When it comes to choux pastry, I am severely lacking in experience. It was not one of those items that was always baking in my home kitchen, and there were few items utilizing it in the local New Hampshire bakeries. But as I continue to explore the world of pastries, I am increasingly drawn to sampling some choux, and even attempting my own at home. It is interesting because in creations like eclairs, profiteroles, and cream puffs, the choux pastry seems to be but the casing that houses the main flavoring found in the pastry cream or jam inside. Yet to get this casing some extremely specific and arduous work must be done. In a way it reminds me of pie crust. Yes, it is mainly there to house a filling. But it is still an element of the dish and should taste just as good the filling you came for.
One place that has made its name in such delicate work is Bibble and Sip. A small confectionary in midtown, they specialize in classic French pastries with Asian inspired flavors. While their pastry case contains a multitude of options, including macarons of intricate design and personal-sized cakes, they are most known for their cream puffs. In line with their Asian flavors, their two consistent and most loved flavors are their matcha and early grey, but they also have flavors like cookies and cream, chocolate hazelnut, and black sesame. But if none of that strikes one’s fancy, there are also more American brownies and cookies available. As I found myself running errands in midtown one day, I saw a glance of a llama (the mascot of Bibble and Sip) on a round sign, and realized it was time to adventure in the land of cream puffs.
As I approached the door, I could already see that the place was packed. The line was to the door and even outside there were people sitting on benches in front of the shop eating their goods. I made my way in to cap off the line and found an extremely modern establishment. Sleek and dark, this was one of the more commercial looking places I had been to of late. A thin counter divided the space around which people stood to eat, and a couple small enclaves of seating dotted the periphery. Every available space was taken by someone enjoying a treat. Luckily, I was not looking to stay and was perfectly happy taking my goods back to my dorm room.
The line moved at a good enough clip that I did not feel as though time was ticking away, but I also had enough time to gaze at what was available and make a decision. While the matcha cream puff seemed to be the most famous item of them all, I was hesitant to get it given that I have never crazy about matcha in any form. Therefore, I decided to go with the earl grey tea cream puff to honor the flavor profile that Bibble and Sip is known for, rather than going for the chocolate and hazelnut that I would normally gravitate towards. To contrast this adherence to the light, tea-inspired cream puff, I decided to also get their chocolate chip brownie cookie, a chocolate chip cookie with brownie bits mixed throughout in addition to the regular chocolate chips. This way I would experience both their staple as well as their more Americanized item.
With my items procured, I ventured back downtown and escaped the overcrowded hellscape of midtown to eat my sweet treats in peace. Once home again I laid the cookie and cream puff out before me as I set an episode of Cheers up to go with it. I began with the cookie, breaking it in half to get the necessary look at the interior texture. The two parts separated cleanly revealing a middle that was not one of gooey dough, but clearly and fully cooked. It feels as though it has been ages since such a cookie encounter, as most positive ones I come across seem to be intended to evoke slightly warm cookie dough. Amongst the dough I saw a fair, but not overwhelming amount of chocolate and brownie chunks. I went in for a smell and was pleasantly surprised with a nutty fragrance that I would not have expected from a regular ol’ cookie. Perhaps this scent came from the black flecks that seemed to be sprinkled throughout. Despite the lack of physical warmth in the cookie, there was a toasted walnutty, pecany feeling brought forth. I can only imagine how this would be enhanced fresh out of the oven.
Texturally, the cookie was much more forgiving that I expected after a swift crunch on the outside layer. Lightly chewy with a little density, the mouthfeel was extremely classic, like one might find in a cookie waiting for you after coming home from school. I wished I had some milk with me because this was a cookie that, while perfectly fine without it, would have been taken to a greater level with the addition of milk seeping into its porous interior. The flavor was pleasant with some of the nuttiness of the scent coming through on the palate. However, while the flavor was sweet and round, it was just verging on a fullness that would have taken it up a notch. There was something missing. I couldn’t quite place it, but despite the evident use of baking spices, I still desired another area of my taste buds to be struck.
While I considered what was missing in the flavor, I hit a brownie chunk shortly followed by a chunk of chocolate. The brownie chunk was ideally moist and rich of chocolate and offered nice variation amongst the dough and chunks. While the dough was not the most ideal, the cookie itself was a pleasant, different take on a classic. Not the cookie that I will reach for when craving a cookie in general, but I would happily accept, or purchase if I saw I was near the area.
After the cookie, it was time to break into the cream puff. I could feel from the outside just how full of cream it was, about to burst with the slightest bit of pressure applied. Concerned that the cream would explode all over upon the first bite, I went in cautiously. The choux was a nice thin shell, though still bringing a softly eggy flavor. Neither overly soggy, nor badly brittle, it served its purpose as well as a good baseline flavor. The craquelin on top was wonderfully crisp and sweet and added a nice addition to the earl grey cream that was so light and refreshing. I could easily see this being an ideal summer treat. Though there were copious amounts of cream pouring fourth, it did not weigh me down, yet still satisfied my pastry craving. The earl grey flavor, though slight, wafted through. I wished I had a cup of tea, or the lavender latté that Bibble and Sip also produces to go with it, as this truly was the ideal tea time snack. A number of textural pleasures combined with sophisticated flavors sold me on this large, choux delight, and I would be interested to see what their other, stronger flavors resulted in.
Though there is often little reason to look forward to a trip to midtown, Bibble and Sip has proven itself a worthy stop on any theatre district trip. While it may not be ideal as a place to sit down and kill time before a show, their quaintly decorated macarons, overflowing cream puffs, individual panna cotta, or mini-cake would serve as a pleasant and different snack to have while walking the streets or hanging on a stoop. Though you’ll definitely want to bring a napkin or two for pastry cream management!