Cream Puffs for Fat Tuesday

Saturday, March 5, 2011 @ 05:03 PM

Today I would like to deviate a little form the norm. I know that many people, before Lent, like to over indulge. Eat, drink, be merry and party, before the Lenten season begins. Many people eat richer, fattier foods and meats and drink lots of alcoholic beverages on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. They start up their deep fryers, get out their jambalaya pots, make gumbo, or crawdads, and drink until their heads hurt. My sister and I both decided that since Fat Tuesday will be on our deceased father’s birthday that we are both going to make Pop’s favorite dessert that day. Pop loved cream puffs. My mom used to make them for his birthday every year. Instead of a normal cream puff filling, she would make vanilla and chocolate pudding for the filling. So in honor of Pop’s birthday and Fat Tuesday here are two cream puff recipes.

Cream Puffs I:

1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup pastry flour*, sifted
3 eggs

Cream Puffs II:

1 cup boiling water
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs

Cream puffs are a very light and delicate and hollow pastry of French origin. Although they are a simple bakery staple to prepare, a certain procedure needs to be followed for success.

Sift the flour so that there are no lumps.

In a saucepan, bring water and butter to the boiling point. Add the flour, all at one time, and stir briskly using a heavy wooden spoon, stirring constantly and in a circle until the mixture begins to leave the sides of the pan and form a ball. The mixture will become smooth, leaving the sides of the pan clean.

Stir over low heat to dry the mixture for 2 or 3 minutes. The mixture will lose its stickiness. Add the unbeaten eggs, one at a time, beating each egg in thoroughly before adding the next egg. The mixture should be smooth and shiny. (Note: This may be transferred to a bowl, cooled for 3 or 4 minutes, then beaten using a hand mixer.)

Drop by large spoonfuls onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet (or use a large pastry bag with a plain nozzle to pipe the mixture).

Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slowly. (You can leave them in the hot oven with the door open for a few minutes).

When cool, use a very sharp knife to slice off the tops and fill with vanilla cream pastry filling (see below), chocolate or vanilla pudding, ice cream, flavored whipped cream, etc. Top with fruit sauce or drizzle with honey. Melt some chocolate or use chocolate curls. Or just sprinkle a little powdered sugar over the top.

These same recipes can be used to make eclairs; the only difference is in the shape that is piped onto the baking sheet.

(*Pastry flour is a flour made from softer (or lower protein) wheat than all-purpose flour. It is useful in making products in which gluten development is not desirable, such as cookies and pastries. Gluten is the protein in flour that gives breads their “chewy” quality. If pastry flour is not available, you can make a reasonable substitute by combining 1/2 cup cake flour with 1/2 cup bread flour or 1/4 cup cake flour with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour for use in this recipe.)

For traditionalists I am including a vanilla pastry cream filling:
1 cup milk
1\4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter
Heat milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, like a cast iron sauce pan, until it is hot but not boiling. Combine sugar, salt, and flour in a mixing bowl. Stir in or whisk in the hot milk, by droplets first, and then a slow steady stream. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat whisking constantly and vigorously. Continue until the mixture boils and becomes very thick and smooth. Remove from heat, beat in the egg yolks, return to heat, and boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove the pastry cream from the heat and beat for about a minute to cool slightly. Stir in the vanilla and the butter. Scrape off the sides with a rubber spatula and smooth the surface. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream surface. Cool for about an hour before filling the puffs.
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