Ooooooh. The challenge was issued in a perfectly friendly, non-snarky manner (she’s a doll!) by this month’s hostess of the book club I attend. She commented that she was making a yummy entree, so we could be as creative or pedestrian as we chose with our potluck offerings.
If you’ve ever wanted to make cream puffs but thought they were difficult, let me tell you a secret. They are easier than baking cookies! They’re wonderful stuffed with chicken or tuna salad, ice cream, berries and cream, or instant pudding mixed with non-dairy topping. (I don’t use that stuff anymore, but I have to admit, it’s great to use in desserts because it stays fluffy.)
You can bake the cream puffs ahead and freeze them if you like. If you’re going to do this, don’t cut their little tops off – just pop them in a freezer bag. You can also bake them, behead them, and pull their doughy innards out. Mmmmm…making this sound real appetizing, aren’t I? Put them in an airtight container and store for up to 24 hours.
I can’t do anything the easy way, so I make them just in time to fill them and dash. Adrenaline is my friend.
Here’s my basic cream puff recipe:
|Cream Puffs|| |
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt (if you use salted butter, reduce this to ¼ teaspoon)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup bread flour (all-purpose is okay, too)
- 4 eggs
- Heat oven to 425 F.
- Put the butter and water in a medium pan on high heat and bring to a boil.
- Stir in the flour and salt. Turn down to medium and stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Don't agonize over this...if it's sticking together in a shape that's even close to a ball, it's done! It won't take long.
- Put the dough into a large bowl. If you're using a stand mixer, use your flat beater or sturdy whips. If you're mixing by hand, a wooden spoon is perfect. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each egg.
- On a large ungreased cookie sheet, drop by heaping tablespoons. You should be able to get them all on one pan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the puffs are a medium golden color. You want them to be nice and dry, so if in doubt, give them another minute.
- Move the puffs onto a rack to cool.
- When cool, cut the tops off, pull out any doughy pieces, and fill.
I’m all about eggnog right now, so a spiked eggnog filling was a must. I also made a peppermint filling for non-imbibers.
1 package (3.4 ounces) Cook & Serve Vanilla pudding mix
2 cups eggnog (don’t go low calorie here – it sets better with the real thing!)
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon spiced rum (optional)
In a medium pan, whisk pudding mix into eggnog. Add nutmeg. Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Pour into a large bowl to cool.
When cool, stir the rum into the pudding. Whip the cream until it holds its shape, and fold it into the pudding. Keep refrigerated until just before you want to serve the cream puffs.
Using a spoon or pastry bag, fill the puffs. Put the pastry top back on, and drizzle with caramel sauce if desired. Yes, I used sauce from a jar, warmed slightly so it would drizzle instead of glob!
Peppermint Marshmallow Filling
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 cup mini marshmallows
3 average candy canes, crushed (about 1/3 cup)
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks.
Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until the cream holds its shape.
Add the marshmallows and crushed candy canes, and refrigerate for at least an hour. (Two or three hours is even better. The cream turns a deep pink color and the bits and pieces of candy are softened.)
Fill the puffs and drizzle with chocolate sauce or ganache.
To make ganache, use equal amounts of a good dark chocolate and heavy cream. I used 4 ounces of chocolate and 1/2 cup cream. Chop the chocolate into tiny pieces and put in a bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer and pour it over the chocolate. Stir gently. Let it sit on the counter, stirring occasionally, until it’s the consistency you want.
I’m going to make these again next week for our Homemaker’s Club Christmas luncheon. (Stop snickering. We still have clubs like that here in the country!) Think I’ll try making “poppers” so they aren’t as messy. I’ll let you know how they turn out. In the meantime, make the puffs and use your imagination when it comes to the filling…and please let me know what you come up with!