Sunday, March 28, 2010

"He is not here"

In case you're one of those people who like to inject little lessons on the Faith into everyday life (or you happen to appreciate a bit of bad humor), you might like to join my family's tradition of enjoying cream puffs after Mass on Easter Vigil.

I ask you to use your imagination -a cream puff will be your reward at the end, so work with me here! The lesson comes from the structure of the bread; it's round - a little like a cave shape, and like the original Easter surprise, it's empty inside! The pun comes from the delicious filling piped into the center. Again, like the tomb on Easter morning your little caves are filled with something unexpected - the "odor of sanctity." I know, it's a stretch, but we like it, and it's a great excuse to make cream puffs.

This is one of those recipes that's easy to make but people are always impressed to learn you've done it yourself. In the cooking world this pastry is known as Pate au Choux.

Pastry Recipe:
1 cup water
3 ounces butter (unsalted, if it's available)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1 1/3 cup flour (bread flour, if you have it)
4 large eggs
1 or 2 large egg whites

Yield: Not enough. Make a double batch.
Just kidding - it makes about 4 dozen. But they're small so consider yourself warned.

1 box of vanilla pudding made with 3/4 of the milk called for on the box so it's a little thicker than usual.

In a saucepan -Melt butter in water.
Add flour and stir vigorously with a whisk until ball forms or pulls away from sides of pan.
Remove from heat.

Cool slightly.
With an electric mixer, beat in eggs, one at a time.
Beat for about a minute until it looks glossy but no longer wet.

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
I used a #60 food scoop, capacity- 1 tablespoon.
You can reuse the same sheet of parchment several times.
Bake at 400 º for 20 minutes.

Cool and use a pastry bag and piping tip to fill the breads.

Notes—bake until thoroughly browned and they will not flatten when cool. They keep their nice texture and height even when made a day ahead of time. I keep multiple baking sheets going at a time so I always have a cool one to put the next batch of batter onto. The breads can be made ahead of time and frozen. Do not fill until the day you'll serve them.

If you'd like to see this demonstrated, watch this two part lesson from the always entertaining Alton Brown:

1 comment:

Jessica said...

There was an article on making cream puffs of the local papers here about a month ago. (I don't know how much you care about giving details about location, so I'll just say it was the more liberal paper in MM's region.)
Anyway, it said that keeping all ingredients warm was a crucial part in having airy cream puffs, and recommended warming up the eggs a little in some warm water (or using them straight from the chickens, I suppose). It also suggested spritzing the tops of the puffs with a little water right before baking in case the tops had dried out a little while you were scooping out the rest of the dough. (dried crust = less "puffing" in the oven.)

Those were the first and only cream puffs I've ever made, so I can't really speak to the impact of these tips, but they seemed to work.