I was watching Master Chef the other night, where during the “dreaded pressure test” (do they have to use that phrase every single time?) the contestants had to make croquembouche – a cone-shaped tower of cream puffs, held together by threads of caramel. I’m an arrogant asshole of a baker, and I was like, “lol yeah I could do that”.
..Well I didn’t do it. But I did make the cream puffs, and I plan to try croquembouche one day. And it is actually good to be an arrogant baker – it will help you to try new recipes without fear. I don’t always succeed at everything I bake, but I have nailed a few recipes on my first try. Not because I’m a particularly skilled baker, but because I assumed I could do it. (I told you, arrogant.)
So be an arrogant asshole in your kitchen. Be a dick. Because if you want to be a baker, eventually you’ll have to let go of Betty Crocker’s hand!
So what are – how you say – “cream puffs”? (AKA profiteroles.)
Cream puffs are made with choux pastry, consisting of just butter, water, flour and eggs. But, what hell? How do they rise without a leavening agent? The water in the recipe creates a lot of moisture during baking, which turns into steam, which puffs up the pastry.
The end result is a hollow, crispy “puff” that can be filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or even ice cream if you’re crazy. They’re light, refreshing, and not overly sweet. You can make them into round puffs, or long cigar-shapes, AKA eclairs. They are easier to make than you think. (Don’t I always say that?)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 235 ml whipping cream (1/2 pint)
- icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 400degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or grease it).
Place butter and water in a pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. *You want the butter to melt before the mixture boils so it doesn’t evapourate. To avoid this I put the butter in first and added the water when it was almost completely melted.
Remove from heat and add flour mixture all at once, mixing with a wooden spoon (to avoid sticking), until combined.
Return to heat and stir frequently until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the pot and forms a smooth, thick ball (about 1-2 minutes).
Transfer the dough to a stand mixer and beat on low to release the steam (about 1-2 minutes). When the dough is warm and no longer hot, slowly add the eggs (the mixture will separate, but will eventually come together again).
Beat on low until the mixture is a smooth, thick, paste-like consistency.
*If you don’t have a piping bag you can drop the mounds with a spoon.
Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350degrees and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes until the puffs are golden brown and nearly dry inside. Turn the oven off, poke a few holes in each puff and let them cool and dry out with the door ajar.
Fill with sweetened whipped cream and dust with icing sugar. (If you need directions on how to whip cream or dust with icing sugar then you need to come see me after school.)
*Best eaten the day of, but can be refrigerated for one day (they will be soft, not crisp, but still delicious).
Recipe inspired by Joy Of Baking