CULLMAN, Ala. – As COVID-19 puts more people at home and not at work, charitable and relief agencies can struggle to keep up with needs. In Cullman, two up-and-coming young chefs are battling the monotony of stay-at-home orders while they help raise money for United Way of Cullman County’s COVID-19 response fund.
Eglantine and Sidonie Desnoës, who are students at Cullman High School, offered the community an introduction to their plan:
“My sister and I are French and American, before moving to Cullman we lived in France and our favorite thing about the country is probably the food. We actually learned a lot about cooking and eating with our French grand-mother who loves to cook and our grand-father who loves to eat. In these difficult times we decided to share with you some recipes borrowed from our grand-mother’s kitchen and inspired by distinguished French chefs such as Gerard Mulot and Joel Robuchon. We are also sharing these delicious recipes with you in the hope that you can donate to the United Way of Cullman County’s COVID-19 Community response fund and help other less fortunate families through this Covid-19 crisis.”
The young chefs will focus their recipe series on French pastries and desserts, along with a few savory dishes like ratatouille.
On Sunday afternoon, The Tribune spoke with Eglantine and Sidonie Desnoës about their project.
What gave you the idea?
Eglantine Desnoës said, “We’ve been baking a lot over the past few weeks when we’ve been at home all this extra time. We were baking so much, and we realized they were French recipes that most people may not know here. We wanted to share them, but we also wanted to help with everything that was going on, so our parents kind of helped us have this idea, and then we contacted United Way.”
Were you already cooking before now?
Eglantine Desnoës answered, “Sidonie cooks a lot all the time, and she always has, but I’m just more starting now and I’m helping her with everything she needs, cooking-wise, and I’m doing the recipes and the computer work behind it.”
Sidonie Desnoës added, “This is usually what we cook. It’s just French recipes that we can’t really find here, that we would usually be able to find easily in France.”
What do you hope to see people get from this project?
Sidonie Desnoës responded, “We hope they learn new recipes, maybe, and they can donate to the United Way.”
Eglantine Desnoës added, “The only thing we’re trying to get out of it is just really to encourage people to donate to the COVID-19 community response fund at United Way, and help them raise money for food. And that’s really what’s motivating us.”
The culinary duo kicked off their series with a pastry called a Profiterole:
“We have been eating profiteroles at home, in restaurants and with our grandparents ever since we can remember. We decided to begin our series of recipes with this classic dessert, because we love them and thought that you would love them too. A profiterole is a French puff pastry, typically filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate and sometimes also with whipped cream… It is a delicious, elegant and easy dessert to prepare. This recipe is fun to make and to share with the family.”
The chefs shared their first recipe:
- [To make] about 2 cups of batter (15 puff pastries): 1 cup water, 6 tablespoons of butter, a pinch of salt, 1 pinch of nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 4 eggs
- vanilla ice cream
- 5 oz. of dark chocolate or semisweet (chocolate chips work well)
- wooden spoon, medium size heavy bottom saucepan, baking sheet, pastry bag ideally with a 3/4-inch round tube opening (a spoon would also work), pastry brush
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, introduce a cup of water, 6 tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces, the salt, the nutmeg, and the teaspoon of sugar. Stir every so often while bringing to a boil for 5 seconds.
Take the saucepan off the flame and immediately pour in all of the flour at once. Beat for about a minute until blended thoroughly.
Place saucepan back on moderately high heat, stir until mixture forms a mass (should take no more than 2 minutes) Remove the saucepan from the heat. Form a well in the center of the mixture. Break an egg into the middle of the well and beat it into the paste until it is homogeneous (should only take a few seconds). Then, add second egg to the mixture and beat again until homogeneous. Break the third and fourth eggs in a separate bowl and whisk. Add these last two eggs slowly and in small increments while beating the mixture until reaching the desired consistency (may not need all of the last egg). The consistency needs to be smooth with a glossy sheen.
Then, use a pastry bag with a 3/4-inch round tube opening to squeeze the paste onto baking sheets. Hold the pastry bag upright when piping. If you do not have a pastry bag, you can use a spoon to scoop the dough on the baking sheets. Form mounds with a diameter of about 2 inches and about 1 inch tall. Use a pastry brush dipped in beaten egg (there should be some left over from the 3d and 4th eggs) to glaze the top of each mound and round them off slightly.
Place the baking sheets in a preheated, 425-degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. The puffs should increase in size and lightly brown during this time. Then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and poke 2 to 3 holes in each puff using a toothpick. Then return the puffs to the hot turned off oven for 10 minutes, leaving the door of the oven ajar.
Then remove the baking sheets from the oven. Cut each puff in half horizontally. Gently scoop out the uncooked center. Let the halves sit so that they can cool and crisp.
Melt the dark chocolate in a saucepan.
Finally, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream in between the two parts of each puff and pour the melted dark chocolate on top.
Proud mom Brooke Desnoës told The Tribune, “We are grateful we no longer live in Europe and in a big city, but in a small town like Cullman where everyone has been very mindful in times of hardships.
“Also, this pandemic that resulted in isolation, gives us time to think and slow down and put things into perspective. We are often hearing about grand concepts aimed at saving the world, but as a family we realize that perhaps the only way we can help the world is by helping our neighbors first and spread help and friendship outward with simple gestures.
“These recipes are also a way for Sidonie and Eglantine to connect with their other culture, French cooking and their grand-parents as well. Their grandmother who taught them cooking is now 87 and is having to do her daily shopping for herself and their grandfather as they are confined in an apartment in Paris with no help around them. And I believe that this situation has also made them appreciate how important it is to help each other.
“They are hoping that other families will spend time in their kitchens having fun and that these recipes will also be a reminder that other families are less fortunate than we are.”
On Monday afternoon, UWCC Executive Director Becky Goff told The Tribune, “We are thrilled to partner with Brooke Desnoes and her daughters. Brooke is part of our Women United Board. We appreciate Eglantine and Sidonie for using their gifts and talents to do their part to help United Way and our community during this time where we have been asked to shelter in place.
“We hope that through their passion for cooking, they will shed light on the need to continue to support our effort to keep families stable and provide resources to help. Young adults who volunteer with United Way allow us to broaden our reach in the community and we hope they will encourage their peers to come up with other creative ways to support and inspire our community.”
The chefs concluded their recipe introduction with a call to “Cook, enjoy, stay safe and be generous!”
What else is happening at UWCC?
Goff shared, “Our grant applications opened today and are available on our website at uwaycc.org. We have already had a number of local nonprofits reach out to request assistance. We need the community’s help to raise donations to meet those needs. United Way has committed $5,000 and we have received $4,000 in pledges to the Community Relief Fund. In order to meet all the requests, we are receiving, we need help. Donations can be made on our website at uwaycc.org
“Today (Monday) we launch our food drive at Warehouse Discount Groceries Highway 157 and Town Center, Dollar General in Hancevillle and Hopper Family Grocery in Fairview. We are proud to partner with Coke, who has made this food drive possible. While you are shopping at these locations, you can donate items to help local food pantries. We are also coordinating with Cullman Middle School to have a food drop off location on Thursday.”
For more information on UWCC’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund or to make a contribution, visit www.uwaycc.org.
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