I had a disheartening day of baking. (Note: if you just want to hear the crab legs, skip to the last paragraph of this post. Keep reading to see why the simplicity of boiled crab legs is sometimes the only answer.) I thought I would be brilliant and make Czech Kremrole, a cream-puff-type dessert Jan has been talking about wanting to eat for months. I found a recipe in my Czech cookbook and Googled Kremrole, to see what the dish should look like. I made a trip to Sur La Table to get stainless steel cannoli tubes around which I would wrap pastry dough, bake, then fill with whipped cream and top with powdered sugar.
It didn’t seem too tough, until I realized the dough the recipe book called “puff paste” was the painstakingly made puff pastry. But I was determined to make these treats for Jan. I made my two doughs, the butter dough and the strudel dough, and followed the tedious steps of folding the butter dough into the strudel dough, folding in thirds, thirds again, and refrigerating for an hour. Three times I did this rolling-out, folding into thirds then thirds again, then refrigerating. When it was time to wrap the dough around the tubes, everything looked beautiful as I placed them in the oven.
Despite following each of the recipe’s steps, the Kremrole was a disaster—the butter was literally melting off the dough and pooling in the baking sheet. I can’t even share a picture, it’s just too sad to show. To make matters worse, I realized I could have just bought premade puff pastry earlier in the day at the store. But of course, that was before I read through all the recipe steps, experienced it firsthand, and now know that puff pastry is not something for the amateur to attempt at home (or else something that takes a lot of practice to master).
I thought I could save the day by making something else that involved filling a pastry with whipped cream, something I was craving, and that I’d made many times before. Semlor, or Swedish Fat Tuesday Buns are the Swede’s version of indulgence before Lent, something my mom and I used to make every year around this time of year. They are basically a cardamom-spiced sweet roll that has been filled with marzipan and whipped cream, and I thought I could redeem my failed cream rolls with a successful batch of Fat Tuesday Buns.
I baked the buns, no problem. I cut the tops off the buns, removed the inside, and got to work making the filling. Only problem was, I was distracted and grabbed the container of what I thought was powdered sugar in the pantry. When I tasted my whipped cream to see if I’d achieved the correct level of sweetness, I knew something was terribly wrong. It was then that I turned the container around to read the dreaded words: corn starch.
It was just not my day. But then, as I too was about to turn into a sobbing mess of puff pastry gone melty and whipped cream gone chalky, Jan pulled out a 2 pound bag of snow crab clusters from Fresh and Easy. In a matter of minutes, he boiled the crab legs, boiled some shrimp, and boiled some corn on the cob. And the day was saved by Jan and a big boiled feast. I was so hard at work with the shell cracker, trying to get the crab meat out so I could squeeze lemon juice on it and dip into melted butter, all my baking problems faded away. Well, of course, after I strategized my game plan for reattempting those baking projects another day.