Cream Puffs and Pastry Cream
On typical Saturdays I take the kids to visit my family. It’s an all around good time-the kids can play with my little brother in the big fenced in back yard, the dog can run around free and I can bake and chat with my sisters. OK, OK, so I go out there to bake and chat with my sisters and everything else is just a fringe benefit 🙂 I happen to have the two best sisters in the world. They both love baking (almost!) as much as me and they never tire (or just hide their feelings well) of my constant plethora of ideas, and giddiness over a new recipe or product. We ALWAYS bake something, even if it’s just chocolate chip cookies because, well, girls can’t chat without sustenance. Last week my youngest sister was in some sort of cooking mood and had spent all afternoon frying enough chicken to feed our small army chicken parmesan and had also made our mom’s recipe for a cream puff ring with fresh strawberries. I had been so consumed with perfecting strawberry cupcakes for the first day of spring that I forgot I would need recipes for the rest of the week. The cream puff ring inspired me though and these little cream puffs make an excellent afternoon snack to be shared with good friends (or family).
Both the cream puffs and the pastry cream are versatile recipes that alone are rich and sophisticated and have a real depth of flavor. With a few additions though you can create all sorts of flavors and have fun, delicious sweets all spring and summer long.
Whisk butter and milk together over medium heat
Fill the cooled shells with pastry cream
by poking a hole in the side
Recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking and Gesine Bullock-Prado
Recipe instructions are for mini cream puffs or profiteroles. See note at end for shaping into other pastries.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted flour (as in sift the flour before measuring-it makes a world of a difference)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon corn starch
6 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1. For the Choux Paste: Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Position rack in the lower third of the oven.
Bring water, 1/2 cup milk, 1 stick of butter and salt to a full boil over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue to cook and stir the mixture for about 1 minute, to eliminate excess moisture. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Beat in 1 at a time by hand, with a wooden spoon, or on low speed with a mixer, the 4 eggs. Make sure the paste is smooth before adding the next egg. Beat the dough until it is smooth and shiny.
2. Scoop the paste into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip. Shape the paste into 1 inch round by 1 inch high puffs on an un-greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees (F) and continue to bake until golden brown and very firm to the touch, 10-15 minutes more. Turn off the oven. Poke the bottom of each puff, turn upside down on the baking sheet, and let dry in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool to room temperature before filling.
3. For the Pastry Cream: In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 eggs, cornstarch, vanilla bean paste & extract and sugar and whip on high with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy.
4. In the meantime, bring the 2 cups milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
5. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the boiling milk down the side of the bowl, starting slowly so as not to cook the eggs and gradually adding more. Whisk on high until fully incorporated and then transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and return to the burner. Place over medium heat and whisk briskly and constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, and add the butter and whisk until it’s completely incorporated. Pour the custard into a bowl and immediately place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool before using.
6. To fill the cream puffs; scoop the pastry cream into pastry bag fitted with a long narrow tip (see picture). Poke a hole in the side (or use the hole from the bottom) and fill the puff. Sprinkle the cream puffs with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.
Note: The recipe described here is technically called a profiterole however a true profiterole is filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a chocolate glaze, I was going for more of a bite size cream puff. This choux paste can be made into eclairs or regular size cream puffs by shaping accordingly:
Eclair: pipe logs 5 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide
Cream Puff: pipe puffs 2 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch high
And baking on a greased and floured baking sheet.
Both will cook for 15 minutes at 400 degrees (F). When you reduce the oven temperature to 350, cook these longer-anywhere from 20-30 minutes and then continue with recipe directions.
Me and my sisters!
(I’m the one in pink…and sparkles…:) multi-tasking as always-here I am taking pictures and keeping my 19 month old from falling out the back of the high chair, flattering, isn’t it…)