love cream puffs. I love how each small, crisp, hollow round of choux
pastry is split in half, filled with loads of sweet whipped cream, and
then dusted with a thick coating of powdered sugar. Some say the choux
pastry shells look like small cabbages which is probably where the name
"choux" comes from, as "choux" in French means "cabbage".Catherine de Medici's (an Italian who married France's Henry II) pastry
chef is credited with inventing choux pastry in the 1540s and it has
been the springboard for many desserts ever since. Besides cream puffs,
two other desserts using choux pastry are eclairs (long finger-shaped
choux pastry filled with cream and glazed with chocolate) and Profiteroles (small puffs of choux pastry split and
filled with cream or ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce).
Cream Puffs begin with a baked shell of choux pastry.
Choux pastry or pate
choux is an unusual pastry in that it is first cooked on the stove and
then baked in the oven. It is made by adding flour to a boiled mixture of
butter and water (like a roux). It is important that
the butter melts before the water boils as you do not want too much
evaporation as this will change the consistency of the dough. Once the
flour is added the mixture is cooked just until it forms a smooth ball of
removing from the heat, the dough is cooled to
lukewarm, and then you slowly add beaten egg until you have a smooth thick
paste-like dough. (As you add the
egg, you will notice that the dough first breaks apart but as you continue
to beat it will come back together.) Next, either pipe or spoon small
mounds of the dough on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. The
pastry is first baked at a high temperature and
then the oven temperature is lowered. The high temperature is needed
so the dough will rise quickly (leaving a hollow center) and to set the
structure of the shells. The temperature is then reduced to allow
the outsides of the shells to become firm and crisp, while at the same time allowing
the insides of the shells to dry out. You might want to cut one of the shells in half
at the end of baking to make sure they have dried out, because if the
inside dough is still very wet (a little wet dough is fine), the choux
pastry will deflate upon cooling. Once baked, turn off the oven, and then
poke a couple of holes into each puff and let them completely cool in the oven, with the door slightly
don't worry if the shells have just a small
amount of moist dough inside as this can simply
be removed before filling the shells.
Once the pastry shells have cooled, split them in half and fill with sweet
whipped cream. During berry season I often add a few raspberries or cut up
strawberries to the cream. The finishing touch is to dust the tops of the
pastry shells with powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar. 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 (as I prefer) you can assemble the cream puffs a few hours before serving.
Just make sure you cover and place in the refrigerator.
Choux Pastry: Preheat
oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
or lightly butter or spray the pan with a non stick vegetable spray.
In a bowl sift
or whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. (Make
sure that the butter melts before the water boils to reduce the amount of
from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir
until combined. Return saucepan to the heat and
stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of
the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). Transfer the
dough to your
electric mixer, or use a hand mixer, and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough
(about a minute). Once the dough is
lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come
together) and continue to mix until you have
a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon). Spoon or pipe 12
small mounds of dough onto the
baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. With a pastry brush, gently brush the
tops of the dough with a lightly beaten egg.
Bake for 15
minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Continue
to bake for a further 30 to 35 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and
when split, are almost dry inside. Turn the oven off, poke a couple of
holes in each puff and, with the oven door
slightly ajar, let the shells completely cool (and dry out).
Whipped Cream: 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 15 minutes. When chilled, whip the
cream just until stiff peaks form.
To Assemble: 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 (confectioners or icing) sugar. Leftover Cream Puffs
can be stored in the refrigerator.
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