At one of my final appointments before having Hallie, my doctor asked if I worked. I told her that I work from home designing blogs and writing one myself. She then asked if I had adequate childcare lined up. “Well…me,” I replied. She snickered and told me to line up extra care stat. She also told me how to up my dessert game with a newborn. Her secret: puff pastry.
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I didn’t heed her childcare advice, though I should have. That’s a long story for another day. But I did take her dessert advice. “Pick up high-quality puff pastry from the store,” she said. “Cut it out, score it, give it a nice egg wash, and sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar. While that’s baking, cut up your fresh berries. Sprinkle with a little sugar and set aside. Just before serving, make homemade whipped cream. It’s so simple and fresh. Even my Parisian friend approves.” I’d just finished readingBringing up Bébé, so I soaked up every word, hoping I’d turn into Pamela Druckerman, the author best described as a sophisticated, laid back, Parisian by address, mother.
I’m not sure Pamela would have passed me in her lesson on pausing. French mothers practice much restraint before picking up their crying baby. It teaches them to self-sooth. I thought I was doing great until Kevin recapped our nights. From 10 pm–7 am, I turned into a robot. Before the first crack of her cry, I’d pop out of bed to feed her. In my defense, I was certain she’d been crying for hours. I am was a heavy sleeper.
But what I lacked in restraint, I made up for at mealtimes. The book is packed away in a box right now, but I’m fairly certain all pages regarding food are dog-eared. I fell in love with the French philosophy. Food, though nourishing, is also meant to be social and shared around a table. Three meals and one snack are sufficient; a little anticipation is a good thing. Vegetables and/or fruit serve as the first course. And desserts and sweet treats are allowed in the context of set mealtimes.
So we bought Hallie a chair that pulls up to the table. Kev called it pricey; I called it an investment. As soon as she started eating table food, she ate with us. Her fine motor skills trumped her gross motor skills, so she was particularly good at feeding herself early on. We kept and still keep to a meal schedule, though somehow she weasels in an additional snack when her daddy gets home from work. And dessert, that’s a prime tool we use around here to influence behavior, especially her vegetable eating behavior.
Mealtimes are filled with lots of rules these days. Aside from the aforementioned, we have rules like: no throwing food on the floor, no standing in your chair, and say please (or as she says, peeeaasss). These rules aren’t meant to stifle. They’re meant to keep things sacred.
Meaningful conversations aren’t happening around the table right now, but we’re creating a space for it. And if serving dessert means we’ll stay here a bit longer, so be it.
This dessert is simple yet elegant like that black dress in your closet. Serve it with the finest seasonal fruit. And if working with flour and butter is your favorite, you can make your own puff pastry ahead of time with this recipe from Ashley of Not Without Salt.
1 sheet of all-butter puff pastry*, thawed
1 large egg
coarse sugar for sprinkling
6 large strawberries (one for each)
1 tbsp. pure cane sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream, chilled
1 tbsp. powdered sugar
fresh mint (optional)
Thaw 1 sheet of puff pastry. About an hour before serving, roll out sheet to 1/4″ thick, dusting with flour as needed. Line baking sheet with parchment or Silpat. Using a 3″ biscuit cutter, cut out 6 circles and place on baking sheet. Score each pastry round with a smaller biscuit cutter. (This will allow you to create a bowl from your puff pastry once baked.) In a small bowl, whisk egg. Lightly brush on to edges of the pastry. Sprinkle liberally with coarse sugar (like turbinado). Preheat even to 450 degrees. While preheating, place baking sheet in freezer for about 10 minutes. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until very golden. Cool on baking sheet and set aside.
While the puff pastry bakes, lightly chop strawberries into a bowl. Add sugar. Stir and set aside. The strawberries will macerate, or release their juices.
Just before serving, make whipped cream. Using an electric mixer (this can be done by hand as well) pour cream into a bowl and whip until frothy. Add in powdered sugar. Continue mixing until soft peaks hold.
To serve, place puff pastry on a plate. Carefully press in the center circle to create a bowl. Top with strawberries and whipped cream. Add a sprig of fresh mint if desired. Serve.
* Making puff pastry, or a “quick” puff pastry is surprisingly easy. I follow Not Without Salt’s recipe with step-by-step images. I typically half her recipe, leaving me with about 2 sheets of puff pastry—one for now and one to freeze for later.