By Cat, Jan 2008 (Photo, right, from King Arthur Flour (3))
This wonderful dessert is common to many European cultures including France (Choux à la crème or Profiteroles) and Denmark (Fyldte Vandbakkelser).
One day when I was about 7, Mom and I walked into the Lake Cafe for lunch. Bunny, the cook, had just taken a batch of goodies from the oven and set them out on a big tray. “Oh! Cream Puffs!” Mamma cried. “How did you know that’s my favorite dessert?” she asked Bunny.
“Why, it’s mine, too,” Bunny replied. “I had a dream about them last night and decided to try a batch.”
We sat on our stools at the counter and the waitress poured a cup of coffee for Mom. I tugged on Mom’s sleeve, “What’s a cream puff, Mamma?”
She pointed at the golden balls of pastry sitting on the tray. “Those are cream puffs. They get filled with a pastry cream or whipped cream, or sometimes a chocolate cream, and they are simply wonderful to eat.”
“Can I have one, Mamma?” I asked.
“You can have a taste of mine first, and if you like it, you can have one of your own. But not until after finishing your lunch,” she said.
I smiled to myself. I would eat all my lunch, no doubt about that. I loved desserts, especially when Bunny made them.
Years later, I was thumbing through a copy of Women’s Day magazine and found a recipe for cream puffs. I couldn’t believe how simple they were to make! The next time Mom came to visit me in Portland, I made them for her. She told me these are a Danish dessert, as well as French.
The water in the batter turns to steam and causes the puffs to rise a bit, leaving airy cavities in the dried puff. The puffs themselves are not sweetened, but you fill them with a sweetened cream, and can serve them with a sweetened chocolate or fruit sauce.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I would include such a frivolous treat in a collection of recipes for healthful, sustainable living. All I can say is that you only live once and sometimes you just deserve a real treat. If you use good butter and cream made from the milk of grass-fed cows, and eggs from pasture-raised chickens, you’re off to a healthful start. And while this recipe uses unbleached white flour, it is well balanced by the fat in the butter and cream so that it will not cause a spike in your blood sugar unless you totally overdo….
This recipe can also be used to make eclairs (pipe pastry cream into uncut puffs, then frost with chocolate frosting).
Cream Puffs (Fyldte Vandbakkelser)
This recipe is adapted from Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen (1), and The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck (2).
Makes 8 to 12 puffs, depending on size. The amount of butter depends on how rich you want the pastry. The amount of egg and moisture in the dough determine how large the puffs will be. Start with 3 eggs (added one at a time), then beat the 4th egg and add it gradually, until the mixture is able to hold a peak when the mixing spoon is withdrawn.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 1 cup filtered water
- 6-8 Tbsp butter (amount depends on how rich you want the puffs; I use 8 Tbsp or ½ cup)
- ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt (fine grind)
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 recipe pastry cream (Crème Pâtissière; choose from several versions)
- 1 recipe Dark Chocolate Sauce (optional)
- large baking sheet
- 3-quart saucepan
- small bowl or cup
- egg whip
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter and flour a large baking sheet.
- Heat water, butter and salt to boiling in saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove saucepan from heat. Vigorously stir in flour all at once until mixture forms a ball and comes away from the side of the pan (3 – 5 minutes).
- Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until batter becomes smooth and satiny. Beat 4 th egg in separate bowl until mixed, then work into batter gradually, adding just enough to allow a peak to hold when the mixing spoon is withdrawn.
- Drop batter by scant ¼ cup into 10 mounds, about 1 ¼ inches in diameter, and spacing 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheet (they will swell and puff in the oven). Moisten fingertips with water and gently smooth tops to round.
- Bake 40 – 45 minutes or until puffs are a deep golden-brown, and no beads of moisture show on the surface.
- Remove baking sheet from oven. With knife, poke a hole in one side of each puff to release steam.
- Turn off oven; return cookie sheet to oven and let puffs stand 10-15 minutes to dry out slightly. Transfer puffs to wire rack to cool completely.
- When ready to serve, slice each cooled puff horizontally in half. With fingers, remove and discard any moist dough inside. Spoon a bit of whipped cream, light pastry cream, or homemade vanilla ice cream on the bottom half, cover with the top half, and spoon chocolate or fruit sauce over the top, or dust with powdered sugar (I like to make my own powdered sugar from unrefined sugar cane juice, such as Rapadura).
- Alternately, you can fit a pastry tube with a piping tip, and fill with pastry cream. Poke into an uncut puff with the piping tip and squeeze the pastry tube to fill the puff with the pastry cream. I especially like to flavor the pastry cream with a bit of chocolate and brandy or Grand Marnier liqueur (See Chocolate Pastry Cream, and add brandy/liqueur to taste).
- Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen (See Beloved Cookbooks for more detail about this book)
- The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck (See Beloved Cookbooks for more detail about this book)
- King Arthur Flour, Cream puff image (kingarthurflour.com/blog/files/2012/04/DSC_2255.jpg)