By Quentin H. / December 10th, 2021
This new weekly cooking column, Cooking Eorzea, is different from the interviews, hands-on GDC/E3 impression pieces, and occasional opinion articles that you’ve gotten to know from me over the past half-decade. Therefore, a preface is in order here and I do promise that each week’s subsequent preface will be shorter than this.
Earlier this year, I moved 2,000 miles across the country for a three-and-a-half-year-old relationship. I first met this woman in FINAL FANTASY XI Online. After we got together, we played through all of FINAL FANTASY XIV Online together. Ultimately, I left everything behind to give this a real in-person shot. The relationship, at least for now, didn’t work out. Cooking Eorzea is ultimately a weekly column that is about me trying to find myself in a brand-new part of the country, and figuring out what it means to be single again.
So where does the ‘cooking’ in Cooking Eorzea come in?
Put simply: I am a guy in my mid-thirties who can barely cook and certainly cannot bake. For example, when it comes to bringing in pies for Pi Day at work, I always stop at the grocery and buy them from there. If I am supposed to make a dish for a pot luck…I am forever being assigned the role of bringing soda and/or alcohol. In addition to that however, one of the biggest and most influential games in my life so far is FINAL FANTASY XIV Online.
In that game, one of the long-running storylines is about how Alphinaud Leveilleur grows and changes as he faces adversity and conflict while Eorzea changes around him. I won’t spoil the game for anyone who hasn’t played through all the storylines, but Alphinaud definitely goes through a character growth that I want to emulate in my own life. And for me, at least part of that is learning to cook.
Each week, I will be cooking a dish from The Ultimate FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Cookbook by Victoria Rosenthal, and I will be sharing my cooking experiences -the good, the bad, and the Marlboro- with all of you. I will be including pictures of the cooking process, my final product, and I will be highlighting a different ingredient each week. Also, because I have no illusions about how masterful of a chef Ms. Rosenthal is when compared to me, you will get to see how that dish is supposed to look too.
Cooking Eorzea does have a few self-imposed rules.
First, I will not be substituting ingredients. That means that if the recipe calls for birch syrup, like this week’s recipe does, I will not be substituting it with maple syrup. Second, I won’t hide anything from you. If I screw up the recipe, which I definitely did this week, I will share that with you too. Please learn from my mistakes when you try cooking these recipes for yourself! One of my biggest failings as a person is that I have a very, very hard time extending myself ‘grace’…and both sharing my failures with you and forgiving myself for them is part of how I will work on that. Third, The Minstrel’s Ballad dish will be saved for the very end of this series for when I have more cooking experience. Finally, my goal is to publish a new column every Friday for the duration of Cooking Eorzea. I am not sure how that will work with holidays just around the corner, but I will do my darnedest to stick to that.
Thank you all for joining me. Hopefully this will be a project of Love, Eorzean Style.
Recipe of the Week
This week’s Cooking Eorzea recipe is the very first one of the cookbook, Almond Cream Croissants. This vegetarian dish comes out of the Coerthas region and has a difficulty rating of ‘Easy.’ To be honest, it looks absolutely delicious, and I cannot wait to try it out.
Featured Ingredient of the Week
The most unique ingredient that I had to try to locate for this week’s Cooking Eorzea column was birch syrup. I have never heard of birch syrup, and I certainly did not know that you could even tap birch trees. I went to six different food stores, ranging from Wal~Mart to Trader Joe’s, to find some. I had no luck, and I was not going to substitute it out for maple syrup.
I ended up reaching out to a company in Alaska, called Alaska Wild Harvest, to buy some. It turns out that birch syrup is quite complicated to make. It takes 110 gallons of tapped birch sap to make 1 gallon of birch syrup that then has to be concentrated via reverse-osmosis and evaporation in order to create the final syrup.
I ended up using the ‘first run’ birch syrup in this recipe. That is syrup that is produced from the first week of the annual spring harvest and is some of the lightest and sweetest syrup of the harvesting season. The information pamphlet I got with my order said that it is ‘[d]eeply sweet and velvety.’ I actually did try some of it out before I started cooking, just to see how it is different than maple syrup…and there is a real difference. It has a definite sweet and pleasant tang flavor to it that is completely unique.
Finally, I actually had a lovely phone call with one of the staff at Alaska Wild Harvest before my order shipped, because I asked for more information about what birch syrup was in the order comments section. They were extremely helpful, and threw in a bunch of informational materials with my order. Thank you for your help!
My Cooking Attempt
First, a photo of all the ingredients that I will need for this week. Please don’t consume Disaronno if you’re under the legal age…and definitely don’t go buying it from a sketchy late-night liquor store in a questionable part of town like me if you are of age.
The first step was to place the croissants on a wire rack and leave them uncovered overnight. I didn’t understand why I would need to do this, but I did it anyway.
The next day, after preheating the oven, I went to work on making the syrup. I warmed up my saucepan and added to it the granulated sugar, the Disaronno, the water, and the birch syrup. You can really tell from the photo below just how syrupy the birch syrup is.
I then stirred it over medium heat until everything was dissolved together and the combination came to a simmer.
I then set it aside elsewhere on the stovetop…and I forgot to turn off the burner. That will matter quite a bit later on. Next, I started to make the almond filling. I threw the butter and even more sugar into a bowl together and I attempted to whisk it.
So it turns out that cold butter doesn’t whisk at all. The butter and sugar got jammed up in my whisk in large chunks, and I was completely stuck. So, I turned to my old standby: the microwave.
I popped the whole bowl in for a little less than two minutes, and it softened the butter up enough for me to whisk it all together until it was combined and fluffy.
I then added in the eggs and vanilla extract. Surprisingly, I managed to smoothly crack the eggs in one go each, and I didn’t get any shell in the mixture! You can see the set-aside syrup mixture in the background.
After whisking it all together, I then added in the almond flour and salt. I didn’t even know that flour wasn’t just the white stuff that gets everywhere but that it actually had a bunch of varieties until I went shopping for this recipe!
I then whisked it all together until it was all blended together and had solidified. I used a spoon to check out the thickness of the mixture before I set it aside.
I set the bowl aside, got my knife, and I started to slice each croissant in half. It turns out that this was much easier than I had expected. Leaving the croissants out overnight actually toughened them up enough that I could slice easily through them.
I then set out my baking pan, covered with parchment paper, across my stovetop (space is a premium). I then dunked each cut half of the croissant into my mostly-cooled syrup saucepan. You can see that I started to lose some flakes of croissant in the syrup as I was doing this.
You can see that the syrup really started to soak into each cut croissant half.
I then laid them out on the parchment tray cut face up. It was then that I started to hear sizzling…remember that burner that I didn’t turn off earlier? It was starting to cook the croissants from that side of things. I had to frantically turn it off and relocate the pan. Thankfully, it didn’t ruin anything and I definitely got a learning experience out of it.
I then put several spoonfuls of the almond mixture on each of the bottom halves of the croissants, and I attempted to spread it out as best as I could.
I then topped each covered bottom half with cut almonds…
And this was where my next screw-up happened: I had forgotten which top half went with which bottom half of the croissant. Because of this, I had to play an awful matching game of ‘match the croissant halves’ while trying to re-assemble it all together. I then basted the top of each joined croissant with more syrup…
…And then topped each of them with more almond filling and sliced almonds.
I then placed them in the oven for 17 minutes. Why 17? Because it was within the recommended range, and I simply liked the number. (This isn’t the greatest photo, sorry. I was trying to keep the heat from getting out.)
Once they finished cooking, I pulled them out…and I discovered that the filling inside and on top of the croissants had melted EVERYWHERE on the parchment paper.
I actually panicked some at this point, but I was determined to make the best of it. And it looked like that a lot of the filling was still inside of the croissants. Most importantly, I managed to not burn the entire dish in the oven. So for my final step, I topped it all with powdered sugar. I then discovered that powdered sugar doesn’t easily come out of the box.
Finally, I picked one out, scooped it up with a spatula, and ‘plated’ it.
I then sat down and ate it while it was still hot. And it was delicious! It was definitely sweet -but not too sweet- and I was surprised at how pleasant the almond flavoring was with the croissant. Even though some of the almond filling had definitely leaked out of the dish, there was a lot still inside of the croissant. The croissant itself was crispy and tasty, and I was able to thoroughly enjoy it. This is a dish that was actually easy to make and I would definitely make this again.
And there we have it: one recipe down. I learned quite a bit this week while cooking- such as making sure that your burners are turned off after you finish with them, not trying to whisk cold unsalted butter, and that you can apparently use a shifter to scatter powdered sugar instead of trying to scatter it out from a box.
…I also learned that I can actually do a project like this. This project has been roughly a month in the planning stages, between me trying to figure out how I would write Cooking Eorzea, getting my editor on board (hi Leah!), frantically shopping for ingredients and finally just ordering birch syrup from Alaska, a super-late-night run to Target and Wal~Mart to get some cooking utensils that I didn’t have right before I started cooking at 10 PM-ish, and a lot of other things. Planning and executing this wasn’t easy for me, and I have no idea how well it is going to go in the coming weeks.
But, I promise you that I will try to do it.
I want to extend a special thanks to Victoria Rosenthal for writing The Ultimate FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Cookbook. I also want to thank the staff over at Insight Editions for giving me permission to use the photos from their book to show how these recipes are actually supposed to look. Furthermore, I owe Brandon Rose a special thanks for creating the logo for this series on short notice. You can check him and his works out over on Twitter.
Finally, I want to thank both Hiromichi Tanaka and Naoki Yoshida for producing FINAL FANTASY XIV Online. I first fell in love with FINAL FANTASY XIV Online and Eorzea during the Seventh Umbral Era, and The Unending Journey only kept getting better and better under Yoshi-P. Watching the final cutscene of 1.0 as the moon fell, right before service shut down, live with my group of friends on Skype is a moment I will simply never forget…and I have only had wonderful memories in the years since.
Next week’s recipe is the Dodo Omelette from the La Noscea region. I am actually about to go try to find myself some duck eggs after I finish writing this. Wish me luck!
Have you tried making almond cream croissants? What about any other recipe in this cookbook?
Please let me know in the Cooking Eorzea comments below!
Almond Cream CroissantsBirch syrupCookbookCookingCooking EorzeaEndwalkerEorzeaFinal FantasyFinal Fantasy XIVFinal Fantasy XIV: A Realm RebornFinal Fantasy XIV: EndwalkerHiromichi TanakaInsight EditionsNaoki YoshidaVictoria Rosenthalyoshi-p