Recipe: Pate a Choux, by Cynthia Ferris-Bennett
Who doesn’t love a fresh, fluffy, crispy Cream Puff?
These delightful treats are perfect any time of year but are especially refreshing during summer when they are filled with cool, fresh whipped cream and topped with the finest fruit of the season.
The Cream Puff came about sometime in the 1540s when Catherine de Medici asked her pastry chef to create something special for her husband, Henry II of France and, voilà, the Cream Puff was born. The fillings for Cream Puffs range from the traditional whipped cream, to Cannoli filling (a Sierra Chef Signature dessert) to ice cream.
When a filling is frozen in the Cream Puff is then becomes a Profiterole. The traditional ice cream flavor for this is chocolate.
Cream Puff shells are a bit unusual to make as the dough, Pate a Choux, it actually cooked twice … once on the stovetop and then again in the oven to form the Cream Puff shape. This same Pate a Choux dough recipe may be used to create Eclairs.
Cream Puff shells can be formed into any size you choose. At Sierra Chef we tend to keep the large format (3- to 4-feet) for our sweet fillings. The smaller Cream Puff shells (1-inch) are reserved for our savory appetizer fillings such as flavored cream cheese or mascarpone.
Cream Puff shells also keep very well in the freezer up to a month. Just wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. To use simply remove from the freezer, take out of the plastic wrap to defrost. Do not defrost Cream Puff shells in the plastic wrap or they will lose their crispness.
To fill the Cream Puff shells you can either slice the top off and fill or fill through the bottom by inserting the filling via pastry bag fitted with a star tip.
Pate a Choux
1 cup water
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 ¼ cup flour
4 large eggs
Traditional Cream Puff Filling
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use Silicon pads.
Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil.
Remove the pan from the heat, and add the flour all at once, stirring consistently.
Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium heat until the mixture smooths out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than a minute…always continue stirring.
Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes or until a thermometer reads below 125 degrees.
Transfer the mixture to a mixer, and beat in the eggs one at a time. The mixture will look a bit curdled but will smooth out once all eggs are added. This should take about 3 minutes.
The size of the final Cream Puff shell will determine how much you pipe out. Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip pipe out 3 – 4 tablespoons into a mound. The star tip will give the Cream Puff shell a nice texture once cooked.
Bake the Cream Puff shells for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes, until pastries are a medium golden brown. DO NOT open the oven door while the pastries are baking.
Remove the Cream Puff shells from the oven. Make a small slit in the top of each, and return them to the oven for 5 minutes, to allow the steam to escape. Place them on a rack to cool
For the filling: Pour the cream into a mixing bowl, and begin to whip it on high speed (using your mixer’s whisk attachment, if you have one). Sprinkle in the sugar gradually as the cream whips. Whip until stiff but don’t over whip or you will end up with some very sweet butter.
Decide how you would like to fill your Cream Puffs…slice and fill or fill through the bottom.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar, top with fruit and serve.
Remember that extra Cream Puff shells can be frozen up to a month…Mangia!
“Life is a piece of cake, enjoy every layer,” Cynthia Ferris-Bennett.
Cynthia Ferris-Bennett, a Nevada native, is the owner of the Sierra Chef Culinary Center, Italian Bakery & Gourmet Market in Genoa, Nevada, which specializes in weekly cooking classes, gourmet culinary pantry & market, Italian desserts & pastries. She manages the Sierra Chef Farmers Market at Lampe Park on Wednesdays and the Sierra Chef Farmers Market in Genoa at the Orchard House on Saturdays – May through September. Cynthia is also the Event Manager for Orchard House in Historic Genoa, Nevada for Weddings & Events.