Dinner last night was Roasted Maple Salmon with Shallots, Tartiflette, and seared Broccoli; all delicious, but no rival to the last course. Dessert was Cream Puffs. My aunt made cream puffs often when I was growing up and I'm still crazy about them today. And I will forever be in awe of Choux Pastry. It's amazingly simple to make -- water, butter, flour, and eggs -- and always excites me when I look into the oven and see how the batter has exploded into a golden ball of puffiness.
Most often, the Cream Puffs I've eaten have been filled with sweetened whipped cream; occasionally pastry cream. These are filled with both. This Austrian Cream Puff recipe comes to us via the Good Dinner Mom. I didn't change a thing since they're pretty perfect. Baking the choux pastry in a muffin tin gives the cream puffs some added height. No last minute assembly, either. Make them the day ahead and store in the refrigerator. If you're lucky, there will be one left for breakfast the next morning!
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 4 large eggs
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
SWEETENED WHIPPED CREAM:
• 1 pint heavy cream
• sugar, to taste
• vanilla, to taste
• Confectioners' sugar, for serving
For the Choux Pastry:
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Lightly butter 10 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin. Set aside.
2. Bring the water and butter to a slow boil over medium heat in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Reduce heat to low and add the flour all at once. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the choux dough is shiny and cleans the sides of the pan. Transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer and allow to rest for 2 minutes.
3. Mixing on medium speed, beat in eggs one at a time. Continue to mix until the dough is smooth.
4. Using a spoon, divide the dough evenly between the 10 buttered muffin cups. Place the muffin tin on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake choux pastry shells until puffed, golden brown, and dry, approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Your goal is to have the choux pastry as dry as possible. Remove from oven. Pierce each shell with a toothpick to allow steam to escape and transfer to a rack to cool completely. If making ahead, once the shells have cooled cover with foil.
For the Custard Filling:
1. Combine sugar, flour, and salt in a medium-size saucepan. Stir in the milk. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thick and starting to bubble. Boil gently for 1 minute while continuing to stir. Remove from heat.
2. Slowly whisk half of the cream mixture into the egg yolks. Stir this back into the mixture in the saucepan. Continue to stir mixture just until it reaches a boil. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Set aside to cool.
For the Whipped Cream:
1. Whip the cold, heavy cream either by a hand-held whisk or with an electric mixer. Add sugar and vanilla to taste.
1. Slice the tops off of the cooled pastry shells. Gently remove the insides to make room for the custard and whipped cream. Give the cooled custard a good whisk, then fill the shells about 3/4 full. Spoon a large dollop of whipped cream onto the custard. Top the cream with the sliced-off pastry shell.
2. If serving immediately, dust cream puffs with Confectioners' sugar. If not, keep cream puffs, (without Confectioners' sugar) covered with a sheet of waxed paper and refrigerated. (They actually benefit from 4 hours of refrigeration). Dust with Confectioners' sugar once Cream Puffs are removed from refrigerator.
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