Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cream Puffs

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to share. Sure, I didn't see the wisdom of it then - after all, my favorite dolls were, by definition, mine, but I grudgingly accepted their lordship over me, all the while muttering stubbornly that "when I grow up," I won't stand for any of this sharing nonsense. Well, I did eventually grow up, and as you can all guess, I realized that my parents were right about oh, so many things, but also about sharing (and now I mutter, "they always had to be right, didn't they...").

Living in the big city, however, I'm learning that sharing is just not the thing here amongst the "in" crowd. Apparently, people do not share, among other things: recipes, telephone numbers of their maids, hair salons, favorite restaurants, car dealerships, projects they are working on, the place they buy their All Clads on sale and, last but not least, their husbands (just kidding, I don't share mine either, but I just wanted to see if you were paying attention!). I guess I have to resign myself to not being part of the "in" crowd because, really, it all makes no sense to me (except the bit about husbands - I wasn't kidding, I don't share A., don't even think about it ;) ).

The recipe for these cream puffs comes from my friend Amy, who generously did not mind sharing it not only with me, but with all of you as well. It was my first time making cream puffs and I was worried about many things (will they puff? how will I know when the dough is ready? can I really beat the eggs in *by hand*?). Even if you've never made them before, just trust me - when each step is supposed to be complete, you will *know.* These little puffs are very easy to make, and very, very good! I filled them with Dorie's pastry cream and mmmmmmm...... they were gone before I even had a chance to serve the tea (good thing I'm sneaky and hid one for myself before the guests arrived).

And, since I talk about my grandmother so much here, and since she makes the best cream puffs in the world (but won't give anyone the recipe, lol), let me post a recent picture of us together. Enjoy the cream puffs!

Cream Puffs
(via my friend Amy, via Fine Cooking)

Pastry Recipe:
1/2 cup water
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbs. sugar
Pinch salt
2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the egg wash:
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 tsp. milk

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a small saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth without any lumps and the batter pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and beat with a wooden spoon just until the steam stops rising, about 1 minute.

Add one egg and beat well with the wooden spoon. The batter will seem to break apart, but keep working until it becomes smooth. Add the second egg and beat again until the mixture is completely smooth.

Scoop the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain pastry tube (Ateco #5). Hold the bag about 1 inch above a parchment-lined baking sheets and pipe out mounds about 1 inch in diameter (Irene's note: I made two sizes - 1 inch and 2 inch). Beat the egg yolk with the milk to make an egg wash. Lightly brush the egg wash on top of each puff with a pastry brush, tapping down any points of dough. (Amy's note: I have used two spoons and dropped them on to a cookie sheet, but a pastry bag makes them turn out a little more uniform. Also, you can use a broad star to give them even more shape)

Bake until the pastries are puffed and deep golden, 22 to 24 min. (Irene's note: after mine were done, I turned off the oven, propped the door open with a wooden spoon and let them dry out for another 10-15 min). Let cool on a wire rack. If not using the same day, transfer to a plastic bag and freeze for up to four months; thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

From Fine Cooking 49, pp. 72

(Irene's note: After the puffs cooled, I then used my smallest plain tip to fill them with Dorie's pastry cream - yum! I think I was a little over-enthusiastic and filled them all the way up, which resulted in the tops getting a little soft from the cream. Next time, I will fill them only half way.)

Dorie Greenspan's Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks (I'm going to use a few less next time to cut some calories)
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk– this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly–as I always do–put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Chocolate Sauce
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the bittersweet and milk chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is completely melted. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium to just below the boiling point. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the pan of water and wipe the bottom and sides dry. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate and stir with the spatula until the sauce is cool, about 4 min. The sauce can be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator; before serving, warm the sauce in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

From Fine Cooking 49, pp. 73


Anonymous said...

Irene, so glad these turned out for you! I've tried these with chocolate mousse, but will have to try them with the pastry cream next time.

Patsyk said...

Your cream puffs look irresistable!

What a sweet picture of you and your grandmother.

Irene said...

Amy! I was just going to post the link on AHA to make sure you saw this :) They were a huge hit at my dinner party, thank you so much for the recipe!

Patsy, thanks! My grandma is the tiny matriarch (in this picture, I'm bending down and she's wearing heels!). She's adorable.

Ashley said...

I wish I could reach in and take one!! They look really good!

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

I love cream puffs, especially with vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! I have not been successful at cream puffs the several times I have tried. Yours look great and what fun to see a picture of you and your grandmother.

SYD said...

How come I wasn't invited over to have some??! Are there any left? They look so yummy

Anonymous said...

I love cream puffs, but I really adore the picture of you and your grandmother. She might be tiny but she looks every inch a grande-dame to me :)


Irene said...

Aw, thank you so much. Rules us all with an iron fist, she does. :)

Eileen said...

I love cream puffs! They have such wonderful memories for me. My aunt was always making them and bringing platefuls to us. She always used whipped cream for the filling, but I have become partial to pastry cream since I've been making them. Thanks for the photos!

Anonymous said...

That was sweet of your friend to share this recipe with you, but I can understand keeping the family recipe a secret :). They look like they belong behind a bakery window!