Does this look like a four-ingredient French pastry?
Water, butter, flour and eggs … that’s it. Though they look intimidating, these profiteroles (as they are often called) are simple, versatile, beautiful, and contain no sugar.
Did you catch that when I listed the four ingredients? No sugar. This lack of sweetness is what makes the puffs so versatile. They become a crispy-chewy vehicle for savory or sweet preparations. One batch will make 6 large puffs (as pictured above) or 20-24 mini-puffs (bite-sized). The mini-puffs are a great option for appetizers or a bite-sized sandwich/dessert for a party or luncheon.
Some of my favorite ways to serve these include:
filled with mocha pudding (pictured),
stuffed with chicken salad and cucumber slices,
a replacement for shortcake in strawberry season, or
holding a big scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled over top.
That last option is courtesy of my sister-in-law who would make homemade fudge sauce and was never stingy with it!
As I was making this batch, I started thinking about fillings I hadn’t yet considered. Now I can’t stop thinking about:
sliced turkey with avocado slices and microgreens,
bruschetta with fresh basil,
peanut butter cream with jelly,
scrambled eggs with sausage gravy, and
Some of these ideas are not likely to work. The one rule to consider with cream puffs is they will absorb liquid and become soggy very quickly, making it difficult to pick up if they are filled too early. For example, the bruschetta mixture would have to be drained well before putting in the shell. A layer of fresh basil placed on the shell before adding the filling will help separate the remaining liquid from the pastry.
Of course you can use instant pudding. The mocha pudding in the picture was my first ever attempt at homemade pudding. Do not be intimidated … it is worth it!
But first, the puffs!
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
Heat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
In a medium saucepan, heat water and butter to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low, add flour, and stir/whisk vigorously about 1 minute, or until mixture leaves the side of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from heat.
Stir in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition until smooth. Divide dough into 6 parts (about 1/4 cup each) and drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet, about 3 inches apart. Bake 35-40 minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 2-3 minutes. Transfer puffs to a wire rack.
If making mini-cream puffs, use about a rounded teaspoon of batter per puff, allow 2 inches between puffs on baking sheet, and bake for 20-23 minutes.
Allow puffs to cool 2-3 more minutes or until they are cool enough to handle. Cut a small portion off the top of each puff and set aside the base. Gently use a spoon to “pull” the soft dough from inside each lid and base, careful not to tear the puff. Discard the soft dough. Cool completely. When cool, the puffs can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for one day. The puffs will not spoil after that but will not maintain their texture.
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch. Combine milk and instant coffee and stir into sugar mixture. Bring mixture slowly to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Gradually stir a small amount of hot mixture into beaten egg yolk, blending well. Whisk the egg mixture back into saucepan and return to heat. Continue whisking until mixture boils and immediately remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into heat-proof bowl and allow to cool 10 minutes. Press a sheet of plastic wrap onto surface of pudding and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, scoop pudding into cream puff base, place lid on top and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
I was looking through other cookbooks to see if I could find any other helpful hints to include and found that many recipes will tell you to bake at 450° for 15 minutes and then reduce oven temperature to 325° and continue baking for an additional 20-25 minutes.
I like this idea because it is how we bake pies to get the crust nice and flaky with the hot oven and then bring it down to finish the cooking process without burning the pastry.
For now, I can say I know the recipe above works. Next time I make it, I will try this new/old method. If I like it better, I will update the recipe with the improved instructions.
Sounds like the perfect excuse to try out some of those other filling options, don’t you think??