High society, a drunken rehearsal dinner, tabloid reporters, wedding hangovers, a last minute twist, and the word “yar,” are some of the reasons why The Philadelphia Story is one of my all time favorite films. It’s no surprise that it’s directed by George Cukor, known as the women’s director during the Hollywood’s golden era. He had a way with directing the starlets of the day, and he brought out some of the most endearing, humorous performances from the likes of Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and today’s heroine, Katharine Hepburn. Just before The Philadelphia Story hit theaters, Hepburn was considered box office poison. Her last few films had flopped, critics panned her, and her pants wearing New England vibe didn’t gel well with audiences (I however, love it). The Philadelphia Story was her big comeback, following a snobbish society heiress and her hilarious denouement towards finding true love. Her performance is strong yet sweet, and extremely self aware in all the right ways. Across from Cary Grant, who’s comic abilities are only outshone by his almost obscene handsomeness, and Jimmy Stewart at his dry, witty, best, she can’t lose.
The dialogue is bright and snappy, the costumes are gorgeous examples of modern American sportswear, and all of the characters grow a little by the end. It’s basically a perfect film.
Inspired by the upper-crust garden wedding that’s central to the plot, I wanted to create a period appropriate dessert that would have possibly been served at Tracy Lord’s wedding. while hunting for a high end restaurant menu from 1939, I discovered the New York Public Library’s menu collection. Over 17,000 menus, from the 1880s to today – it’s my heaven. In a Waldorf Astoria Christmas party menu, I found these little gems. Profiteroles stuffed with ice cream. I dusted mine with sugar to make them chouquette, a delicious French pastry, and stuffed them with ice cream and what else, sprinkles. Sweet, light, and the perfect single bite.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
4 eggs, at room temperature
sanding sugar (traditionally, it’s pearl sugar)
INGREDIENTS (SUGAR SYRUP)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
INGREDIENTS (TO SERVE)
Make sure you have all the ingredients measured out before you start.
Combine the butter, salt, sugar, and water in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add the flour all at once, and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until well blended. Return the pan over medium-low heat and keep stirring until the mixture forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Let cool for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day; you have just made choux pastry.
Make the sugar syrup: combine the 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Sprinkle pearl sugar evenly on the prepared sheet. Remove the batter from the fridge and use two teaspoons – or a piping bag fitted with a plain tip – to form small balls of batter, about the size of a walnut, that you will plop on the prepared sheet, leaving an inch of space between them. Brush with the sugar syrup using a pastry brush, and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown (never ever open the oven door during the first 10 minutes of baking). Turn off the oven, open the door just a crack, and leave the chouquettes in for another 5 minutes to prevent a temperature shock, which would cause them to deflate.
Transfer to a rack and let cool completely before serving. Keep any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature, and reheat for 5 minutes in a 300°F oven to restore the original texture.
To serve, slice chouquette in half and sandwich with a scoop of ice cream.