Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pate a Choux with Creme Patissiere (Cream Puffs)

Every once in a while I realize how strange I really am.  I took some time off last week, and what did I decide to do with it?  Go to the beach?  Visit friends?  Take a trip to a land unexplored?  Nope- I knew I'd be happiest in my kitchen so I arranged a "stay cation" for myself to try out some ideas I had (see Caramel Apple Cupcakes) and to challenge myself to make some things I haven't made before.  One of those items- was classic Cream Puffs.

Now I have to be honest here- Cream Puffs were not my first thought.  My mom had thought that peach pie might be delicious with all the beautiful local peaches that are around- I agreed, but having had success already with pie crust recently, I decided instead to make turnovers with puff pastry.  Then I read that puff pastry required a fair amount of counter space....sadly counter space is not something I have to spare in my apartment so I kept looking through recipes.  And then I stumbled upon King Arthur Flour's recipe for cream puffs and I was sold. 

I love cream puffs- I love the subtle yet buttery flavor of the dough, I love how light and airy they are, I love that they are stuffed with cream filling.  Most of all, I love that they feel like little clouds when you bite into them.  A slight crisp on the outside gives way easily, like a bubble being popped, to the sweet whipped cream like filling.  They are just delicious pieces of heaven.  I have always assumed that they are difficult to make- that to achieve the proper puff, the eggy nature of the interior....I thought all of that spelled out hard to make.   However, what I found was quite the opposite- they were easy as pie to make- from the fluffy little shells to the Creme Patisserie I used from the expert on all things French- Julia Child.

Pate a Choux (recipe from King Arthur Flour)

1 cup water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pats
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt; use 1/2 teaspoon if you're using unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2) Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil.

3) Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously until the mixture smoothes out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than 30 seconds.

4) Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It'll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds.

5) Transfer the dough to a mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time; the mixture will look curdled at first, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for 1 minute after adding the last egg. You'll have a stiff, smooth batter.

6) Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared sheets (a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here). Leave about 1 ½" to 2" between them; they're going to expand to about the size of a golf ball.

7) Bake for about 20 minutes, till they've puffed, they're a medium golden-brown, and they look dry.

8) Remove baked puffs from the oven, and use a sharp knife to cut a slit into the side of each puff, for steam to escape; this will help prevent them from becoming soggy. Return the puffs to the oven for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool. While the puffs are cooling, prepare the filling.****

****(I used the recipe from my King Arthur Flour Cook Book- the measurements were all the same- however they stated, at the end, instead to turn off the oven once they were done cooking, and crack the door open for a 1/2 hour.  I'm not sure what the difference would be-but that method worked for me!) 
Creme Patisserie (recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

1 cup granulated sugar

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup flour

2 cups boiling milk

1 tbsp. butter

1 1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract


Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms "the ribbon".

Beat in the flour.

Beating the yolk mixture, gradually pour on the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets.

Pour into saucepan and set over moderately high heat. Stir with a wire whip, reaching all over bottom of the pan. As sauce comes to a boil it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it. When boil is reached, beat over moderately low heat for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour. Be careful custard does not scorch in bottom of pan.

Remove from heat and beat in the butter, then vanilla extract. If the custard is not used immediately, clean it off the sides of the pan, and dot top of custard with softened butter to prevent a skin from forming over the surface. Creme Patisserie will keep for a week under refrigeration, or may be frozen.

I slightly amended the Creme Patisserie recipe by skinning and pureeing a single peach and then combining about a cup of the Creme Patisserie with 1/2 cup of the peach puree.  This gave the Creme Patisserie a more liquid texture but a beautiful peach flavor.

These were rather addictive to be honest.  Each one puffed up and made beautiful towers of pastry, but when sliced into were pleasantly cavernous allowing for maximum amounts of Creme Patisserie to be piped in.  I topped each with fresh raspberries and enjoyed every heavenly bite!  



Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Oooh I love cream puffs! Never had a peach flavored one though, it sounds yummy!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

These look SO good Fiona! I'd love to spend a staycation making these :)

Jen said...

These were so tasty. I'm definitely impressed :)

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Looks great! I like the fresh berry addition as well, good work on a classic!

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