This year for Labor Day, my whole family went to spend a long weekend with some family friends of ours. I had pre-decided with their oldest daughter, Katie, that we were going to collaborate on some cream puffs for their neighborhood block party.
Baking the cream puffs was super fun. There were 8 people in the kitchen at all times, we had 2 cameras capturing the craziness, and there were pots and pans everywhere.
The cream puffs were not quite as hard as I thought they would be. The key to making them turn out well is to be very, very patient. Don’t open the oven early, and be sure to give the puffs plenty of time to dry out in the oven. Cream puffs also need lots of attention, so be sure to give these divas the spotlight.
Overall, the cream puffs were absolutely fantastic. We did a pretty good job with the piping, and any mistakes were covered up by the cream. Katie’s artistically-inclined sisters had lots of fun drizzling the finished cream puffs with melted chocolate.
They tasted great too: creamy with a little bit of crunch from the pâte à choux, and the chocolate on top rounded it out to perfection. No wonder they all disappeared in 20 minutes!
Chocolate Glazed Cream Puffs
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
Makes 60 cream puffs
For the cream filling:
2 cups of half-and-half
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of sugar
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks (save 2 whites for later)
3 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick.
When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper, being sure to stir constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking CONSTANTLY, until the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
Whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours.
For the pâte à choux:
4 eggs plus 2 egg whites
10 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of whole milk
3/4 cup of water
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of all-purpose flour, sifted
Beat the eggs and egg white in a small bowl; save 1 cup and discard the rest. Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring once or twice. When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, about 3 minutes.
Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly (if you want to just whisk it really hard…be my guest). With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream. When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Spray a large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set aside.
Fit a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Hold the bag open with one hand and fill the bag with the paste.
To pipe the cream puffs, squeeze from the top of the bag and pipe small 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch mounds on the baking sheet, spacing them 1-2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes WITHOUT OPENING THE DOOR, then reduce to oven temperature to 375 F and continue baking for another 8-10 minutes, or until the puffs are golden brown.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven, then use a paring knife to cut a 3/4 inch slit in the side of each puff. Return the puffs to the oven, turn the oven off, prop the door open slightly, and let the puffs dry as the oven cools, about 45 minutes. Transfer the puffs to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the chocolate glaze:
1/2 cup of chocolate chips
1 tablespoon of butter
Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Stir to combine completely, and continue microwaving for 10 second intervals until there are no lumps.
To assemble the cream puffs, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch tip with the cream. Pipe the cream through the hole until it begins to ooze out the size (oh my yum!). Dip the top in the chocolate glaze, or drizzle it on top. Enjoy as you feel like a true pastry chef!
Cream Puffs = Crazy delicious fun.