I’m going to try to get through the A’s before August, so expect a few more of these more regularly than in the past (hopefully…) I chose to attempt to make a Croquembouche, because I googled “French and Fancy” desserts and this came up. I ended up making what I’m calling a ‘low-key Croquembouche’ because my skills weren’t quite up to the challenge of the real thing. (I guess I should cut myself some slack, it turned out well and I only set one pan on fire…)
Had I seen this one before?
Nope. I thought I had, but I also thought that Audrey Hepburn was in it. (I think I might have gotten it confused with Funny Face, except that I’ve never seen that either, so who knows…)
Top 3 observations on this viewing?
- I could watch Gene Kelly dance for two straight hours. There isn’t a ton of context/narrative reason for any of his dance sequences in this film, and the last 20 minutes are essentially a dream ballet, but he was so talented that I don’t even care.
2. Oscar Levant is amazing. He was a concert pianist and curmudgeon and he plays a less successful pianist and snarky sidekick. He looks like he was plucked out of a noir film and plopped down in Vicente Minnelli’s Technicolor “Paris.” And watching his reactions to the joy happening around him is just amazing.
3. This movie was stranger and less linear than I was expecting. I mean there’s a dream ballet, and an extended orchestra scene where Levant plays all the instruments and the audience, which has no introduction or context. It’s essentially a proto-juke box musical with Gershwin music, which was ridiculous but also lovely.
What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?
Decision Before Dawn – I’ve never heard of this so I have no idea.
A Place in the Sun – Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor look really great on the poster for this. That’s all I know about it.
Quo Vadis – Seriously no idea what this is. I’m going to assume it’s Roman and move on.
A Streetcar Named Desire – OK, that’s tough. Streetcar is definitely a more compelling story. But it may not be as surprising as a film. But I think Kazan got robbed here.
Bechdel Test Pass?
Nope. There are three women with names that I can think of, and two of them are introduced to each other, but their entire interaction is jealousy over Kelly’s character.
And even if had technically passed, I would have failed it based on the fact that entire plot centers around a man (who though is cute) stalks a young girl (Leslie Caron is 19 here!) despite her repeated clear rejections. But then because Hollywood…she loves him. And poor Milo (played by the lovely Nina Forch) is so routinely mocked and ultimately left lonely without a thought because she dared to “act like a man” in having more money than Jerry (Kelly) and having some sense of independence. It was rather frustrating to watch. I’d rather just watch them dance.
Low-Key Croquembouche (Adapted from this fancier recipe)
Ingredients for Pastry Dough
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup flour
- 6 eggs
Ingredients for Filling
- ¾ cup milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- ¾ teaspoons vanilla
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
Ingredients for caramel
- 1 cup sugar
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Bring butter, salt & ¾ cup water to a boil in a sauce pan
- Remove pan from heat, add flour all at once & stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a thick dough & pulls away from the sides of pan (about 2 minutes)
- Return pan to heat & cook, stirring constantly until dough is light dried (about 2 minutes)
- Beat in 5 eggs one at a time with a wooden spoon
- Dip two spoons in water, shake off excess and scoop a walnut size piece of dough with one spoon
- With the other spoon scrape dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, setting pieces 1in apart on a baking sheet
- Lightly beat last egg & pinch of salt & brush each piece of dough with it
- Bake for 10 min
- Reduce temperature to 350F & bake for 15 min
- Let cool
- For the filling: bring ½ cup milk & sugar to a boil over medium heat
- Meanwhile whisk remaining milk, corn starch, and egg yolks together in a large bowl
- Slowly pour half the hot milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly
- Return mixture to sauce pan & cook stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens & just returns to a boil
- Stir in vanilla and transfer to a bowl
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled
- In a large bowl beat butter on medium with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy
- Add cold filling and beat until smooth and fluffy (about 4 minutes)
- If you have a working pastry bag (mine broke halfway through) pipe filling through the bottom of the cream puffs. (If you don’t just rip them open a bit and spoon the filling in)
- For the caramel: place sup of sugar with ¼ cup of water in a shallow saucepan and stir to combine
- Cover & cook over medium heat until sugar turns light amber (be vigilant about this, it may burn to a horrible black color and fill your apartment with smoke – just hypothetically)
- Remove from heat
- Using tongs dip puffs in caramel and place them on a tray in a cone shape
- Serve within four hours