a review of grace’s sweet life {and chocolate éclairs}

. . .

chocolate éclairs | movita beaucoup | book review

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I might like to review Grace’s Sweet Lifea book dedicated to Italian desserts. Let me emphasize: Italian desserts. Book reviews aren’t really the sort of thing I do round here, but because I follow Grace’s blog, and she’s a fellow Canuck, I accepted. Also, IT’S ABOUT ITALIAN DESSERTS.

Grace Massa Langlois has been blogging about livin’ the sweet Italian life for a couple of years now. And now she’s got this cookbook. If you’re looking for one of those over-exposed, highly propped and styled coffee table cookbooks, this isn’t it. This book belongs in your kitchen, and the photos represent what you’ll have on your table at the end of the day. Loads of desserts, from the basics to the downright fancy. I took a lot of time to decide which recipe to try, and finally settled on éclairs. Because I’ve never made them, and because éclairs are a combination of three recipes, which is always a good test. Also, I really wanted to eat a lot of éclairs.

I began by making the choux pastry. It came together very easily, and 2.0 said that I looked like a real, live, professional baker. Without the hat. Once out of the oven, the eclairs seemed… small. But then I remembered that Europeans are terribly sophisticated, and eat proper human portions. They probably don’t supersize anything. Except art.

chocolate éclairs | movita beaucoup | book review

Now, I’m not against flipping back and forth in a book for recipes within recipes, but the recipe for the pastry cream required you to use one of three variations of the original recipe, and then there was a variation on that variation. It was a tiny adjustment, but I’m basically an idiot, and at that point I’m thinking: cut and paste. Just cut and paste the recipe onto the éclair page for me. But I got over it. I got over it because I still really wanted to eat éclairs.

So, when making the pastry cream, I was very, very careful. Because I was making that variation of a variation of a recipe that I mentioned. And if I had to nitpick, I’d say that there weren’t really any notes on texture and consistency in this recipe. Had I stopped cooking my mixture at the end of the time stated in the recipe, I would have been piping soup into my éclairs. But because I knew that the filling would need to be thicker, I continued to cook it. For way longer. Until it seemed right. The extended cooking time could be down to a temperature variation with my ancient stove. But I think a wee note regarding consistency might have been useful. Because there are so many variables in a home cook’s kitchen. Should the filling be soupish or like a pudding? Aaaaaand now I’m thinking about how I write my own recipes… I’m going to watch out for that.

chocolate éclairs | movita beaucoup | book review

But let me tell you something about the pastry cream. I would happily eat a bucket of it. It was amazing. I’m planning to make it again – to eat on its own, topped with some fruit. It was divine. So were the éclairs. They were really, really good. And I felt like a superstar when I saw them all on my counter. It was so satisfying. And a number of reviewers have stated the same thing – the end results in this book are pretty awesome.

Bottom line: this book might not be for a total newbie to baking. But for a home baker with some experience? Someone who likes a slightly more complicated recipe? I’d grab it. Dude, it’s very reasonably priced. And when you’re baking you can sing the titles of the recipes real loud so you sound Italian(ish).

My pal, Isabelle, over at Crumb (a most wicked-awesome blog), has also reviewed Grace’s Sweet Life. She did a great job of describing the contents of Grace’s book in detail, so if you’d like to know a little more about the book, you could head over there.

Also, if you click the links at the bottom of this post, you can download the recipes to make your own éclairs. The publisher of Grace’s book was kind enough to share it with you. And just above the recipes you can see a photo of Grace’s éclairs. I asked if I could show it to you, because her éclairs are really pretty. And some of mine had… horns.

Also, just so you know: I received a complimentary copy of the book for reviewing purposes, and will receive no monetary compensation for this review or any sales of the book. Any opinions expressed in this review are exclusively mine. Who else would write this way?

. . .

Grace’s Èclairs (photo by Liana Massa Langlois):

grace's éclairs - photo by liana massa langlois - grace's sweet life

Click below for recipes by Grace Massa Langlois, which can also be found in Grace’s Sweet Life.

Èclairs al Cioccolato con Crema Pasticcera (Chocolate Éclairs with Pastry Cream) – Master Recipe

Pasta Choux (Choux Pastry) Recipe

Crema Pasticcera (Pastry Cream) Recipe

31 Responses to a review of grace’s sweet life {and chocolate éclairs}

  1. annewoodman July 9, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    I’m salivating. It’s been a loooooong time since I had an eclair. And although I’ve baked a whole lot of things in my life, I’m sensing that eclairs might be outside the realm of achievable for me. I will look at your photos and drool.

    And then go buy one at our local French bakery. Yum!

    • movita beaucoup July 13, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      I was pretty panicked when I started making them. And you know what? They weren’t that hard to make. So now I’m thinking I should be eating them EVERY DAY!

  2. Lan | angry asian July 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    They probably don’t supersize anything. Except art.

    aptly put.

    i appreciate that you aren’t overly glowing in reviewing, it’s an honest critique and one that is beneficial – it’s good to know that it requires one to flip back & forth between pages etc.

    • movita beaucoup July 13, 2012 at 10:55 am #

      The page flipping was totally worth it…

  3. spree July 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    I haven’t thought of eclairs in sooo long and now I won’t be able to stop til I eat one (some). Aren’t they the kind of dessert you just have to m o a n through? I love that in a dessert.

    • movita beaucoup July 15, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      This morning I actually moaned that I didn’t have enough pastry cream in my belly. It was very, very sad.

  4. thekalechronicles July 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    “But then I remembered that Europeans are terribly sophisticated, and eat proper human portions.” Yep. And they aren’t there in your kitchen to stop you scarfing down the entire batch (unless your French relations are visiting). But scarf them properly, si’l vous plait, with a linen napkin and a dessert knife, fork and spoon (for stray pastry cream). If you hadn’t eaten them all, I would be over to help.

    • movita beaucoup July 15, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      Why must the French be so awesome?Sigh…

  5. frugalfeeding July 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Italian desserts are the best! Those eclairs also look rather good 😀

  6. Gary July 9, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    You love making cakes. Next step on this might be using the choux and pastry cream to make cream puffs and along with some caramel build yourself a Croquembouche – a French wedding cake made of cream puffs stacked into a conical tower. I tried it recently and I was too rushed on my caramel glue stacking and it was a bit lopsided but a lot of fun and GREAT to eat – just peel a cream puff off the “tree”!
    Love you blog, your outlook, your humor. Thanks.

    Gary

    • movita beaucoup July 13, 2012 at 10:56 am #

      Dear Gary,

      A TOWER OF CREAM PUFFS? A tree held together with CARAMEL GLUE?

      You totally get me.

      Love from,
      movita

  7. musingmar July 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Thank you for the introduction to a blogger new to me, and to a new cookbook! I appreciated the candour of your review, too. The eclairs look delectable, and inspire me to check out the cookbook. By the way, isn’t it fun to say ‘choux pastry’? I haven’t made choux pastry in years, not that I’ve been eschewing choux or anything like that.

    • movita beaucoup July 15, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      I think I’ve said “choux pastry” every day this week. It really does sound terribly fancy, and once you get going, it’s fairly easy to work into almost any conversation…

  8. DogsDontPurr July 10, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    When I was growing up, there was a lady in our trailer park (Yes, Trailer Park….shut yo mouf!!) who used to bring my family treats from the bakery counter at a fancy store in downtown Seattle once a year. (Forgive me if I’ve told this story before.) She always brought an entire multi-layer German chocolate cake, 2lbs of See’s Candies, a box of Napoleons, and a box of eclairs.

    We were only a family of four. No wonder most of us are diabetic now! But she was elderly, and she loved my dad for taking care of her….and our family was really the only family she had by then.

    But, because of her, I learned to bake. (I can’t cook dinner to save my soul, but dessert…yes!) One of the first things I learned to make was profiteroles…similar to a cream puff, and close to an eclair as well. Once I got over the fear of making pate au choux….the rest was history. Love!

    But again, don’t ask me to make you dinner. If I can bake it, I can make it: but if I have to fry it, I won’t try it!

    • movita beaucoup July 15, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      If I can bake it, I can make it, but if I have to fry it, I won’t try it. That’s my new mantra. Maybe I’ll get it embroidered onto a shirt!

      Oh how I love that story up above! Funny how those things are so vivid in our memories. I can remember a Tim Horton’s opening up in our town, and I thought it was heaven. My dad would go out on Saturday mornings and get us chocolate dipped donuts. MAGIC! I still adore donuts, and they always make me think of Bill Beaucoup!

  9. Ann July 10, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    Those are gorgeous…… The last time I made eclairs, I gave WAY to many away, and only had like 6 to myself. I should have had all 24, honwstly. My stomach needs that many. Imma do it right this time, though. 🙂 This post has inspired me to rectify the wrong I’ve suffered.

    • movita beaucoup July 15, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      I gave some eclairs to two sets of neighbours. 2.0 was VERY UPSET. So, it was a wrong that I should probably set right. Imma gunna get on it!

      • The Neighbour August 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

        OK, I’ma little late to the party here…..did you convince 2.0 that he didn’t really NEED the eclairs that were given away? And that you enjoyed making them soooo much, and are such a pro at it, you can whip them up in a heartbeat 🙂

  10. Isabelle @ Crumb July 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Thanks for giving my review a shout-out, Movita… it gives me the warm fuzzies.
    I have to say, your eclairs look rather pretty (prettier than my own puny attempts, anyway), and I’m sure they tasted even better than they look. Good on you for taking on a challenge!
    PS – The other thing Europeans don’t make in small sizes? Freakin’ cathedrals. Them things are humongous.

  11. Rock Salt July 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    I keep meaning to try eclairs, I feel very motivated to do it soon. I reckon I could eat six or so in one go…

  12. Maureen (@OrgasmicChef) July 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I haven’t made eclairs for a long time but I’m definitely inspired to make some and also to check out this book!

  13. wendy@chezchloe July 11, 2012 at 1:38 am #

    I find home made eclairs very special. Yours look perfect 🙂

  14. Just A Smidgen July 11, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    I love Italian Desserts. I love Italian Desserts that turn out and look like they’re supposed to. Well done!! I’ll go have a look at her cookbook and blog:D

  15. emma July 11, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Cookbooks like this should have fold out pages, similar to what I imagine a book maze would look like, that you have to follow in order to complete the steps in a complex recipe. Mmm, book maze.

    Europeans also like to supersize their attitudes.

    • movita beaucoup July 15, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      Shannon has some great ideas for your spare time below. Please have something drafted immediately.

  16. shannon July 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    …and now i desperately want Emma to write a cookbook maze book with foldout pages. maybe she could make it like those books you read as a kid which had different endings depending on decisions you made. like, “you just finished making your eclair pastry: do you make pastry cream the regular way or try the variation on the variation? flip to page 34. whoops; you fell in the well. wrong decision.”

    i just made pastry cream on vacation. it filled a tart and we topped it fresh berries. ergo, you must have been reading my thoughts. the recipe i was following also didn’t make any notes regarding consistency, and i also chose too cook it for way longer because i was concerned it wasn’t thick enough. i could have eaten pastry cream for days; weeks, even. just by itself. but i really wish i had had these eclairs to stuff it in. because they look gorgeous, and light, and perfect.

    seriously, we need to think about mail order pastries between the two of us. you know, for educational purposes.

    • movita beaucoup July 15, 2012 at 9:28 am #

      Best idea for a cookbook EVER. Seriously. I’m going to have to contact some editors on Monday…

      Also, mail order pastries? Genius. This vacation you’re on has made you some sort of super-human.

    • emma July 16, 2012 at 7:42 am #

      10-4. It will be called Choose Your Own Bakery Adventure, of course.

      “Do you eat the pastry cream in great globs with your hand or continue to make éclairs with it? Continue to make éclairs? Flip to page 18. Oh, dear. The wizard appears and hexes away your finished product! Your adventure ends here.”

  17. cravingsofalunatic July 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    Please make these for me next year when I visit. That is all.

  18. movita beaucoup December 2, 2015 at 7:38 am #

    Comments are now closed as this post was published in July 2012. Thanks for stopping by!

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