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Monday, April 29, 2013

Finding Time in 2013: Cream Puffs

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 If you've grown up in Wisconsin, you're very familiar with the infamous cream puffs sold each year at the State Fair. The cows and the rides and the concerts are there every year, but I'm convinced it's the cream puffs that draw the crowds. The cream puffs there are the size of your face but that doesn't stop anyone from finishing every last bite.
I haven't lived in Wisconsin since I was twelve and I haven't been to the Wisconsin State Fair for a few years before that, but I still haven't forgotten those cream puffs. I've always been under the impression that they're difficult to make, requiring both homemade pastry cream and the perfectly light shell. Thus, they seemed like the perfect thing to attempt for my Finding Time in 2013 challenge.
Unbeknownst to me, cream puffs aren't actually all that difficult and I didn't need to set aside an entire day to make them like I had originally expected. I made both the pastry cream and the pate a choux a day ahead of time but then filled them just before serving. (Note--they did keep well in the fridge for a few days filled but were best the day I filled them) My original intention was to pipe the filling into each shell but my pastry tips have gone missing so instead I sliced them in half and added a large dollop of filling to each. A drizzle of chocolate finished them off and while they were miniature compared to the Wisconsin State Fair's version, one bite in and I was reminded of my childhood.

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Cream Puffs
vanilla bean pastry cream adapted from epicurious, cream puffs from allrecipes

for the pastry cream-
-1 1/2 cups half and half
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 large egg yolk
-2 tbsp all purpose flour
-seeds from 1 vanilla bean

for the cream puffs-
-1 cup water
-1/2 cup butter
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-4 eggs

for the chocolate drizzle-
-1/3 cup chocolate chips, melted

1. In a heavy medium saucepan, bring the half and half to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and flour. Gradually whisk in hot half and half, a little at a time, until all half and half is in the egg bowl. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk over medium heat, stirring until thickened and begins to boil (about 5 minutes). Once mixture boils, continue whisking for 1 minute. Pour cream into a medium bowl. Stir in vanilla seeds. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of pastry cream. Chill until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 425F. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Add flour and salt and stir until mixture forms a ball. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer (can also be done by hand) and beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper (about 2 inches between each).
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown (centers should be dry). Once shells have cooled, cut in half and fill with pastry cream or pipe pastry cream into the center. Drizzle with melted chocolate and refrigerate until ready to serve.