So, last week I promised you cream puffs, and I am here to deliver. Cream puffs sound fancy, but they are actually really easy to make. As always, if I can do it, you can do it.
These are a little bit of an experiment. I wanted to make you something from A Taste of You. In the book, Grace’s cream puffs are flavored with blood lime and cardamom. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a cream puff purist. I don’t really go for flavors. I like a basic pâte à choux filled with sweetened whipped cream. Also, I totally made that shit up in the book – so no recipe. (In case you didn’t know, novel writers are just people who lie for a living.).
Anyway, let’s get started.
For the choux dough you’ll need:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
You can also make this with just water instead of water and milk and you can add a little sugar if you want a sweeter pastry.
Combine the water, milk, butter and salt in a saucepan and heat until it reaches a full boil. Dump the flour in all at once and stir vigorously until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Don’t worry about recognizing when this happens. It is very obvious. Keep cooking for about another minute so any excess liquid can evaporate.
Move the pan off the heat and let it cool for five minutes. Then stir in the eggs, one at a time. You want to beat the mixture hard by hand or on the lowest speed on the blender. Make sure the first egg is completely incorporated before adding the second. Then keep beating until you have a glossy, smooth dough.
Now you can make your pastries immediately, or you can cover and refrigerate for up to four hours. Because I am constantly trying to multi-task (usually to disastrous effect), you can guess what I did.
When you get ready to cook the pastry, heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Form the dough directly on an ungreased baking sheet. If you like, you can use a pastry bag and pipe these out. But for cream puffs, I just use a spoon. This recipe makes about 16 cream puffs (well, I suppose you can make them any size you want, but I made 16). Once you glob the dough onto the cookie sheet, you can sort of tidy it up with your fingers. Make sure to moisten you fingers with a little water so they won’t stick, then just pat-pat-pat into shape.
Now, the baking is two steps. Cook at 400 for about 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and cook about another 20 minutes. You might want to keep an eye on them. I got distracted (multitasking) and got this batch slightly over browned.
When they are nice and golden, turn the oven off. Turn all the pastries over and poke a little hole in the bottom. Then let them sit in the oven (off) for about 10 more minutes to dry out. After that, stick them on a rack to cool completely.
So that’s the pastry – and this is a basic pâte à choux that you can use to make éclairs, cream puffs, or even stuff with something savory. (Don’t add sugar for anything savory).
For the filling:
1 ½ cups heavy cream
Sugar to taste
I’ll give you a little tip – stick your mixing bowl and beaters in the fridge before you do this to help your cream stay cold and whip easier. Also, if you have any whipped cream left over, scoop it into a sieve and set it over a bowl in the fridge to keep it from getting nasty and runny. I’m not sure where I picked up that trick, but it works a charm.
Cut the tops off the pastries and fill with the cream.
Now – how am I going to make these blood lime and cardamom flavored, like Grace’s? Well, I am going to cheat so Bones and I can have some plain ones, too. I made a simple glaze. Also, I used key lime (sorry, my local grocery didn’t have blood limes, so you don’t get any either).
Key lime juice
Mix to taste.
Alright, aside from over-browning the pastries, this was my second kerfufle experimenting with this on the fly. The cardamom is likely to turn your glaze a slightly unattractive grayish color. I think if I did this again, I would just put the cardamom in the whipped cream. Anyway, mix your glaze up more or less to taste and drizzle it over the cream puff. Zest a little lime peel over the top and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Voila! Grace’s cream puffs. (Or a Mom’s kitchen version of them, anyway).