Friday, May 28, 2010

Daring Baker's Cream Puffs

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The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri. This was a challenge I looked forward to. I thought it would be a great treat for Memorial Day with Nic coming home. But Nic isn't coming home, and I lost my desire to bake it. But, Christina showed interest in helping, so I said WTH, let's make it. I'll have my pity party over a glass or 3 of wine. Hopefully my sweet son will get a quick weekend home soon.

I have been making variations of croquembouche for many years. Not using pastry however, using truffles. I am sort known for my truffle tree by old friends. It has been a number of years since I made one, but I am thinking blow-out Christmas party this year and a truffle tree will make its reprise. But for today, Cream Puffs.

Pate a choux is the most basic of pastry. It mixes up in a hurry and makes magic in the oven. That fabulous, airy puff just waiting for pastry cream. Here is the recipe I followed for the puffs. Very easy.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup water
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425◦F degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Traditionally vanilla pastry cream is the filling, and I am a basic kind of girl, my choice. You can use any number of recipes. Here is the one I chose.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla ( I used vanilla paste)

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

The final step is to stack the profiteroles and surround it with spun sugar. This is a show stopping technique that is really a challenge in Memphis in the humidity. Since I don't have 20 people to eat these darn things, I couldn't fill and stack the whole batch at once. After the filling is pumped into the pastry, the clock is ticking. It doesn't take long for it to go from fabulous to soggy, so no preparing ahead. Since there were only 2 of us indulging, our tower was not to be. Four delicious cream puffs. But delicious, regardless of the size of the mountain. Not exactly Memorial Day food right?


  1. Your filling looks luscious in the photo. I bet the truffle tree is amazing!!

  2. OK..I think those are the most delicious, decadent looking chocolate drizzled cream puffs I've ever seen in my life. I want to grab them out of the screen! YES, the humidity is a killer on caramelized sugar, but as you mentioned, I made it through..although the puffs had to be 'deglazed' before eating. the caramel was too chewy gooey from the