In a world where more and more lands are experiencing catastrophic drought conditions, it is nearly impossible to envision a place suffering under the weight of water as it strafes down from a merciless firmament, flooding the air even before it floods the terrain. It is a rain that threatens to wear out and drown the most determined who stand in its way. There are no umbrellas nor headgear designed to protect against this kind of rain, with a magnitude and ferocity so powerful that no one can recall a time when it wasn’t pelting the planet, when the forecast wasn't wet every ticking second through infinity. It is a bleak and horrifying scenario that sounds like something out of science fiction. And it is. It is Venus through the mind of Ray Bradbury.
The Long Rain, published in 1951, is among a collection of short stories arranged under the title of The Illustrated Man. The Illustrated Man is doomed to wear the torments of eighteen different tattoos, inked under his skin by a malicious witch. Each picture illuminates and animates a particular, prophesizing, yet cautionary tale. Would that the lieutenant and his crew had seen what was in store for them before they set out in their space craft, before the fiendish electrical storm, as blue and tentacled as a Portuguese man-of-war, smote them down into the spongy bogs of Venus and forced their trek without a compass to elusive shelter.
They are Earthmen, four of six who have survived the crash. They do not know how long they have been circling the jungles, where vegetation and fungus instantaneously grow, decay and die on anything or anyone. They only know that the key to their survival lies in the discovery of a Sun Dome, one of several way stations equipped with a synthetic, glowing heat source; dry uniforms; and the welcoming comfort of marshmallows bobbing in hot chocolate, pans of cinnamon buns, and urns of steaming coffee. It is not only the physical punishment of the rain lashing at them, but the reality that their food rations are almost as exhausted as they are that drives them closer to despair, madness and violence. Only one of them will survive the ordeal, a testament to the finer qualities of the human spirit, where one’s worst enemies lie within.
Chocolate Cream Puffs - Slightly adapted from the Joy of Baking recipe
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup water
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine flour, cocoa powder and sugar in a small bowl. In a large saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the dry ingredients. Return saucepan over heat, stirring the mixture until it leaves the sides of the pan and forms a soft dough bowl. Turn out the dough into a large bowl and let rest for a few minutes until it cools down, but is still warm to the touch. With an electric mixer, beat in eggs, one at a time until well blended. Dough will be soft, elastic, thick and smooth.
Spoon or pipe the dough into golf-ball sized mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased foil. Gently flatten any peaks with a wet fingertip. Position baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. The mounds will have at least doubled in size and be dry to the touch.
Remove from oven and allow to cool before splitting open to fill.
Marshmallow Meringue Filling (Seven Minute Frosting) – From the Epicurious recipe
1/3 cup and 2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
1 large egg white (or equivalent pasteurized egg white powder reconstituted with water, if you have any health concerns about the consumption of partially cooked egg)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large metal bowl fitted securely on top of a large pot of barely simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), combine all ingredients except the extract. With a hand-held electric mixer, beat the ingredients on the slowest speed to froth, maintaining speed until the mixture begins to grow in volume. Incrementally raise the speed over two minutes, then beat on high speed for the next 5 minutes or until the filling has at least tripled in volume and forms stiff, shiny peaks when the beaters are pulled away from it. Carefully remove the hot bowl from the pot and secure it on a silicone mat. Beat in the vanilla extract and continue beating until the frosting cools, another few minutes.
Generously spoon or pipe filling into the bottom of the cream puffs. You will have more than enough filling. Arrange cream puff tops on the filling. Serve immediately. Makes approximately 12 cream puffs. --
This post is being sent to Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste, hosting the fifth edition of Novel Food, a quarterly event celebrating the foods we read about in the literature we love.
Been There, Done That ~
Green Tea Mascarpone Cream Puffs
Orange and Coriander Madeleines
Almond and Cherry Mini Tarts
Other People's Eats ~
Passion Fruit Cream Puff Ring