Cream Puffs

I can now make choux pastry. Say it with me: shoo, or shoe, if you like. Choux is French for cabbage, so named for the resemblance these pastries have to small cabbages. This patisserie staple was surprisingly easier to make than I’d imagined.

As always, I approached this recipe with my standard “no fear” motto. What was the worst that would happen, I wondered? I suspected that perhaps my choux buns wouldn’t rise, having seen more than one baker fall victim to flat choux on The Great British Baking Show. But rise they did! And once they cooled, I filled them with pastry cream, and I’m here to tell you that I’m never going to be the same again. This recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour recipe, just cut in half to yield a smaller batch.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Pastry cream, for filling

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Return to heat and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a ball. This will only take a minute or so.

Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes, until it reaches about 140 degrees. Transfer to a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat in one egg; the mixture will look curdled, but keep beating for about 30 seconds, then add the second egg and beat for 2 minutes more. The mixture will even out and turn into a smooth batter.

Transfer batter to a piping bag and pipe into 1- to 1 1/2-inch rounds. Wet the tip of your finger and lightly press any sharp peaks down.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake 15 minutes more. Turn off your oven, open the door a crack (I used a bamboo spoon to hold the door open just a bit) and allow the choux to cool inside the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

To fill, you can either pipe pastry cream into each choux bun from the bottom, or split the pastries and fill them from the middle. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Makes about 12, depending on how large you pipe your rounds.

Filled cream puffs – yay!

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Sweet Bread Pudding

I’m on a mission to create the perfect bread pudding. That’s a subjective statement, of course, because what’s perfect to one person might be not so great to another. My perfect bread pudding has a crunchy top layer, but the bread underneath is almost custardy. I’m getting closer, but as a friend at work said, it’s kind of one of those “I’ll know it when I taste it” situations. All too true.

This recipe is adapted from one I found at The Kitchn, and I jokingly called it Coronary Bread Pudding because of the six eggs and five cups of whole milk. If you’re looking for a light dessert, keep looking! This is an incredibly rich treat and it was a huge hit in my office, where I served it with butterscotch sauce.  It can sit out for brief periods of time for serving, but do keep it refrigerated for safety. Nobody wants food poisoning!

Ingredients

  • 10 cups challah bread cubes (about 16 ounces)
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (I needed two baking sheets) and toast for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, until cubes are dry but not brown.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish or pan with softened butter and place bread cubes and pecans in pan, stirring slightly to distribute the pecans but being careful to not let them all fall to the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, combine milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt; carefully whisk to combine, then pour mixture over bread cubes. Gently press to allow milk mixture to soak into cubes.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour or overnight to allow cubes to soak up as much liquid as possible; I soaked mine overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover baking dish and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is lightly toasted.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then serve warm, or allow to cool completely and serve cold. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Pecan Bread Budding

Shana tovah, friends! This week’s celebration of Rosh Hashannah meant some fun fall baking and this delicious pecan bread pudding. It’s another winning recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens Fall Baking magazine, a make-it-mine recipe that you can customize to your liking.

I chose to leave out the dried fruit (I’ve never been a fan of things like raisins) and go with pecans, and to add some homemade butterscotch sauce for serving. You could easily mix in dried fruit or different types of nuts depending on your tastes. I used challah, but you could use whatever bread you prefer. French bread or cinnamon swirl bread seem like great ideas.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dried bread cubes*
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Butterscotch sauce, for serving if desired

*To dry bread cubes, toast them in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until very light golden, stirring a few times. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Lightly grease a 2-quart square baking dish.

Place bread cubes and pecans in baking dish.

In a 4-cup measuring cup (or medium bowl), combine eggs, milk, melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Pour over bread cubes, stirring to coat them.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until puffed and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes; serve warm with butterscotch sauce, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.