Faithful Food: A Love Note from the Almighty

by Kim Long

February guides us into the season of Ordinary Time. We find ourselves counting, marking time, and more or less going from one week to another, one lesson to the next, a time when Christ, the Lamb of God, walks among us and transforms our lives. Each calendar month and liturgical season has its challenges and opportunities. February is no exception.

In my elementary school days, February’s standard practice involved decorating a shoebox with hearts and cupids. Our mothers’ ironclad instructions that every classmate receive a card were obeyed, and the next day during the school party we reveled in the fact that we had mail… and lots of it! Amid pink iced cupcakes and candy hearts, we enjoyed the love of friends, the innocence of childhood, and the caring touch of parents providing treats. With petty playground disputes momentarily cast aside, we were transformed.

One way my family showed their love for us was through food and its glorious presentation. When they quietly created an involved dish and brought it forth to the table, they were showering us with love. My mother’s homemade beef stroganoff was a nice companion to my grandmother’s flaming desserts, but it was my Aunt Carolyn who took this to a different level. She had the patience to take things at a slower pace, and through the years brought to our table a series of real show-stoppers.

One of these show-stopping desserts was a plate of simple cream puffs piled high with drama and spun sugar, which tasted heavenly. Later I learned its formal name, Croquembouche.
As Valentine’s Day falls in the season of Ordinary Time and I reflected on the element of transformation, I was led to the scriptures, and surprisingly it was not the Song of Songs with its unapologetic and exuberant celebration of love I turned to, rather a passage from the Revelation of St. John: “For I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1). A bit later the writer assures us “that God is making all things new.” This passage seemed a natural sequel to the madness of a January filled with its resolutions. Transformation is defined as a thorough or a dramatic change in form or experience. I crave that with a hunger that no candy, flowers or cards can satisfy. And in this passage, which is usually read at funerals, I find a love note from the Almighty. If we are open, they are abundant, they are everywhere; in a smile, a beautiful sunset, the food we serve, and even at a long-ago classroom party. I pray to be open in February and beyond.

Mrs. Redditt’s Cream Puff Recipe

Ingredients:
•  ¼ cup of butter (unsalted)
•  ½ cup boiling water
•  ½ cup flour (plain)
•  2 eggs, unbeaten

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In pan over medium heat, add butter to water and heat until butter melts.

3) Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until ball forms in the center of the pan.

4) Remove from fire and let cool slightly.

5) Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition.

6) Drop by spoonfuls on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. When cool, fill with pudding or cream.

Pudding
I used Godiva instant pudding mix, dark chocolate and white chocolate in two batches. The box called for two cups of milk, but I used one cup of milk and one cup of heavy whipping cream. Chill until ready to fill puffs. When ready, spoon pudding into a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip.

Syrup
Ingredients:
•  2 cups sugar
•  ⅔ cup water
•  2 tablespoons corn syrup

Directions:
1) Add all ingredients to a heavy pot. Bring to a boil and do not stir.

2) Cover pan with lid for 2-3 minutes, the steam will dissolve any sugar crystals.

3) Uncover and boil for about five minutes, or until syrup turns amber.
Remove from heat.

Croquembouche
Directions:
1) You will need to work quickly. Dip the bottom of each puff into the syrup and place on a cake stand. You are making a tower of puffs so I used a smaller diameter plate so my puffs would stack taller. Continue dipping and stacking until all puffs are used.

2) Take a fork or a metal whisk with the end snipped off and the whisk opened up to resemble a cage. Dip fork or whisk into syrup and twirl it over the tower of puffs to form a sugar web around it. This has to be done quickly, as the syrup cools it hardens.

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