Cream Puffs or Eclairs
Rachael’s sister Maria – the baker in the family! – has shared this recipe with us. “Cream puff shells are fun and versatile,” says Maria. For example, this year, I made the shells and filled them with chocolate gelato topped with fresh strawberries and raspberries and then dusted them with a little confectioners’ sugar.”
For the shells:
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
For the filling:
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
For the frosting/glaze:
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tablespoon softened butter
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon black coffee
- 3-4 tablespoons whole milk
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and place an oven rack at the center of the oven.
Next, prepare the shells: In a medium size saucepan (about 2 quarts), bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium – a slow, rolling, boil – and add the butter. Stir the butter with a wooden spoon until melted. Add the flour and salt and stir until a soft dough ball forms that pulls away from the spoon and pan.
Remove the pan from the heat. Using an electric hand mixer on medium speed, slowly add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure to mix in each egg completely before adding the next. Be sure that the mixer is on and in the dough before adding the eggs, or they will cook when they hit the hot dough.
If you are making cream puffs, drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lightly greased with butter or onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. If you are making eclairs, use a piping bag to pipe out 4-5-inch lengths of dough onto the cookie sheet instead of rounded tablespoonfuls. Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 minutes longer. When the shells are done, turn the oven off and crack the oven door. Leave the shells in the oven until they are cool; this will dry them out completely.
Next, make the filling: Using a double boiler, bring water to boil in the base. While the water is coming to a boil, add the cornstarch, sugar and salt to the top pan and set aside. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and use a spoon to hit each yolk on top once to break them; set aside. Measure the milk and cream into another bowl and combine and set aside.
When the water is boiling in the bottom of the double-boiler, reduce the heat to medium and put the top pan in place. Using a sieve, hold it over the boiler and add the egg yolks to the sieve. Pour the milk-cream mixture over the eggs; use a spoon to get all the egg-cream mixture through the sieve. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding.
After the mixture thickens, add the butter and stir until combined. Remove the filling from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the filling into a bowl and immediately cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool.
Next, make the glaze: In a medium size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low, combine the cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and coffee. Add in the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to your desired consistency. Use less if you want frosting consistency, or more if you want a thinner glaze topping.
To assemble the puffs, cut the top off a puff, fill it with the filling, replace its top and frost it. Repeat with the remaining puffs. You can also use a piping bag to fill the puffs and then frost them, or do the same for eclairs.