Offbeat Bites: Cream Puffs

Yummy, but rich, this recipe makes about 10 cream puffs that are the perfect treat for guests on a cooler day.

Chef’s Note: These chocolate cream puffs are rich and tasty. If you have some time on hand, they aren’t difficult to make at all. They don’t, however, stay well for more than a day, so I would recommend that you have some guests on hand to help you eat them up. I would also advise that you prepare the cream before the pastry puffs, to allow the cream time to cool. Lastly, if you aren’t a big fan of chocolate, the chocolate chips are optional. Have fun and bon appetit!


To make the cream filling:

There aren’t many ingredients needed to make the cream. The chocolate chips are optional; without them the cream is a regular vanilla flavor.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

4 egg yolks

1-1/3 cups of whole milk

3/4 teaspoon of vanilla

about 3/4 cup of semisweet chocolate chips (optional)


Beat the yolks, flour, sugar, and cornstarch together with a hand mixer.

Beat together the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and egg yolks with a hand mixer on high speed until it becomes a pale yellow, thick mixture.

The mixture will be a thick, buff colored concoction when ready for the next step.


Heat the milk carefully, and don’t scald it.

Heat the milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Combine about ⅓ of the hot milk with the egg yolk mixture by slowly pouring it in and stirring thoroughly. Scrape the egg mixture out of the bowl and combine with the rest of the milk in the  pan. Cook over low heat until the custard has thickened and is starting to bubble. Cook it at this stage for about a minute longer, being careful to whisk and scrape the bottom constantly to prevent lumping and scorching.


If you wanted a plain vanilla flavor you would merely omit the chocolate chips from this step.

Scrape custard into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chips. Let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be stored for up to two days.

To make the pastry puffs:

There are even fewer ingredients needed for the pastry than are needed for the cream filling.

Ingredients:

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of water

1/2 cup of whole milk

1 stick, or 8 tablespoons, of butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon of salt

4 eggs

egg wash (one whole egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons of water)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Cooking the dough in a saucepan is an odd practice for pastry dough, but that is how this specific dough is made.

Combine the salt, butter, water, and milk in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil.

Be warned: once you fully stir the flour in, the dough becomes super sticky and elastic. It’s not  exactly difficult to work with, but it requires a little bit of strength to stir.

Add flour all at once.

Cooking it for the extra minute rids the dough of excess moisture.

Stir furiously with a wooden spoon to combine until the dough forms (it will begin pulling away from the sides). Continue cooking for one minute after the dough is formed.

Cooling the dough afterwards allows for extra moisture to leave the dough.

Transfer the dough to a bowl, and allow it to cool for about five minutes.

Adding and blending the eggs in one at a time makes it easier to maintain a smooth, pasty dough.

Add one egg, then beat it in with a wooden spoon. Be sure that it is completely smooth and blended in. Repeat this process for the next three eggs (remember, one at a time!!).

A 1/4 cup of dough may seem like a lot, but the dough hardly rises. This is why you’ll need to hollow out the puffs later on.

Spoon out about ¼ cup of a cup of dough for each pastry puff. Don’t forget to leave some space between each dough ball (I got about 10 puffs out of the dough, if that helps). Brush them each with some egg wash. Bake them for about 15 minutes at 400F, then turn down the temperature to 350F for the last 20 to 25 minutes. The puffs will ready when they are golden brown.

The holes in the bottom of the puffs allow warm, moist air to escape the puffs, which in turn allows the puffs to retain their shape.

Turn off the oven. Poke a hole in the bottom of each pastry puff with a skewer, turn the puffs upside-down (so the holes face upwards), then return the puffs to the oven to dry out for 10 minutes.

The puffs should be golden and shiny when done. The egg wash is what gives it its shine.

Afterwards, let them cool on a cooling rack.


To assemble the cream puffs:

 

You’ll need to hollow out the puffs to make room for the filling.

Slice the tops of the puffs off. Hollow out any excess dough from the insides of the puffs.

I chose to put the tops back on slightly askew, so that guests could see what flavor the cream filling was before eating it.

You can pipe the cream in with a pastry bag if you want a neater look, but I chose to simply spoon the cream into the bottom part of the puff. Replace the tops, and you’re ready to serve!

All photos by Lauren Quinn

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