Thursday, February 3, 2011

French Fridays~ Valentine’s Creme Puffs

In case you are wondering, yes, of course, the French also celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.  The modern tradition is said to have started in ancient Rome, with the Festival of Lupercus, god of fertility, who appeared dressed in sheep’s clothing.  Mention of Saint Valentine first appeared in XIVth C England.  But you can look all of that up later, today we want to show you something excellent to make for your Sweetie, Hubbie, Children or Best Friends to show your amour~
Simplicity, perfection, in French tradition; the humble creme puff~


The creme puff is basically foolproof to bake.  The finished or filled puffs can be refrigerated or frozen, giving them great versatility. These puffs were featured for our shopping guests at our recent Long Beach Flea booth, to rave reviews and a dusting of Laura’s pant leg!
The pastry to make the creme puff is referred to as Choux, and filled and prepared, on the menu in France, you will often see them called profiteroles.  They can be filled with whipped cream (flavored or not), creme anglaise (custard), or soft ice cream.  The savory version incorporates Gruyere cheese, and is worthy of a separate post. 
You might be surprised at the ingredients to make these delectable delights…pufs are very easy and inexpensive to make, and most fun when you have two or three people to share the task. 
So, on y va! Let’s Go and make some creme puffs according to Julia’s Child’s recipe, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking~
As we say in French, le mis en scene, the setup:

Medium sized saucepan
1 pastry bag with wide round fitting
1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use a generous pinch of French sea salt)
1 teaspoon sugar
dash pepper, ground
dash of nutmeg
1 cup flour, sifted
a wooden spatula or spoon
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten, with 1 tablespoon water added

Place the water, butter salt, sugar, pepper & nutmeg in the pan, bring just to a boil (make sure the butter has melted).  Nutmeg is the secret ingredient in these choux; it gives a wonderful flavor versus a bland dough~


Remove from heat, add the flour, all at once, and stir with the wooden spoon to incorporate the flour. 


The dough will form a mass; continue to stir until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. 


Return to the heat and stir the dough, turn and mash the ball, to dry it out a little.


Turn the mixture out into a small mixing bowl (Cuisinart or Kitchenaid Mixer); add one egg at a time to mix well; you will need more time to incorporate the eggs for the 3rd and 4th eggs. The mixture should be smooth.


Once the dough is made, spoon it into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, any kind will do; the largest one in my set says Wilton 10 so that’s what I use~ 


Fold the pastry bag back before you fill it; this will let you fill it up without getting the dough all over the sides~


Once filled, fold the top of the pastry bag back- left corner, right corner, center, and wrap the folded top in a paper towel; this lets you pipe without the dough coming out the top of the pastry bag; if I am too 101 I am sorry, just took pics all along the process~
By the way, notice the wooden spoons I use are from Dehillerin Paris; this is the cookshop that Julia Child shopped at when she lived in Paris; it is where Williams-Sonoma first bought their wares; Laura and I will be taking orders for these indispensible yet inexpensive spoons for our loyal readers during our trip to France in May; each spoon is stamped Dehillerin Paris with their address~


Pipe a little over 1” diameter and 1 1/2” high and about 1 1/2” apart. Make one quick firm shape, not “around and around;”I use sil-pat style bake sheets.

Puffs can be made in all sizes, but Laura and I love the small bite-sized versions.  You can use this dough to make the larger puffs, but the centers must be scooped out prior to filling.  The tiny ones we show you here are easier….poppers….this recipe makes about 75 puffs.
If you don’t have a pastry bag, no worries, you can spoon small balls of pastry on to the cookie sheets.
When the puffs are piped out, use the lightly beaten egg and water to “top the tops”~


That is to say, dip your pastry brush in the egg mixture and just tap the top of the puffs; just to flatten the little peaks; this also gives the puffs a nice golden color and crust on top.  Do not let the egg run down the sides of the dough, or it will prohibit the “puffing”~


Into the 425 degree oven, your choux will look like this~


10 minutes or so later, until they are golden and firm, they will look like this; cooking times vary. It’s the heat and the egg that make them “puff”.  Look for firmness, and testing one is the best way to know~


Puffs can be left to “dry” in the oven with the oven door open for a few minutes up to 10 minutes if you want them more firm.  I like them softer, so I take them out of the oven when they are brown.

Step Two: The Filling
Mis en Scene:
1 pint whipping cream
1 chocolate bar (71% or better, bittersweet)
Fruit sauce, jam or fresh fruit to taste
3 tablespoons powdered sugar


I swear by Valrhona Chocolate; I used to buy it at Zabar’s in NYC but now you find it at Trader Joes in the 71%, my fav. 


Melt one bar in a small bowl over simmering water (double boiler). Whip the cream and divide it in half, if your guest like a choice :)  Mix half the cream with fresh fruit or in this case, strawberry/raspberry sauce from last summer. This is equally delicious on cakes, waffles and pancakes~


Mix the other half of the cream with most of the melted chocolate, to taste.  Which do you prefer, chocolate or berry?


Using the pastry bag again with the large round fitting, fill the pastry bag and then fill each puff, insert the tip into the puff and fill ‘er up~


You will get the hang of it quickly; you will end up with a bunch of this~


Dust with powdered sugar, which hides all errors, then drizzle with the last bit of melted chocolate~


As Miss Biscuit says, Mmmm mmm Good! It was her first birthday yesterday, so she got creme puffs….


Bon Appetit and email us or comment with any questions about this delicious little pastry!

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Mom in High Heels said...

YUMMY! My mom makes a puff like this (similar recipe-might even be the same), but fills them with crab salad for a fabulous appetizer. I think I'm going to have to try your sweet version. The filling sounds delicious!

The Everything List said...

i made puffs in my pastry class and they are so yummy. i love the eggy puffs. i found myself eating them without the cream inside.

Sherri said...

I have always been a fan of creme puffs and this post has made me want to leave work, run home and make some-LOL!!! They look so good and I love your little dog picture at the end-priceless!

Rattlebridge Farm said...

A lovely post!

Sandy said...

Thank you so much for the step by step making and baking process. My daughter is getting married in June and these might just show up at her shower!

Beadboard UpCountry said...

DEEElish! So How many did doggie eat??????Maryanne ;)

BonjourRomance said...

MArvelous post and recipe Andrea! I have been wanting to try these, but always find an excuse - I am now inspired to give it a whirl. Bon courage!
Have a wonderful weekend,

Anonymous said...

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I had a lot of fun putting it together maybe you would like to check it out if you have a spare minute.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, most of Europe celebrates St Valentine's Day; but it was mixed with earlier traditions and the legend of St Valentine was as a messenger between sweethearts; not purely a Roman rite. St Valentine was imprisoned and smuggled notes to loved ones.

Nice tutorial on the cream puffs. I have made them for years, and it is nice to see that they are becoming popular again.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

I haven't made cream puffs for ages... love the addition of nutmeg. And whoo-hoo for Trader Joes!! Great post.


Karena said...

Andrea, I had not made these for awhle. I remember when entertaining I often filled the puffs with a crab and marscapne mixture

Art by Karena

Angela said...

These look completely delightful. I am enthralled.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to make these!!!

Thanks for the step-by-step tutorial!!


Loretta Fontaine (EcoHappy Blog) said...

How absolutely delicious! Such basic ingredients to make something so heavenly!


Anonymous said...

Your pastries look delicious! I will definitely have to try that recipe out.
Enjoy the rest of your week.

Kathy said...

My! How decadent is that!
Love it!

Angela said...

These are just so lovely - I had to include them in my Valentine's Day blogroll.

Sarah said...

What a yummy post!

Auntie Em said...

It's been so long since I have made puffs. They were so impressive and yet so easy to make! I never tried drizzling them with chocolate though...Maybe I should get my pans and wooden spoon out!
Thanks for sharing your beautiful pics! :o)