Tuesday, April 17, 2012

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My dear English mother loved cream puffs and on rare occasions she would bring a couple of them home from the bakery in a small white box. We were allowed to "admire them", but we all knew they were a special treat for her and I can still picture her face as she closed her eyes and lovingly savored those first bites.

 I sure wish I had known how easy they were to make while she was still with us; I would have loved to make them for her; I miss you mom !!

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar (see note)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (see note)

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil.

Stir in the dry ingredients (all at once) and stir vigorously with heavy spoon until it comes together in a thick ball of dough. Remove from heat.

Put the hot mixture into a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, and start beating it on medium speed.  While the mixer is running, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each egg; add vanilla. Beat mixture for 2 or 3 minutes or until the dough is smooth and sticks to the sides of the bowl.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake in pre-heated 425F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. They should feel light as air.

Remove from oven and this is important: Poke a small hole in the side of the baked cream puff to let out steam. If you don't, they might collapse as they cool. Makes about 18.

When the puffs are completely cool (they cool quickly), slice them in half, horizontally, and gently pull out any strands of extra dough you see (most of them won't have any). Put them back in a slightly warm oven for about 5 minutes to dry them out a little.

Fill them with anything you like. If you want to use them for a savory filling, like crab salad or something like that; I suggest that you leave out the sugar and vanilla in the recipe.

Cream puffs are great filled with fruit or whipped cream, or (our favorite) the following pastry cream.


2 cups milk (I use 1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 egg yolks
4 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt

Heat the milk and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. 

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the other 1/4 cup of sugar until light in color, then add the flour and salt and mix very well (I do this with a little hand mixer).

When the milk JUST begins to boil, remove it from the heat and slowly drizzle about half of the hot milk into the yolk mixture (whisk like crazy when you do this). Once well mixed, put everything back into the pan and whisk while you bring it back to a boil.  Use a spatula to make sure everything from the edges is well mixed.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for about a minute (it will be very thick). Remove from heat and mix in the butter and vanilla.

Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the hot pastry cream and chill. This cream will keep well in the fridge for a few days.
Fill the cream puffs just before you serve them. Refrigerate any leftovers.
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