Although classed as a pastry, cream puffs are quite different from other types of pastry. They contain a large proportion of fat and eggs and are leavened by steam.
A cream puff is a light, hollow puff filled with a sweet or savory filling. In France, cream puff pastry is called chou which literally means cabbage. This name is applied because the finished puff vaguely resembles a miniature cabbage.
Although classed as a pastry, cream puffs are quite different from other types of pastry. They contain a large proportion of fat and eggs and are leavened by steam. The fat is responsible for the tenderness of cream puffs, and the eggs help to form the shell of the puff structure.
The most frequent criticism of cream puffs concerns sunken puffs. When the baked puffs are removed from the oven, they are golden brown and puffy. Their structure, however, is still very delicate and may collapse. This can be prevented by immediately puncturing or splitting each puff and returning it to the still warm oven to dry out. Even after drying, the puff may have a slightly soggy center. This excess membrane may be removed, if desired, to leave a crisp, hollow puff.
Because their puffs always fall, many cooks consider cream puffs difficult to make and avoid doing so. However, once the technique for making them has been mastered, cream puffs become a versatile food that can be used as the basis for appetizer, main dishes or desserts.
Cream Puff Recipe:
½ cup butter or margarine
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
In a saucepan, melt the butter or margarine in one cup of boiling water. Add the flour and the salt all at once and stir vigorously. Cook and stir until this mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from the heat and cool. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until the mixture is smooth.
Drop by tablespoons, three inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes. Then bake at 325 degrees for another 25 minutes. Remove the cream puffs from the oven and split each one open. Turn the oven off and put the cream puffs back in the oven to dry out. Cool, fill and serve hot or cold.
These delight filled puffs can be tightly covered and stored for a short time in the refrigerator. Unfilled cream puffs can be frozen for longer periods of storage.
By varying the size and the filling, cream puffs can be a dainty appetizer, a hearty main dish, or a luscious dessert. Miniature puffs filled with cheese spread, seafood salad, or other savory ingredients start any meal out right. Man sized puffs overflowing with an a la king or meat salad will satisfy even the heartiest appetite.
Cream puffs are most often used as a dessert. A crisp puff filled with a cream filling and topped with a smooth sauce is a big favorite with many people. For a lighter dessert, fill puffs with whipped cream. Cream puffs add a special touch to any meal.
Published in: Cooking