The story behind some of the foods we enjoy can be fun and fascinating to learn about. I made some puff pastries the other day and turned some into snacks, fairly healthy ones and I turned some into cream puffs. I was curious as to where the cream puff originated so I did a little research. I know where it all began in my life but where it all really began, I had no clue. Cream puffs are a very old treat once cherished by royalty and served to guest of honor. Today anyone can enjoy them and that is nice because I really do, once in awhile.
The puff pastry or choux pastry used to make the cream puff and other such delicacies is a simple, unleavened pastry made of butter, salt, flour, water and eggs. It is leavened or caused to rise by steam rather than a yeast or chemical leavening like baking powder or baking soda. The steam causes the pastry to puff up and develop a hollow center as it bakes. Once the pastry is baked it has the appearance of a tiny cabbage, thus its French name “choux” which means cabbage. Interestingly enough the same word, “choux” used in another context also means cherish or to cherish. I rather like this meaning for the word to describe these delectable desserts much better. They are certainly a treat to be cherished.
Of course these light and delicate pastry puffs aren’t always used to make desserts. They are used for other wonderful dishes too, particularly to make a variety of wonderful appetizers and hors doeuvres as I have already mentioned. You will also recognize the puff pastry and the éclair, more elongated that the regular cream puff and commonly filled with a vanilla or chocolate mousse or pudding and topped with a chocolate glaze; the profiteroles in which the pastry is filled with ice cream and served with a chocolate or caramel sauce; sometimes garnished with whipped cream and chopped nuts; beignets filled with a confectioner’s cream that may come in several different flavors and topped with a complimentary glaze such as a raspberry cream and chocolate glaze or maybe coffee with a honey mocha. All this and more and it all began with a creation by a 16th century chef to please the child bride who would become Queen Catherine of France, wife of King Henri II. So cream puffs have been around for awhile and I’m glad my grandmother taught me to make them and that my neighbor showed me they can be used for more than just a heavenly dessert.
GRANDMA’S CREAM PUFFS
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
In medium saucepan, combine
1/2 cup butter (use butter, margarine or shortening doesn’t work as well)
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup boiling water (be sure it is boiling)
Heat over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil
Reduce heat to medium low
1 cup twice sifted flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon (DO NOT use metal or plastic) until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat
4 large eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon after each addition and continue beating until mixture is thick and shiny and dough breaks away from spoon.
Spoon or pipe dough using a plain tip pastry bag onto an ungreased baking sheet…bake on center rack; Bake 20 minutes, (no more and no less) at 450 degrees Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes more, or until light golden brown and your pastry puffs sound hollow when lightly tapped.
Cool on the baking sheet and fill with whipped cream and chopped fresh fruit.
Oh what a heavenly treat.
Published in: Cooking