By Donna Zitter Bordelon
May, the month of Mother’s Day, also brings festive sprinkles for wedding showers that encourage sweet treats. May is the month for cream puffs — those dainty, delicate indulgences that somehow seem meant for ladies and tea.
Cream puffs are made from a French choux pastry aka Pate a Choux, with “Pate” meaning paste and “Choux” meaning cabbage. They are so named because they resemble little cabbages after they are baked. Besides cream puffs, the dough (thicker than a batter but not a heavy dough) is used to make eclairs, French crullers and more. This pastry contains only butter, water, flour and eggs.
CREAM PUFF PASTRY
4 eggs (*Important: Set out eggs early so they are at room temperature when you make the pastry. Crack them into a measuring cup.)
1 cup flour, sift onto wax paper and set aside
1 stick butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Lightly grease a large baking pan.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter, water, pinch of salt and sugar. Put the pan over medium heat, and as soon as all butter is melted and mixture is boiling briskly, add the flour all at once and begin immediately to beat in the flour with a long-handled wooden spoon. When the flour is mixed in, turn off the heat but continue to beat vigorously until the paste is smooth and shiny, and there are no lumps. (The mixture will leave the sides of the pan.)
Let the paste cool for about 2 minutes. (Good time to rest your arm, too.)
Beat 3 of the eggs into the mixture — 1 at a time, making sure that each egg is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next.
Break up the last egg and add only half of the egg to the paste. Beat to incorporate into paste.
The paste will be sticky but should hold its shape.
(If necessary, add a bit more of last egg.)
Add a few drops of water to the remaining egg in the cup and lightly brush the tops of the puffs using a pastry brush.
Drop paste by rounded tablespoon onto lightly greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes more.
(Best not to open oven while puffs bake.)
Turn off the oven. Poke a few small holes or slits in puffs, return them to the oven with the door slightly ajar, and let them cool.
Cool puffs completely before filling.
Unfilled puffs will keep in an airtight container/freezer bag in the refrigerator for a few days, or frozen for a few months.
Recrisp frozen, unfilled puffs in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes, and cool before filling.
Cream puffs can be filled with custard, whipped cream or ice cream, and are good topped with a sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar or a chocolate glaze. To assemble, split puffs in half and fill with the following whipped-cream filling, with or without berries. Best served within a few hours of filling.
WHIPPED CREAM FILLING
1 cup whipping cream
½ tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup sliced strawberries/blueberries, optional
Chill a bowl and beaters in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Add the cream and beat until soft peaks begin to form.
Add the vanilla and then gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Mix in berries, if using.
If assembling with ice cream, split puffs in half and, just before serving, fill them with your favorite ice cream. Make a Triple Sec or limoncello ice cream to fill the puffs for a special treat. Not for the kiddies.
CORDIAL ICE CREAM
2 cups vanilla ice cream
Tbsp. Triple Sec or limoncello
Mix together ice cream and cordial and refreeze.
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at Whats-cook-inNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)
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