In keeping with the French Pastry trend from my last post, I decided to make cream puffs. This is another one of my Great-grandmother’s amazing recipes. Cream puffs have always seemed like something that would be very complicated, but they turned out to be surprisingly simple. The recipe was also unusually easy to follow, and created a minimum amount of dishes. Less dishes is always a bonus!
I started by making the custard. I made this ahead of time so that it was completely cool when I assembled the puffs. Runny custard ruins the whole experience. The custard recipe started with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/3 cup of flour. I mixed all of these in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Then I whisked in 2 cups of milk. I was very careful to whisk out all of the chunks of flour so that the custard was not lumpy.
When the milk mixture came to a boil I took it off the heat. Once the milk mixture was off the heat I added it about 1/2 cup at a time into 4 beaten eggs. This is the same technique I used with lemon meringue pie, ice cream custard, and lemon sauce. I seem to do this a lot! By adding the milk into the eggs a little bit at a time you avoid getting sweet scrambled eggs. See my lemon sauce blog post for more thoughts on this experience.
After the egg mixture was combined I returned it to the heat and brought it to a boil. I then removed it from the heat again and added in about 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. I used a little less than the recipe called for because I was using vanilla I got in Puerto Rico, which has a very strong taste. If you use normal vanilla, you may want to bump it up to 2 teaspoons. I then poured the custard into a bowl and put it into the fridge to cool overnight. You can refrigerate it for a shorter amount of time, but be sure that it is completely cool before you serve it. When it is in the fridge, make sure that it is wrapped in plastic wrap that touches the top of the custard all the way around. This keeps a skin from forming on the top of the custard.
The next morning, I started on the cream puff shells. I started by adding 1 cup of water to a medium saucepan, and put it over medium heat. Once the water had heated up a bit, I added 1/2 cup of butter which I had cut up into 1/2 inch cubes. I then let the butter melt, then come to a boil. Once the butter and water mix was boiling, I added 1 cup of flour and stirred it until a ball formed in the center of the pan.
Next I removed the paste from the heat and stirred in the eggs one at a time, being very careful to not let them cook. I then piped the paste onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. The design I picked unfortunately looked a bit like a certain emoji. In the future, I may go for a more cloud-shaped cream puff. Once they were all piped, I popped them in a 400℉ oven for 45 minutes.
Once the puffs were done I removed them from the oven and poked a small hole in the bottom with a knife. This allows them to cool more evenly. After about 1 hour they were completely cool. To assemble the puffs I cut them in half, then scooped out the still-wet centers. This made a little bowl for the custard in the bottom, and room for the whipped cream on the top. In each bottom section I added about 2 tablespoons of custard. On top of that, I added a generous dollop of whipped cream, and finished off the puffs with by placing the upper section of the puff half on top.
These cream puffs were amazing! The combination of the sweet custard, the airy cream, and the crunchy shell is delicious. I served mine with fresh-picked blackberries, which was a spectacular combination. You could serve these with virtually any type of berry or fruit, and even chocolate sauce. I absolutely recommend these as an addition to your summer desserts. The light and not-too-sweet nature of this pastry makes it perfect for dessert on a hot August evening.