parisian hot chocolate

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In my last post I chatted about the events leading up to Andy and me deciding to take a trip to Paris and I made French meringues. In this post, I’m going to talk about my five favorite things about Paris and make one of my favorites…hot chocolate.

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My Five Favorite Things About Paris:

1. The slowness. It sounds funny that I would be commenting on the slowness, considering that there are millions of people in Paris and it’s one of the most well-known cities in the world. What we noticed, however, was that people much more loved the experience of an event rather than the task of getting the event done. For example, in every restaurant we went in, the people around us had obviously been there a long time. There were multiple glasses on the tables with almost empty bottles of wine scattered about. No one was on a smartphone. Everyone was slightly slouched in their chairs, making eye contact with one another, making conversation with one another, laughing, or simply resting in that silence that so many of us categorize as awkward. Eating dinner was not a task (“let’s eat this and get on to the next thing”); dinner was an experience. An experience to be shared with those around you. With the restaurant. With the city. It was a beautiful thing.

2. Versailles. We made the train ride out to Versailles one morning after very poorly trying to kick each other out of the bed super early (changing time zones will do it to you). It was cold and raining and crowded. But it was perfect. That place was spectacular. The palace itself was breathtaking, but the grounds were immaculate, like seeing Augusta National in a different form. Plus, I’m a history nerd and have a strange fascination with Marie Antoinette, so seeing the Petit Trianon and her hamlet gave me a strange/haunting/longing feeling of being in a nostalgic hot air balloon that floated me back in time.

3. The baguettes. The baguettes. Oh, the baguettes. Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Oomph. That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Flea Markets. I’m sort of a flea market/thrift store/yard sale junkie anyway, so experiencing it in Paris was like a dream. We spent a lot of time at the Port de Vanves market, which was quaint and relatively tucked away from the rest of the city (yet still large). I could have strolled all day. Each vendor had tables filled with vintage French treasures that would be way more expensive in the United States. Paintings, posters, flatware, clothing. Gah. Everything was beautiful. We left with a vintage coffee advertisement, a Sharpie drawing of Amsterdam (which at the time I thought was Paris, don’t ask), a cup and saucer, and a wool toy lamb for my niece.

5. Hot Chocolate. I probably had 20 cups of hot chocolate during our 8-day trip. I’m not lying. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to and one of the things I will remember most fondly. There was no powder mix to be found and the presentation of it was, once again, an experience. It was usually brought out on a small tray with a little pot of chocolate and a miniature pitcher of steaming milk, allowing you to mix it to your liking. It was deep and delicious. I never had a bad cup. And it was the perfect way to enjoy a bit of evening resting at a cafe while watching the scooters and people pass by.

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parisian hot chocolate
(this recipe is David Lebovitz’s. honestly, the majority of our trip was planned by using his website. we found the best restaurants, pastries, you name it. if you’re planning a trip to Paris, use his site. seriously.)
serves 4

ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
5 grams high-quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped

create:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until hot, but not boiling. Whisk in the chocolate and continue whisking until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is hot and steaming. Serve hot.

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french meringues with grapefruit curd

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A little over five years ago I remember sitting in Andy’s old house talking about where we were going on our honeymoon. We had been engaged only a few weeks and we both had pretty drastic ideas of the vacation we wanted (jessa=new york city, andy=riding a donkey to the bottom of the Grand Canyon). Since they were both so different, we started thinking of places that may be a compromise. I remember saying, “What about Paris?” and it sounded so magical and perfect for a honeymoon. Turns out, however, that traveling abroad is rather expensive. So, we didn’t end up going to Europe. We did end up going to NYC (I promise there was no arm twisting on my part) and, since then, we’ve always sort of jokingly said, “Yeah, har har, we’ll go to Paris for our 5 year, har.”

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Fast forward five years. This past summer we spent a lot of time trying to plan our anniversary trip. The destination varied greatly depending on the day: the mountains, LA, Disney World (because we’re dorks), going back to NYC, Alaska, etc. etc. One night we were sitting on the couch and a thought popped into my head. “Hey. Paris. That’s right…Paris!” And I turned my head toward Andy and bit my lip and sorta giggled (a look that can never mean anything good) and said, “Andy…what about Paris?” And we looked at each other for a few seconds and he said, “Yeah, we can think about that.” And my heart spun around in all directions and I floated to my bed for a night of dream-filled slumber.

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I’ll never forget the day that Andy told me he wanted to take me to Paris and that we could make it happen. Our trip was magical. In reality, Paris is just a city. Made of buildings. And pedestrians. And vendors. And restaurants. But to two people who had never before experienced it, it was a grand adventure. I’ll post more later on some of our favorite things, but for this first post, I wanted to try my hand at making meringues. We had one in Paris that was the size of my head and it was light and crisp and gooey. These meringues are just that, but they incorporate some citrus curd to make it a little less traditional.

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french meringues with grapefruit curd
recipe adapted from all recipes & zoe bakes

ingredients:
meringue:
4 egg whites, room temperature
2 1/4 cups unrefined powdered sugar, sifted

grapefruit curd:
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 tbsp grapefruit zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

create:
Preheat oven to 200ยบ. Prep 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
To make the meringue, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until foamy. On medium speed, add the powdered sugar a little at a time until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny.
Using 2 spoons, place globs on meringue onto the prepared baking sheets (about 2 tablespoons each). Rinse one of the spoons and use it to make a well in the middle of each meringue (this space will hold the curd once they are cooked). Place in the oven with a wooden spoon in the door so the oven door doesn’t close all the way. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, turn off the oven, leave them there, and let them rest for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool completely.
While the meringues are cooking, make the curd. In the top of a double boiler over medium heat (the bottom pan will have an inch of simmering water), whisk together the egg yolks, egg, sugar, grapefruit juice, and zest until well combined. Whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken (this can take between 5 and 10 minutes) and add the butter. Whisk until the butter is incorporated and the mixture has thickened enough that it can coat the back of a spoon (coat the spoon and draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger. If the mixture is thick enough, the line will stay put).
Strain the curd through a sieve into another container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming). Put the curd in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool (but not to freeze).
Spoon the cooled curd into the cooled meringues and serve immediately.

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