Today is the 88th anniversary of the death of Dame Mary d’Este Sturges, founder of Desti Beauty Products, BFF of dancer Isadora Duncan, the 2nd Scarlet Woman of Aleister Crowley, mother of American playwright Preston Sturges, and so much more. Born Mary Estelle Dempsey in Quebec, Montreal, Canada on October 10, 1871, she decided she was descended from Italian nobility on the grounds that Dempsey had to be a mispronunciation of the princely “d’Este.” Such pretensions weren’t uncommon in her era — consider our own prophet, Edward Alexander Crowley, who decided to be Aleister instead.
Preston Sturges described his mother thus:
My mother was in no sense a liar, nor even intentionally unacquainted with the truth…as she knew it. She was, however, endowed with such a rich and powerful imagination that anything she had said three times, she believed ferverently. Often, twice was enough.
Traveling around the world with Isadora Duncan’s dance company, Mary married four times and took numerous lovers. On her final automobile ride, Isadora Duncan wore a red batik scarf gifted to her by Sturges.
One of Mary’s lovers was Aleister Crowley, with whom she collaborated on Magick. As Soror Virakam, the seer, Sturges saw an entity named Abuldiz who appeared as an old man with a long white beard, communicating that there was a book to be given to Fra. P. named Aba, and its number 4. Her work also appears in The Vision and the Voice. In April 1999 ev, OTO USA awarded Sturges the Order of the Eagle.
In honor of Dame Mary d’Este Sturges, her colorful life, and her beloved Paris, here is a recipe for a treat that combines two of her favorite foods, croissants and chocolate.
Pain Au Chocolate (Homemade Chocolate Croissants)
- 4 cups flour
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 packet instant dry yeast
- 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened
- 1¼ cups cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch (1 cm) thick slices
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 bars sweetened chocolate bar [I prefer semi-sweet, but decide according to your own tastes]
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, water, milk, sugar, salt, yeast, and butter.
- Once the dough starts to clump, turn it out onto a clean counter.
- Lightly knead the dough and form it into a ball, making sure not to over-knead it.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
- Slice the cold butter in thirds and place it onto a sheet of parchment paper..
- Place another piece of parchment on top of the butter, and beat it with a rolling pin.
- Keeping the parchment paper on the butter, use a rolling pin to roll the butter into a 7-inch (18 cm) square, ½-inch (1 cm) thick. If necessary, use a knife to trim the edges and place the trimmings back on top of the butter and continue to roll into a square.
- Transfer the butter layer to the refrigerator.
- To roll out the dough, lightly flour the counter. Place the dough on the counter, and push the rolling pin once vertically into the dough and once horizontally to form four quadrants.
- Roll out each corner and form a 10-inch (25 cm) square.
- Place the butter layer on top of the dough and fold the sides of the dough over the butter, enclosing it completely.
- Roll the dough with a rolling pin to seal the seams, making sure to lengthen the dough, rather than widening it.
- Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s 8×24 inches (20×61 cm).
- Fold the top half down to the middle, and brush off any excess flour.
- Fold the bottom half over the top and turn the dough clockwise to the left. This completes the first turn.
- Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
- Roll out the dough again two more times, completing three turns in total and refrigerating for 1 hour in between each turn. If at anytime the dough or butter begins to soften, stop and transfer back to the fridge.
- After the final turn, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- To form the croissants, cut the dough in half. Place one half in the refrigerator.
- Flour the surface and roll out the dough into a long narrow strip, about 8×40 inches (20×101 cm).
- With a knife, trim the edges of the dough.
- Cut the dough into 4 rectangles.
- Place the chocolate on the edge of the dough and roll tightly enclosing it in the dough.
- Place the croissants on a baking sheet, seam side down.
- Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Brush the croissants with the beaten egg. Save the rest of the egg wash in the fridge for later.
- Place the croissants in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Once the croissants have proofed, brush them with one more layer of egg wash.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve warm.