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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Homemade Cream Puffs from scratch

Cream Puffs
You can make these beautiful cream puffs and fill them as a dessert with ice cream or whipped cream.  You can make them and fill them for lunch with crab or chicken salad.  You can add cheese to the dough and make savory little gougeres for appetizers, which I will make for a future post.  You can make the cream puffs ahead of time and then simply fill them right before serving - I love recipes that can be made ahead of time, and this one is one of the best and most versatile.  Once you have this basic technique in your cooking arsenal, you will be ready to make all kinds of goodies.
This recipe is adapted from the italian dish
Yes making cream puffs are a bit of work, I used to make them when I was just 13 and I would take one to school for my very first boy friend. You will wow your friends and family if you take the time. 
You heat your liquid ingredients on the stove, dump in the flour all at once and stir until it forms a dough.  You then stick that in your stand mixer (or food processor), add eggs and mix until it is a paste.  You pipe it or spoon it onto baking sheets and bake. That's it.  The dough takes less than 10 minutes to whip up and it's all ingredients that you already have in your pantry and fridge
One of the fun things to do with this recipe is to make a dessert bar.  Instead of a sundae bar, set up a cream puff bar - set out baked and split cream puffs, different types of ice creams, different flavors of whipped creams and sauces and toppings.  I like filling some with Nutella and whipped cream. Let everyone go at it, assembling their own cream puffs.  
Now let's make some.
Cream Puffs
Makes 12 - 13 medium sized cream puffs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs   I prefer large
Heat the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium high heat just until the milk starts to boil. Lower the heat to low and then dump in all the flour and stir with a wooden spoon.  The dough will pull together.  Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring the ball of dough around, so that it dries out.  Remove the dough and place it either in the bowl of a stand mixer or the bowl of a food processor and let the dough cool off for a few minutes.
Line a baking sheet with either a Silpat or parchment paper  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
With the mixer running, using the beater blade, add the eggs one at a time.  It's important that you let each egg incorporate fully into the dough before adding the next one.  The dough will look curdled and weird - don't worry about it.  After all four eggs are added, mix until the dough forms a nice paste consistency.  It will be very loose, not at all like a bread dough.  (If you do not have either a mixer or some kind or a food processor, you can beat in the eggs one at a time with a spoon.  It just is a little more work).
Pipe the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large tip (I like using a star tip).  If you don't have a piping bag, you can use a gallon size zip-lock with the tip cut off of one corner or just use a spoon to place the dough onto the baking sheet. Pipe the dough into mounds about 2 to 2-1/2 inches wide.   
Bake at 375 degrees F.  for about 25 minutes, or until the puffs are a nice golden brown.  Turn off the heat and open the oven door a few inches and let the puffs sit in the turned off oven to dry out for about 30 minutes.  
If you want to use the cream puffs with a savory filling, like chicken salad, just cut back or omit the sugar.

Homemade Chocolate Sauce:

  • 1 cup cream
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the cream and chocolate just until it scalds (bubbles will form on the outside perimeter of the pot).  Turn off heat, add extract and whisk until smooth.
This sauce can be kept in the refrigerator a few days - just bring to room temperature to serve because it firms up when it is cold.
Homemade Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or a teaspoon of any flavor liquor you like - Amaretto, Grand Marnier, etc)

Whip cream until soft.  Add sugar and extract or liquor.  Whip until firm.  Refrigerate.
Cream Puffs can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.  They can also be frozen for several months. 

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