alert: it wasn't for me — guess you could've figured that one out), but never got around to being paleo for another. I'm now able to do full push-ups with no knees (!!) and my chest and nose touching the floor each time (!!!), but my pull-ups are still hilariously terrible even after 2 years of Crossfit.
More impressive, however, were the things that I managed to accomplish without actively being a goal at the start of the year. For instance — I'd initially planned on saving my money for the future, but after watching market and city trends, I decided that it was a better investment to buy my first house. Pretty cool, if maybe a little bit rash in retrospect.
With that in mind and the year coming to a fast close, I decided that maybe it was time to start figuring out my goals for 2014. I opened up a new Google doc and started a new list. Off the top of my head, I wanted to save up money to renovate my kitchen, run a marathon, start freelancing in food photography and travel somewhere I hadn't ever been before. All tough goals, but attainable, right? But then the list kept growing and growing. Before I knew it, I had over 20 bullet points worth of goals.
Looking at the list, I winced. All of this? In a year? Really? Truth be told, it was looking more like a "30 before 30" list... and that was me being kind. Some of the bullet points were even more reminiscent of A 5 Year Plan, or worse, a business plan.
Had I fallen into the busy trap? Did I really need to be this busy, all the time?
Looking back on the year, I spent the majority of my downtime looking at Pinterest and Tumblr. The images that stuck out to me the most were ones of a quiet, idyllic lifestyle — like a picture of a girl wrapped up in a good book, or a rustic landscape from the point of view of a quiet cabin. I remember thinking to myself, somewhat bitterly, that it'd be the dream to someday have that sort of lifestyle — you know, the kind where I wasn't constantly racing from my job to this blog, all the while trying to maintain some semblance of a social life and ensure that I didn't gain 20lbs somewhere along the way. But why can't I have that peaceful, slow-paced lifestyle now? After all, this list of 20+ goals sitting in my laptop in front of me was completely self-imposed. There was absolutely no reason except for my own ambition and neurotic personality... I mean, as good as it was to have goals, maybe I'd gotten a little bit manic about them in the end. Maybe 2014 wasn't the year I was going to achieve things, no — maybe it'll be the year to enjoy them.
So just like that, I highlighted my list and deleted all the items.
And boy, did it feel good.
In honor of this revelation, I spent last weekend gearing up for the holidays by doing almost nothing except for curling up with a mug of tea, a good book, and these chocolate hazelnut cream puffs:
Last month, Frangelico reached out to me to see if I was interested in working together again to create some hazelnut flavored desserts — we'd previously collaborated on this much beloved flourless chocolate hazelnut cake. Truthfully, it's always such a pleasure to work with Frangelico because their hazelnut liqueur goes well with almost any chocolate dessert. I absolutely adore the flavor combination of chocolate and hazelnut, having made a variety of cakes, cupcakes and desserts based on that pairing alone.
These chocolate hazelnut cream puffs, however, are the best iteration of that flavor combination yet:
Filled with chocolate hazelnut whipped cream and topped with a rich, silky chocolate hazelnut ganache, these cream puffs just melt in your mouth. So light and fluffy, each bite almost dissolves in your mouth. This, my friends, is all you need for a life of leisure and a year of enjoyment — a clear calendar, a good book, and a plate of these chocolate hazelnut cream puffs.
Some baker's notes:
- The recipe for cream puffs is actually adapted from my ebook, 12 Days of Christmas Desserts. Check it out! It's available to download for FREE on the blog.
- Cream puffs are made from a pastry dough called pâte à choux, or choux pastry, which is the base dough of baked goods like cream puffs (also known as profiteroles in fancy-talk), eclairs and crullers. Choux pastry consists of nothing but butter, water, flour, eggs and a touch of sugar. The butter, water, and flour are combined and cooked together in a sauce pot to eliminate moisture from the dough so that it can ultimately absorb more fat. If you haven't made choux pastry before, it'll seem strange to combine butter, water and flour and cook it over the stove top, but trust the recipe! It will create a delicious, airy, melt-in-your-mouth eggy dough that won't require any additional leavener to puff up in the oven.
- Traditionally, choux pastry is transferred to a piping bag and piped into shapes (like eclairs or crullers). Cream puffs are thankfully a little more low maintenance — you can use an ice cream scoop with a lever (I think these are technically called cookie scoops) to portion out your dough into even balls. I highly recommend in investing in a cookie scoop — it'll save you both time and a mess in the kitchen.
Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Puffs
For the Profiteroles:
(makes sixteen 2-inch cream puffs)
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
For the Chocolate Hazelnut Whipped Cream Filling:
(enough for sixteen, generously filled 2-inch cream puffs)
- 1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache Topping:
(makes around 1 1/2 cups, enough for sixteen cream puffs)
- 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
For the Profiteroles:
- Preheat oven to 450 (F), placing oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir gently and consistently to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and the mixture is brought to a simmer, lower heat slightly and add 1 cup all-purpose flour all at once. Stir immediately using the heatproof rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. At this point, the mixture will have formed into a glossy and damp mass, and the bottom and sides of the pan should be clean. Continue cooking the dough for another 5 minutes over a low flame, allowing moisture to evaporate. When enough moisture has evaporated, the dough will steam and smell slightly nutty.
- Once the dough is steaming and fragrant, immediately remove pan from heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute to release some of the heat from the cooked dough, before turning down the mixer to its slowest speed and adding 4 eggs, one at a time, only adding the next egg until the previous one is fully incorporated. Stop the mixer between each egg addition to scrape down the bowl. After the last egg, the mixture should be glossy and thick — when scooped with a spoon, the dough should slowly pour off the spoon.
- Use a 3 tablespoon (50mm) cookie dough scoop to portion out dough balls that are about 1 1/2 inches across and 3/4 inches tall. Space each dough ball about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, before rotating the pan from the bottom shelf to the top shelf. Reduce the heat to 350 (F) and bake for another 15 minutes, cracking open the oven door for the first 5 minutes to allow heat to escape and the oven to cool more quickly. When the dough balls are a golden color and crisp on the outside, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the pans, placing each pan on a wire rack.
For the Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Filling:
- Whip 1 1/3 cups heavy cream in a large bowl on medium-speed with a hand mixer or using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Gradually add 3 tablespoons granulated sugar to thicken the mixture, before gradually adding 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Add 2 tablespoons of Frangelico liqueur one tablespoon at a time, before adding 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip until soft peaks form.
- Slice each cream puff open and use a 1 tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion out 2 tablespoons of chocolate hazelnut cream on each cream puff. Gently press the tops of each profiterole onto the cream, creating a kind of cream puff sandwich.
For the Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache Topping:
- Place 4 ounces finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl.
- In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup heavy cream to a gentle boil over medium heat. When the cream is boiling, remove immediately from heat and pour over the finely chopped chocolate, using a whisk to mix the cream into the chocolate until it melts and is a uniform, rich brown color.
- Add 1 tablespoon of Frangelico liqueur and whisk to incorporate into the mixture. Set aside to cool slightly before using by drizzling or scooping over each individual cream puff.