How a Cream Puff Nearly Killed Me (but was totally worth it)

Bonjour! Merci! Pomme de terre (potato)! That is almost the entirety of the French I remember from high school, but that did not stop me from taking my petit vocabulary and heading to Paris in 2020. I know what you might be thinking, “A trip to Paris? In 2020? But How??” Well, it was a different time. In early March 2020, COVID-19 was beginning to become a concern. However, there were no travel advisories for the United States and France, no CDC mask guidance and I had a nonrefundable trip (learn from my mistakes and always get travel insurance in case there is a global pandemic). So, I flew to France to have my next adventure.

Photo: 10 minutes after the pigeon pooped on my head

It was certainly a trip that I will never forget. I was able to see the Mona Lisa up close at the Louvre since a lot of people, who were much wiser than me and got travel insurance, cancelled their trips. I discovered my love for Monet at the Musée d'Orsay. I did a phone interview for an internship while I was at Disneyland Paris. A pigeon pooped on my head ten minutes before I was going to take my Instagram-worthy picture in front of the Eiffel Tower (I ran a wet wipe through my hair and still took that photo). My travel companion waited on hold for six hours trying to change our flight as both the United States and France began to lock down (if it had been up to me to wait on the phone that long we would probably still be in Paris).


One very important thing happened while I was in Paris: COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. While I was surrounded by people on the Metro, I started feeling more and more nervous about the situation. There was still so much that we did not know about COVID-19 at the time. One of the things that has remained constant throughout this whole experience is the importance of washing your hands. In Paris, I was armed with my Bath & Body Works hand sanitizer and that wet wipe I had to use to wipe bird poop out of my hair to protect me from an incredibly serious virus. You can imagine my increasing anxiety. Hand sanitizer can be incredibly effective, but you have to actually use it…


One day, we boarded the metro on our way to a bakery that was supposed to have incredible cream puffs. Imagine me touching everything: the pole, the bars, the door, etc. When we got to the bakery, I was so excited to try this cream puff that I basically inhaled it (it was delicious). What happened next still makes me cringe. I felt my hands coming up towards my face and couldn’t stop myself before I LICKED MY FINGERS! Every germ-y thing I had just touched started to flash before my eyes. I frantically started to look around as if there was something that was going to help me now. I started eyeing the dirty puddle of water on the street like maybe the germs would cancel each other out (PSA: Do not drink dirty puddle water) before finally accepting my fate.


Fortunately for me, all the dirt I rolled around in as a child helped my immune system fight off all of those germs and I lived to tell the tale. Now, I wash my hands all the time and try really hard to keep my hands away from my face.


In honor of the delicious cream puff I thought would do me in, please enjoy this recipe for Strawberry Cream Puff Cake.* I did not know where to begin to make cream puffs, so this recipe is adapted from Rie Mclenny at Tasty. You can check out the original recipe, here.


* I thought it was important to share with you that I did sustain some bruises while making this recipe. I was whisking and walking around when I ran into the wall. I hit the wall with quite a bit of force because for a few minutes I did think I had broken my arm. Let this be a lesson to all, do not whisk and walk.


 

Strawberry Cream Puff Cake



Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

  • 3 teaspoons sugar

For Custard

  • 2 egg yolks

  • ⅓ cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup milk

  • 6 strawberries, sliced

Procedure

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar until pale yellow in color.

  2. Add cornstarch and whisk well. Add the vanilla extract and milk. Whisk well.

  3. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a taped plastic bag if, like me, you do not have plastic wrap) and microwave for 2 minutes.

  4. Remove from the microwave and stir. Microwave for an additional 2 minutes. Remove plastic and stir.

  5. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  6. Cut the thawed puff pastry into two equal-sized rectangles.

  7. Pierce each piece of puff pastry with a fork.

  8. Heat a nonstick pan over low heat. Place the puff pastry in the pan and cook for 10 minutes.

  9. Flip the puff pastry sheets, and place a lid on the top of the pan. Cook for 10 minutes.

  10. Remove the lid and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar on puff pastry. Flip the pastry over so the sugared side is on the bottom.

  11. Bring the heat up to high. Place a piece of parchment paper over the puff pastry and weigh it down with another pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, remove from heat and let cool on a cooling rack.

  12. Pipe the custard on one sheet of puff pastry. Top with a layer of sliced strawberries. Pipe another row of custard and top with another layer of sliced strawberries and the other sheet of puff pastry.

  13. Dust the top with powdered sugar and enjoy!