Monday, November 29, 2010

Little Puffs of Love

Cream puffs . . . cute little pastries stuffed with a sweet creamy filling dust with a coating of light fluffy sugar . . . how could something so wonderful be bad?


Catherine de Medici, Queen of France from 1547 to 1559, was patroness of art and lover of fine foods.  It’s rumored that she had a weakness for lovely, delicate pastries so her chef invented this tasty treat for her . . . rumor not fact.  The origins of cream puffs is not known; however, similar types of pastries can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

Cream puffs begin with a baked puffed shell of choux pastry. Choux pastry(1) requires more effort than typical dough but the result is undeniably worthwhile.
What you need:
For the Choux Pastry:
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Egg Wash Glaze:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
For the Garnish:
  • Powdered (Confectioners or icing) sugar

To make the Choux Pastry:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, quickly add the flour mixture.

Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about a minute or two). 

Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough. Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste. 

Spoon or pipe 12 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a couple of inches apart.  

Beat together the egg and salt for the glaze. With a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze on the tops of the dough.

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are dry inside. Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

To make the whipped cream filling: 
In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, whip the mixture until soft peaks form.

To Assemble the little puffs of love: 
Split the pastry shells in half and fill (or pipe) with whipped cream. Place the top half of the pastry shell on the whipped cream and dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 12 cream puffs.

In order to keep the shells crisp, fill with the cream shortly before serving. If you don't mind the shells becoming a little soft you can assemble the cream puffs a few hours before serving. Just make sure you cover and place in the refrigerator.

(1) Choux in French means cabbages  . . . with some imagination you could visualize the puffs as looking like tiny cabbages . . . maybe a more accurate description would be chou de bruxelles (Brussel Sprouts)  ;-)~

All of the eggs I used in this recipe were courtesy of my good friends Stephanie and Phil.  
If you live in or near Connecticut and want farm fresh eggs, contact Stephanie for pricing and availability.

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