Whenever Hegui and I travel to Brazil, one of my favorite desserts to enjoy there is “Romeo e Julieta,” which consists of a small plate with a piece of very white, salty and mild cheese and either a small scoop or slice of red guava preserves. The colors are always dramatic: pure white and deep red. I’m fascinated by the taste and the name: Romeo and Juliet? I’ve asked many times which is which? Is the white cheese Romeo and the red guava Juliet or vice versa? Nobody seems to know the answer.
In preparation for this story, I’ve been reflecting more on the colors of the two filling ingredients. To me, the whiteness of the cheese implies purity, cleanliness, simple joy, innocence, naivety, and surrender; the deep red, passion, lust, love, anger, and blood. Really then, the Brazilian dessert might be about the relationship between Romeo and Juliet, which as almost everyone knows was full of innocent love, blood lust, passion, surrender, naivety and all the rest.
When I think of these star-crossed lovers, I’m reminded of that amazing modernized film version of the Shakespeare play directed by Baz Luhrmann, Romeo + Juliet. Have you seen it? It’s the one with Claire Danes as Juliet and Leonard DiCaprio as Romeo. The filming is visually stunning. I especially love the famous part where Romeo climbs to Juliet’s balcony at night. In the film version, they fall into a breathtaking Southern California-style swimming pool in their party costumes as they hide from detection by the Capulet guards and Juliet’s Nurse. I’ll never forget it. Here’s the link on U-tube if you haven’t seen it.
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady. O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold…
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
This was my inspiration for today’s friendly cooking challenge: Julia Child’s croissants. Actually, this time I suggested making croissants for the challenge, but my dearest Heavenly was the force behind the organization of the delightful event. If you haven’t already, check the links below to see how the other participants’ creations turned out.
Heavenly from donuts to delirium
Vanessa from Sweet Artichoke
Anna from Keep it Luce
Joumana from Taste of Beirut
Christina from Thyme to be Loved
Erika Beth from Life’s too Short to Skip Dessert
Faith from An Edible Mosaic
Sadly, I have to admit that I had some trouble with this recipe. I followed Mamaliga’s instructions and her really helpful photos demonstrating the various moves as well as I could. I made some accidental alternations to Ms. Child’s original recipe. I forgot to buy milk, for one, so I used soy milk instead. And trying to be really cool and P.C., I got an extremely overpriced tiny bag of organic pastry flour to make my 2:1 ratio of pastry to all purpose flour mix, only to realize when I got home that the pastry flour was whole wheat. I’m not sure but I think that that made a difference.
To make these “Romeo and Juliet” croissants, I filled each with about a teaspoon full of guava butter (from my local Brazilian market) and mascarpone cheese (the traditional salty dessert cheese from Brazil doesn’t really melt that well) before rolling them into their final shapes and letting them undergo their last rise. That’s my only addition to this straightforward yet challenging recipe.
As you might have guessed, making these takes forever. You have to let the dough rise; then add butter, fold and rest; then fold and rest again; then shape and rise again, then bake. The French must be very patient people. But the taste, divine! My god, these little messes were really, really, really good. And I don’t write that very often at all. These were good!
I’m not going to recreate the recipe here, since in all other respects I followed it as precisely as I could. And really, Mamaliga’s pics in the kitchen are way better than mine ever could be. I had a lot of trouble at the end forming the final bits of dough into the correct triangular designs to roll smoothly into similarly shaped croissants. Plus I was a bit rushed, as our dinner guests where about to arrive. Instead, I fear that mine looked a bit like malnourished newborn puppies, all wiggling around in a basket.
I will make these again, eventually, perhaps when I’ve hours and hours of unstructured time on my hands. But for now, I’ll just daydream.