I've had a terrible time sticking to my blog plans. I bought a planner and wrote out menus, ideas, ingredients, and shopping list. Each day I start out with the best of intentions of sticking to my plan. Each day this week I have failed, oops. Today I started out going to make croissants for a Thanksgiving themed post and some how ended up scraping that idea and started making cream puffs. Now I could rationalize and justify my actions but I feel like Cream Puffs would be an amazing dessert to serve at Thanksgiving. So there you go it's a Thanksgiving post. The way I see it, cream puffs are more forgiving than my arch nemesis pie. We will get into my troubles with pie in another post.
If you have never had a cream puff or eclair you are missing out. This isn't a traditional one but it is a tasty one. I first attempted Cream puffs after getting my first Taste of Home cookbook. It's a binder like cookbook that I got as a Christmas Present when I was 21. I started to really get into baking again and it was a very thoughtful present. When I moved I thought I had lost it forever but found it and cried for 10 minutes much to my family's dismay. What they didn't understand was the cookbook has built in folders where I had written notes and collected other recipes. That cookbook was my recipe box. The stains that cover the pages are like my battle scars of the kitchen. Let me tell you there are a lot. The corners have been chewed by two puppies and some pages have been ripped or discolored but this is my book and cannot be replaced. This cookbook provided me my first choux pastry recipe. It made a slighter thicker pastry than what I wanted but it was delicious and inspired me. Over the years I have tried numerous recipes and came up with my own version that seems to get a nice slim and tender crust. Puffs up perfectly and what I really love about it is it's fool-proof. I tend to mess up a lot in the kitchen. It could be that I seem to be doing a thousand things at once. Like right now Im cooking dinner, watching the news about Paris, and writing the blog. This kind of multitasking lends to messed up dinners and cut fingers. I advise against it. The days I find myself most successful in the kitchen is when I set my mind to just being there in the moment. When I made the dough and baked them up I had a sense of pride that it came out perfectly after years of not making them. I can't say that much for dinner right now but definitely my cream puffs.
If you are unfamiliar with choux pastry it is pâte à choux, a french dough used to making profiteroles, eclairs, and other tasty treats. It's a light dough that is very versatile. So once you master this the options are endless. Feel free to stuff them with anything from jams to ice cream and top with ganache or salted caramel.
Today I did my favorite "lightened" pastry cream with a simple dusting of powdered sugar. Tips for making these really outstanding:
Use really good quality French or European Butter
Bring eggs to room temperature
Use ultra fine granulated sugar aka baker's sugar
Line the cookie sheet with non-stick parchment paper
If you don't finish all of these after serving, I like to freeze them individually and defrost slightly for a really yummy snack. Don't judge I have a serious sweet tooth.
If you are going to bring these to a party, pack the filling in a pastry bag with the tip not cut off yet and rubber band the top shut. Pack the puffs in a tupperware. Bring a little sifter and ziploc bag of the powdered sugar. Assemble and serve when you arrive. If you aren't traveling far the pastries will be fine during transport. They aren't as delicate as I make them to be, but the tender crust will start to get a little soft the longer the filling is inside of it.
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup French Butter/salted butter – French Butter has a higher fat content that will really give your pastry a deeper flavor
1 cup water
2 teaspoon bakers sugar - *important
4 eggs – room temperature
1. In a large pot add butter, water, and sugar and bring to boil. Remove from heat.
2. Sift in all-purpose flour into the pot and stir till combined. The dough should eventually form a large dough ball.
3. Place back on to heat and stir a few more times. A slight film will appear on the bottom of the pan. Remove and let stand for 5-8 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I like to do it now while I let the dough cool.
5. Whisk eggs in a small bowl until light and airy. Stream slowly and in batches the egg mixture into dough and stir till combined gently. Over mixing will cause tough flat pastries.
6. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag (or Ziploc) with dough and pipe circles of dough about 3 inches in diameter. Make sure to space each out evenly. A dozen per cookie sheet.
7. Bake for 20 minutes (longer is you piped large puffs). Remove immediately and place on wire cooling racks. The puffs should be golden brown and hallow. Cool completely before filling with creams or sauces.
Lightened Pastry Cream
2 cups fat free milk – yup fat free
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup baker’s sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup French butter or salted butter –room temperature
1/3 cup French butter or salted butter – room temperature
1 cup of whipping cream
¼ cup of baker’s sugar
- In a heavy bottom sauce pan warm the 2 cups of fat free milk over low heat, while making sure not to scald the bottom.
- In a medium mixing bowl cream egg yolks and granulated sugar. Then in a small mixing bowl mix together flour and cornstarch. Then sieve in the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Lastly stir in the vanilla bean paste.
- Pour only 1/3 of warm milk into the egg mixture, making sure to get all the lumps combined. Once smooth pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the milk and whisk thoroughly while bringing the temperature up to a medium high heat. Once mixture begins to boil and thicken turn off heat and remove from stove.
- Now add 1/3 of the butter to the saucepan and mix in until cream is smooth and butter is combined. Transfer out of saucepan to a container of your choosing, I like to keep it in a pyrex glass bowl at this point and cover with plastic wrap covering it, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the top of the cream to prevent a hardened top.
- When the mixture comes to room temperature mix in the last of the butter. Store in airtight container in the fridge.
- In a separate bowl whip cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form. Finally add pastry cream that has cooled completely and fold together. The mixture should be light and fluffy and very tasty.
Assembling For Serving
1/4 cup of powdered sugar
1 batch of lightened pastry cream
1 batch of puffs split in half
- Fill piping bag with pastry cream. Fill each puff generously with cream and gently add the other half of the puff that was removed earlier. Continue to fill all puffs with cream. This should be done right before serving.
- Using a sifter or sieve add powdered sugar inside and lightly dust the puffs.