Sunday, June 17, 2007

Classic Cream Puffs

Amazing how a few simple ingredients can make such a sumptuous treat!

Cream filling
2 1/4 cups (18 ounces) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
5 teaspoons Instant ClearJel*

Puff shells
1 cup (8 ounces) water
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 large eggs

*ClearJel stabilizes the whipped cream, meaning you can make it up to 2 days ahead of time, then fill puffs when you're ready to serve. Or fill puffs, and refrigerate for several hours, till serving time. If you choose not to use ClearJel, fill puffs immediately before serving.

To prepare the filling: Pour the cream into a mixing bowl, and add the vanilla. Mix sugar and ClearJel, then sprinkle over the cream. Whip on high speed until soft peaks form, and refrigerate until needed. Yield: 4 1/2 cups whipped cream.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Return the pan to the burner and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while, until the mixture smoothes out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than a minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It'll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds.

Transfer the dough to a mixer, and beat in the eggs one at a time; the mixture will look curdled at first, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for at least 2 minutes after adding the last egg.

Using a generously filled 2-tablespoon cookie scoop, or a level muffin scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets in 3- to 4-tablespoon mounds. Space the mounds about 3 inches apart, to allow for expansion.

Bake the puffs for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes. Make a small slit in the end of each puff and return them to the oven for 5 minutes, to allow the steam to escape. Cool on racks while you prepare the filling, if you haven't already done so.

Carefully cut each puff around its equator, making a base and a lid. Fill the base with whipped cream. Place the lid on top. Dust with non-melting sugar, if you'll be serving them later; or non-melting or confectioners' sugar, if you'll be serving immediately. Yield: 10 to 12 cream puffs.

Note: This amount of whipped cream will fill each puff quite full, with a generous 1/3- to 1/2-cup filling. Use 16 ounces of cream, rather than 18 ounces, if you'd prefer to simply purchase a pint (16-ounce) container; the other ingredients can remain the same.

©2006 The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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