Memories of visiting the bakery and walking away with a cream puff was one of the highlights of going grocery shopping with mum. It was not fancy, if anything it was oversized and bloated with cream – but it was always freshly made and I loved the soft corners of the puff that tasted fresh out of the oven.
It was not until Beard Papa’s came to Perth (and left as quickly) that the love affair with the cream puff was rekindled. Beard Papa’s cookie crunch puffs are profiteroles but with one vital difference: a tasty, crunchy outer crust. The outer crust is basically tart dough draped over choux pastry. In the oven’s heat, while the choux puffs away, the pie crust melts, adheres and bakes to a sugary crust.
Usually they key to a good cream puff is filling it fresh and consuming it immediately, which is a giant pain in the arse. But this extra layer – the tart dough, the pie crust, the cookie, whatever you want to call it – repels sogginess and the cream puffs can be filled a day or two, in advance.
During our holiday in Bangkok, I bought two Beard Papa’s puffs and ate them slowly, savouring every bite. This recipe isn’t identical but it’s close enough for me to continue baking them.
This will yield more than required. I’d roll the remainder into a log and freeze it, slicing off thin discs for inevitable future cream puffs.
60 gm unsalted butter, softened
30 gm icing sugar
1 large egg yolk
100 gm flour
pinch of salt
15 gm cream
In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with a spatula. When well combined, beat in the egg yolk. Work in half the flour, mix until just combined. Work in the remaining flour, the salt and cream.
Mix until just combined (don’t over work it), until the dough just comes together.
Shape the dough into a disk and refrigerate overnight or at least two hours.
This GENIUS pate a choux recipe by Alton Brown, uses only water (aka no milk) in the roux. This, plus the extra egg white makes an extra tender pastry that rises well. I’ve adapted it to use bread flour as the extra gluten gives the pate a choux better structure and a big hollow that takes a heck of a lot of filling (double yum). Also when piping each puff, do not go round and around with the dough, instead pipe the dough in one press or else you’ll find the separate sections will want to lift off while baking. It’s important to not let the dough linger on the baking tray as it will spread, so make sure you chuck it into the freezer while rolling out the tart dough. Enough talking – on to the baking!
Makes 12 puffs
Take out the tart dough beforehand.
112 gm water
50 gm unsalted butter
pinch of salt
160 gm bread flour
2 large eggs PLUS one egg white
Extra half cup of caster sugar to roll out the tart dough.
Preheat oven to 220°C.
Boil the water, butter and salt. Add the flour and remove from heat. Using a spatula, work the mixture together and return to medium heat. Continue working the mixture, it will almost instantaneously work itself away from the sides and into a ball of soft dough. Remove from the heat as soon as this occurs.
(This next part can be done by hand, but use a mixer if you have one!)
Transfer the dough into the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attached. Beat the dough for 15 seconds to release steam and cool. Add the eggs one at time, making sure the first egg is completely incorporated before adding the remaining egg and egg white. Beat the dough until it is smooth and a reluctant, dropping consistency.
Spoon into a piping bag with a round tip. Immediately pipe golf ball sized shapes onto lined baking sheets, at least 5 cm apart. With a damp finger, smooth out any points of dough. Put into the freezer while prepping the tart dough. That’s the choux pastry done!
Spread caster sugar over the work space. Place the tart dough on the sugared work space and sprinkle more sugar over the dough. Roll out the dough until 3mm thickness and cut out twelve 4 cm rounds (or however large the uncooked puffs are). Take the uncooked puffs out of the freezer. Place one disc of tart dough on each puff. Put back into the freezer for 15 minutes, or until firm.
Bake in the oven undisturbed for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C. (You may want to turn the tray around so they brown evenly which is the case for my oven.)
Bake for a further 10 minutes. Check the puffs are cooked by picking one up and tap on the bottom for a hollow sound. Take out of the oven and carefully make a small hole in the bottom of each puff with a paring knife to release steam. Leave to dry out for an hour or two.
Take your choice of filling out of the fridge. Pipe the filling into that hole you made at the bottom of each puff. If you like, pretty it up with a dusting of icing sugar.
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