Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dress to impress.

You may remember some of my past odes to cream puffs. And I don't mean profiteroles - I mean cream puffs. Profiteroles, you see, don't do it for me. The ice cream makes the choux pastry shells go hard and cold, and then cold and soggy.

But cream puffs? Filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, cheese, whatever - those, I love. I've had some delicious ones in Pennsylvania and in California, but I'd never attempted them at home. Until now. Turns out, they're the kind of dessert that will impress your guests way out of proportion to the amount of effort you need to put in.

Basically, you make a choux pastry, then bake it into little puffs. Does that sound fancy? Well, trust me: it ain't. You boil some water with some butter, mix in some flour and eggs and...well, that's it! Drop those suckers onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for twenty minutes or so, and you have seriously French, seriously tasty little shells that you can fill to your heart's content.

To keep things simple, I filled mine with a mixture of whipped cream and mascarpone cheese. The cheese adds heft and complexity, but is way easier to deal with than pastry cream (one requires opening a package; the other is, well, pastry cream). You can do whatever you like, though - even fill them with ice cream, if you so choose. (Different strokes for different folks, right?)

I topped mine with hot fudge for a festive touch; you can also dust them with confectioner's sugar for a perfectly decadent breakfast or afternoon tea. Pastry puffs: the chameleons of the dessert world, am I right?

Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce
Choux pastry recipe adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking

For the pastry puffs
1 cup water
6 tbs. unsalted butter
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. granulated sugar
5 eggs, one beaten with 1/2 tsp. water

For the filling
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs. granulated sugar

For the chocolate sauce
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbs. turbinado sugar

Make the pastry puffs:
Move the oven racks to the bottom and top thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the water, butter and sugar in a 1 1/2 or 2 quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and immediately add all the flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend. Replace the pot over medium high heat for a minute or two, beating with the spoon all the while, until the dough begins to come away from the sides and the bottom of the pan is coated with a film of flour.

Remove from the heat and make a well in the middle of the dough. Add one egg at a time, beating thoroughly with the spoon until well-mixed. Continue with the remaining eggs, one by one. Once all the eggs have been added, mix for another minute more, until smooth.

Line two cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment paper. Drop 2-inch diameter rounds of dough onto the pans, leaving about two inches between them. Wet your fingers and shape the rounds into even shapes, if need be. Brush with the tops with just a bit of the egg and water mixture.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed, firm and golden brown, switching the pans positions' halfway through. Remove from the oven, steel yourself, then cut a slit in the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Replace on the pans and place back in the (now turned-off) oven for ten more minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, beat the cream and half the sugar until it forms stiff peaks. In a separate, larger bowl, beat the mascarpone and half the sugar until it is lighter and somehwat fluffy. Fold the cream into the mascarpone and mix gently until evenly blended.

Make the chocolate sauce:
In a double boiler set over low heat, melt the chocolate, cream and sugar together. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the sauce is evenly melted and smooth, remove from the heat.

To assemble the cream puffs:
Slice a puff 2/3 of the way around - it should look like a Muppet with a mouth that opens and closes. Fill with as much of the filling as you can. Place two or three filled puffs on a plate, then top with the warm chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves four.


Gidaren-kun said...

These look so awesome! While making choux is arm-breaking, you're totally right, people go nuts for them. Never thought of adding mascarpone cheese, great idea!

Jen said...

Yumm great pic! I love cream puffs, especially from bearded papa's. I'm gonna try to make them. Love reading your would be great if you could check mine out :)

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