Monday, April 11, 2011

Cream Puffs - good for the soul, not for the waist

 I really do still cook. Between trying to graduate college, and lose some weight for the summer, cooking up family recipes that include phrases like "a stick of butter" and "a cup of sugar" have not been on my list of foods to eat. However, time is surely running out before my mother leaves and I have a LOT of recipes I still need to learn, so it's all in the name of homestyle preservation right?

This next one I'm tackling is probably a family favorite. One of those dishes that never leaves leftovers, and more so, always leaves a smile on the faces of the lucky few that happened to be around the table when these come out of the fridge. Yes, cream puffs. I would really like to go into an awesome rant right here about how there is some deep seeded family history as to why these are so special, but as far as I know there isn't. Where most recipes I talk about have some tie to my grandparents farm, or ties to events shared with family, these don't have any distinct place. They are just that special to me because they really are just THAT good.

I know what you're all thinking, and yes, I will tell you how to make them! Basically, it breaks down into two parts, the actual puff and then the filling. I'll jump around just a little bit, but for making these you kind of have to. So here goes:

The filling (Part 1 of 2)

1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp Corn Starch
2 Tbsp Flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk

Beat egg yolks, and add the two cups of milk in a small bowl.  In a saucepan, mix all of the dry ingredients. Add the milk/egg mixture and turn the heat on. You need to stir constantly through this whole process. In the beginning it will look like this:

Keep stirring, and eventually it will all of a sudden thicken up. Seriously, you need to be stirring and watching, because it will happen pretty rapidly. When it does, remove from heat, and place in the fridge. As an FYI, heres what the thickened part looks like:

After that is in the fridge, we can move on to step two, so here goes..

The Puffs (Step 1 of 1)

First off, preheat the oven to 400. I'm not sure why, but I always seem to forget to preheat the oven. You'd think after the first couple times I had to impatiently wait with a pan full of cookie dough I'd learn, but I guess not. Anyways, while the oven is preheating, we will make the dough that will make the puffs. Ingredients are:

1 cup Water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 Cup all purpose flour (King Arthur flour really does make a difference, I'll explain another day)
4 eggs

Heat the water and butter in a saucepan until it reaches a rolling boil. When it does, add in the flour and stir vigorously for one minute over low heat, or until the dough forms a ball. Remove from heat, and beat in the four eggs (you can do this right in the saucepan, but make sure you don't use a non stick saucepan).

At this point, your dough is ready to go. Using a tablespoon form the dough into small balls and drop them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Pop these in the oven (you should have ended up with about 25 dough balls) for about 30-32 minutes, or until they are nice and golden brown.  They look pretty good coming out of the oven.

This brings me to part 3!

The filling (part 2 of 2)

At this point the filling you made earlier should be nice and chilled down, but it's not quite ready to get piped into the puffs you just made. In a separate container, whip 3/4 cup of heavy cream until it is thick. Warning: When working with heavy cream, make sure the bowl and mixer are TOTALLY DRY. After it has whipped up into the consistency of whipped cream, add it to the chilled bowl of filling, along with 1 tsp of vanilla, and beat until well blended. Your chilled custard is now delicious cream puff filling!

Scoop this custard into a pastry bag, and use a tip that will not make a giant hole in the cream puff. I found the trick to filling these was to find an already weak point near the top of the puff, insert the tip and squeeze in enough filling so that the top of the cream puff starts to bulge just a little bit, or when the filling backs up to the tip.  The reason you want to pipe it in near the top, is because later on you will cover the top with chocolate frosting, which will hide your filling point.  Continue to fill all of them, and you should have just enough filling to fill them all up.

After that, just whip up some simple chocolate frosting and lightly frost all of the cream puffs. An alternative is to just sprinkle confectioner's sugar over them but i'll be honest, the chocolate frosting is way better! After they're all nice and frosted, pop them in the fridge for about two hours and they are ready to serve!

With Easter just around the corner, I will have a TON to blog about, so keep checking back!

1 comment:

  1. I'm making them for Easter!!! Can you please document Plazek with mom? THat one needs some serious step-by-step photo documentation.

    I walways order these for my birthday. You're right; no tradition: just THAT good!