Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cream Puffs

These were the prize for our annual Oscar Ballot competition at our Oscar Party this year. (Yes, I know the Oscars were a month ago. I'm slow. ;) )

The nice thing about cream puffs is that they aren't nearly as difficult or complicated as they seem. Here is my family's tried and true recipe (in three parts):

Cream Puffs (the pastry part):
1 c. water
1/2 c. (one stick) butter
1/8 t. salt
1 c. flour
4 eggs

In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until the mixture forms a ball (this only takes about a minute). Remove from heat and cool for ten minutes (this is important because if you add the eggs when it is too hot, they will start cooking and make the dough lumpy). Add eggs one at a time. Each time, stir well with a wooden spoon until the egg is completely incorporated. This is the key to good cream puffs, and it gives your arm quite a work out.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet. Drop dough onto the baking sheet by the heaping spoonfuls. I like to make my cream puffs pretty small so it makes about 24 cream puffs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 20 minutes. Cream puffs are done when they are golden and the peaks are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. As you can see, there isn't any sugar in the puffs themselves, so they can be used for appetizers or lunch items if you want to fill them with chicken or tuna salad, or anything else you can come up with.

Cream Puff Filling
1 large box vanilla instant pudding
1 pint whipping cream

Prepare pudding according to the directions on the box, using only half the indicated amount of milk. While pudding chills, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in the pudding gently, until the cream and pudding are completely mixed together. This makes enough filling for two batches of cream puffs. It's a lot. :)

There are two ways to fill the cream puffs. Either you can slice them in half and scoop a generous amount into each one, or you can poke a hole in each one and fill them using a frosting bag and wide piping tube. Slicing them in half is much easier and faster, but also messier.

If you like your cream puffs without chocolate on top, you can simply sprinkle some powdered sugar on top at this point and call them done. :) If you are a chocolate lover, like me, continue on to the final step.

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting:
This recipe comes from the side of the Hershey's Cocoa container.
1/2 c. butter or margarine
2/3 c. cocoa
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. milk
1 t. vanilla

Melt butter in the microwave. In a medium heat-safe (pyrex glass or metal works well) bowl stir together melted butter and cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk or more powdered sugar as needed. Stir in vanilla.

At this point, the frosting is finished. However, my dad likes the frosting on his cream puffs to have a fudge-like quality (and so do I :) ). In order to achieve this, he holds the bowl of frosting over a stove burner (hence the heat-proof bowl) on medium-low heat, stirring continuously until it just begins to melt. At this point he pours the chocolate over the filled cream puffs in a thick layer. If the frosting starts setting up before he has finished topping the cream puffs he holds it back over the heat to soften it again. Because he partially melts the frosting, it sets back up and ends up having a consistency that is more like fudge than frosting.

They end up looking great and tasting amazing! :) Enjoy!

(Either serve the cream puffs immediately, or refrigerate them until serving. They don't last very long in the fridge, so I wouldn't make them too far in advance.)

1 comment:

Brian Whitmer said...

Wow, great pics, Jennie. I like how you lay the chocolate on thick. Mmm...