Monday, March 24, 2014

Cream Puffs

...because buildabelly needs them.  Because YOU need them.

 I haven't made cream puffs since I was fourteen years old.  After each break, when my parents drove my older sister back to college, I'd make something elaborate from the cookbook to sustain my older and younger siblings and myself while they were gone.  The offerings were predictable: divinity (always a sickly-sweet winner), molasses taffy, cookies and cakes of all kinds, and...cream puffs.  The funny thing is that I only made the puffs and not the cream.  We were so hungry by the time the puffs emerged golden-brown from the oven that we just filled the shells with Christmas m&ms from the basement freezer.

These genuine cream puffs, folks, are even better.

You can thank Millie for them.  I'm not fasting from meals for Lent, but the girls and I have omitted desserts and sweeteners during the week, waiting until Sundays (which aren't part of the 40 days) to add honey to our tea.  Millie's been making one fancy dessert each Sunday, too, and this one hit the spot.  I helped her in parts, but she's the one to thank for the bulk of it.

For the cream puffs, we slightly adapted the classic Fannie Farmer recipe, which follows.

Cream Puffs
(makes 28-30)

1 cup water
8 tbsp. butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.  Return to moderate heat and stir constantly until the dough leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating hard until the dough is smooth.  Place large, rounded tablespoons of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  Bake for 30 minutes or until puffs are golden brown.  Prick the tops with a toothpick or skewer to let steam escape for a few minutes and, after cooling them for a bit on a rack, cut them in half.

Note: She added the vanilla to the dough, and we baked them on parchment paper-lined baking sheets instead of bare sheets.

Cream Filling (Crème Pâtissière)
Makes enough for 28-30 cream puffs.

Millie used Fannie Farmer's Basic Cream Filling recipe, and then she folded sweetened, fresh whipped cream into the chilled filling to make a lighter, fluffier filling.

2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
4 tsp. vanilla

Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan until very hot but not boiling.  Mix the sugar, flour, and salt together in a bowl, stir in the hot milk, and beat until well blended.  Pour back into the pan and continue to stir vigorously over low heat for 4-5 minutes, until very thick and smooth.  Add the egg yolks and cook for a few more minutes.  Cool, stirring from time to time, then add the vanilla.

Cool completely in the refrigerator (or, if you're strapped for time like Millie was, in the freezer) before folding in freshly whipped cream.  Whip 3/4 pint of heavy cream (reserving the remaining 1/4 pint) until soft peaks form and gradually add sugar, to taste, until stiff peaks form.  Fold the whipped cream into the chilled crème pâtissière, and then place a hearty dollop of the filling onto each cooled cream puff before replacing the tops.

Chocolate Ganache Topping

Take the remaining 1/4 pint of heavy cream and heat it together with a cup or so of semisweet chocolate chips.  (We use the microwave for this.  Just heat it for 30 seconds and then in increments of 10 seconds to avoid scorching it.)  Stir together until melted and smooth.  Allow it to cool and thicken a bit until it's the right consistency for topping your cream puffs.  Melt in a few more chocolate chips if it seems too thin. Allow topping to cool and then dig in.

Note: They are best eaten fresh, as they tend to become soggy when stored in the refrigerator.

These are unbelievable, but don't give yourself a bellyache. 
(And if you do, don't say I didn't warn you.)


Molly said...

This looks so elegant! I hope I can manage it but I'll make sure that I have a plan for serving or I WILL eat them all by myself. Yes, I am capable of downing 28-30 cream puffs, I am sad to say. Way to go Millie! Millie's Bake Shoppe - hmmm, has a nice ring to it, huh?

Much love!

Abigail said...

I could definitely pack away a dozen cream puffs in a matter of minutes. These are SO good, too.

I'll let Millie know about the name. Who knows? Maybe someday... :)