Choux pastry is one of the most important kinds of pastry in French cooking. The translantion of the word “choux” is cabbages. Actually, “my little cabbage” is a term of endearment in France. With choux, you can make petite sweet pastries called profiteroles, and savory cheese puffs, gougeres. The basic dough is always made the same way with the same proportions — 1/4 pound butter, 1 cup water, 1 cup flour and 4 large eggs. This scientific formula will produce hollow puffs when baked, golden brown and crispy on the outside. With choux pastry, I make Cream Puffs.
My first taste of cream puffs came from a batch my mom made, filled with vanilla ice cream and doused with chocolate sauce. I liked them. A lot. I can understand why a fourth-grade class in Mukwonago, Wisconsin has convinced their Republican Senator, Mary Lazich, to introduce a bill to the legislature that would declare the oh-so-delicious cream puff the state’s official dessert. The young, social-media-savvy students have even developed a facebook page to generate support for the idea. I love it!
I think we should start a Facebook page that would generate support for making the cream puff the new cupcake. Just like those sweet little frosted cakes, light, chubby cream puffs can be picked up and eaten out of hand. And, what teacher wouldn’t appreciate the student who brought fist-sized cream puffs for their birthday treat to share with the class? None of those pesky cupcake crumbs all over the floor.
The luscious puffs I made yesterday are speckled with chopped hazelnuts, offering texture and flavor. I sandwiched generous scoops of White Chocolate Cream into the middle of each one, the same Cream I use when I make parfaits, layering fresh berries with swirls of the sweet, light Cream. What has always been a thick and sexy whipped dreamy Cream has recently gone over the top. I discovered Lindt White Coconut bars during a casual shopping trip through my local Target store.
If you’ve never made cream puffs, don’t be afraid to give them a try. Just be sure to use real butter and large eggs. Follow the directions precisely and you will have golden, light puffs ready to fill with any sweet thing you choose. The Vanilla Cream I use to layer in Hazelnut Torte is a delicious choice for Cream Puffs. Chocolate Mousse or homemade ice cream create decadent cream puffs. Lemon curd lightened with whipped cream along with some fresh berries tucked into a Puff is an elegant dessert. This choux recipe, with no sugar, would also be delicious filled with savory chicken salad.
One of my favorite Puffs, though, is not petite, but fist-sized, with toasted chopped hazelnuts folded into the choux. I spread my favorite Dark Chocolate Sauce over the bottom half of each hollow puff, then top it with a huge dollop of White Chocolate Cream. Place the top half of the puff over the Cream and give it a little squish so the cream just starts to ooze out of the golden puff. Then, just dust with powdered sugar.
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cold eggs
- ½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts, skins removed
White Chocolate Cream Filling:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 (8-ounce) tub mascarpone, room temperature
- 1 (3.5 ounce) bar white chocolate, chopped
Dark Chocolate Sauce:
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 3 tablespoons water OR 3 tablespoons kahlua
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
Arrange rack just below oven center. Preheat to 425 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
Heat water, butter, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not let the mixture come up to a boil until the butter melts. When the butter has melted, increase the heat and let boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and add flour all at once. Remove the pot from the heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until flour is blended. The more you beat the mixture, the higher it will rise in the oven. Put the pot back on low heat and stir until batter pulls away from sides of the pan and easily forms a ball, about 3 minutes. Turn mixture into bowl of an electric mixer. Break up by mixing briefly with the paddle. Mix on low speed until slightly cooled. With mixer at medium speed, beat in eggs, 1 at a time, blending completely after each addition. Using a spatula, fold in the hazelnuts.
Drop dough by rounded, heaping tablespoonfuls about 2-inches apart on prepared pan, making 12 mounds in all. Using wet fingers, shape into 2-inch rounds, leaving tops somewhat rough. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 25 minutes or until deeply golden. Stick the point of a small knife into tops of each puff. Turn off oven and open door. Cool puffs on oven rack for 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Puffs can be made weeks ahead. (If making ahead, do not cut. Freeze in a heavy plastic bag. To restore crispness, reheat from frozen at 350 degrees, uncovered, on a cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes or until puffs feel dry & crisp.)
Make filling by melting white chocolate in a bowl in microwave oven set at 50% power, stirring after 2 minutes. Heat in microwave for another minute and stir until chocolate is melted. Set aside.
Whip cream, adding sugar a tablespoon at a time, until soft peaks form.
In another bowl, use electric mixer to beat mascarponeÂ with melted white chocolate. Add vanilla and blend. Add whipped cream and beat until mixture is thick and fluffy.
To make Dark Chocolate Sauce, combine whipping cream, dark corn syrup, butter and instant espresso powder in heavy saucepan over heat, stirring until butter melts. Add both chocolates and whisk until smooth. Mix in water or kahlua. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate sauce. Before serving, stir sauce over low heat just until warm.
To assemble Cream Puffs, slice puffs in half. Spread some of the Dark Chocolate Sauce over the inside of the bottom half. Spoon White Chocolate Cream over the chocolate, mounding it generously. Place the top half on the Puff. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Makes 12.
Tip from the cook
To remove the skins from hazelnuts, place them on a baking sheet and bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, then rub in a clean dish towel. Don’t worry if all the brown skins don”t come off. You can watch me demonstrate this process on a short video by clicking here.