February 14, 2013

cream puffs for Valentine's Day

Cream puffs may look complicated to make but for an elegant dessert that's perfect for any special occasion, it's surprising how easy they are to make. Piping the choux pastry instead of just mounding them with a spoon on the baking sheet will give them an even better look for presentation. I thought about making them for dessert for Valentine's Day this year.

shown above drizzled with caramelized sugar
They can be filled with whipped cream but I like to use a basic cream filling flavored with either vanilla or lemon. Next time I will try both cream filling and whipped cream together. They look so much better with lots of whipped cream. They're great drizzled with spun sugar but they're just as lovely when evenly sprinkled with powdered sugar just before serving. I like to check out the Joy of Baking website for more information and to watch the instructional videos. I found a very good and easy to follow recipe for these cream puffs in the website. However, I also would like to share the recipe I used below.


 For the choux pastry:

1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
3 to 4 eggs plus 1 egg for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar and salt. Bring the water with the butter to a boil in a small saucepan. When the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Return the pan to the heat and continue to cook mixing well until mixture no longer sticks to the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little. Using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition until the mixture appears shiny and smooth. Use a spoon or transfer the dough to a pastry bag with a star tip and pipe onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 mins at 400F then lower the oven temperature to 350F and continue baking for 20-30 minutes more or until golden brown and crispy. Underbaking will make the puffs collapse so after turning the oven off, they may be left inside the oven for 10 minutes more to ensure that the puffs are almost dry inside.

This is a basic recipe that may be used for cakes and other pastries.

1 pint fresh whole milk or combination fresh milk and evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon flavoring
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
zest of 1 lemon (for more flavor but optional)

Combine all the ingredients together and cook over very low heat until thick. Mixture will not look very smooth but if desired, an electric mixer may be used to improve the texture of the cream filling before using. The texture doesn't really bother me as the filling will just go inside the cream puffs anyway. Split the cream puffs, fill with cream and top with whipped cream.

It's amazing to see the different stages of spun sugar as shown above.

the cream puffs shown cooling on a wire rack

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