Monday, July 26, 2010

Cream Puffs and Kings of Pastry

As those of you who have been following my Twitter know, I have recently undergone surgery for thyroid cancer. It appears to have been very successful and I returned to work recently.

However, as I continue to heal I am taking a lighter approach on my blog for a few weeks, featuring some old family favorites…the kind of recipes you turn to when you want something simple, yet still delicious and family pleasing.

First up is Cream Puffs made with the simplest of ingredients. Once the technique is mastered, cream puffs are quick and easy to make and sure to please.

What is the nutritional value of a cream puff?
Zero, unless you are starving and need the fat and sugar to keep you alive.
Its History is a Mystery
The truth is, nobody knows for sure who can be credited with creating the lovely cream puff. What we do know is that as early as the 13th century in both southern Germany and France, chefs were creating lovely puff pastries that they baked until the pastry puffed, after which they sliced the pastries open, and filled them with various cheese mixtures.

Chefs at this time had begun experimenting with dough mixtures that included four simple ingredients: flour, water, fat, and egg, the same ingredients used today for cream puffs or choux pastry. They had become fascinated with the delightful results that occur during baking: as the pastry puffs, it creates an airy hole in the middle which just invites a delectable filling.

Cream buns, called pate feuillettée in France, and butter pasted puffs in England, were becoming popular in the early 1500s, using the same famous four ingredients. The filled treats were popular among the wealthy people of that time.

By the mid 19th century in both France and England, the cream puff had become known as the profiterole. Often created in elaborate shapes by skilled pastry chefs, elegant Victorian diners could find cream puffs shaped like swans or pyramids of tiny, fragile chocolate or vanilla filled puffs to nibble on with the dessert wine, tea or coffee. In the United States, the first recorded mention of the cream puff on a restaurant menu dates to 1851 at the Revere House Restaurant in Boston.

What leavens cream puffs?
Cream puffs are leavened by the eggs included in the batter.

Serves 6
Profiteroles au Chocolat (Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce) mise en place

For Choux Pastry:
½ cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 egg, slightly beaten for glazing

Unsalted butter for baking sheets

You can find the recipe for Profiteroles au Chocolat (Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home.
Tasting Notes
To bite into a freshly baked cream puff filled with real whipped cream is to experience sheer delight. The humble four ingredients have now become a light, puffy holder for the delectable filling, creating the perfect, subtle combination of taste and texture. As the cream dribbles down your chin, you’ll find yourself wanting another – and another. . .

"A cream puff is something very basic.
You have to keep it basic.
It's beautiful without doing too much fou fou stuff around it.
Let cream puffs be what they're supposed to be."
—Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, contender for MOF (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, France's highest honor in the art of patisserie)
designation as profiled in the documentary, "Kings of Pastry"
to be released September 2010
Kings of Pastry documentary
Kings of Pastry article
Profiteroles au Chocolat (Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Hot Chocolate Sauce)
Peppermint Cream Puff Ring...Swan

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    J e l e n a said...

    cream puffs are a wonderful delicate and so light...i've attemted twice to make them but they just fell down in the oven...we have a great tradition of cream puffs in our country...I thought it was the remains of the great Austrian Hungarian empire...anyway I hope you are felling better and remember LIVE, Love & Eat, the magic formula...all the best

    Jennifer said...

    Im so happy to hear the surgery went well. Here's to a very speedy recovery, and what better way than with old time favorites! Nothing like a cream puff to rest with!

    Kayte said...

    Gorgeous photo of it with the pretty flowers. You have such style. Happy to hear that things are progressing nicely and that you are feeling good!

    Eliana said...

    Great to hear your surgery went well and I wish you a speedy recovery :) And if you're going to be sharing gems like these cream puffs, keep 'em comin!

    Monica H said...

    Oh I had no idea! But I'm glad you're doing well. Kick your feet up and have some cream puffs.

    Take care!

    Marysol said...

    Oh! This is the post I was waiting for! So pleased that it is going well for you and your little ones - see? I told you...

    Those puffs look delicious. I want a whole mountain.

    Anonymous said...

    Glad to hear the surgery went well. Hopefully you all caught it early as well? I can't believe you're making cream puffs during your time off! They look gorgeous!!

    Anonymous said...

    I've been out of the blog circuit for almost a year, but stopped by to check in and just read about your surgery. i'm glad things went well and hope for a fast recovery.

    Mardi Michels said...

    Cannot wait to see Kings of pastry in the fall! Having just recently made my very first ever cream puffs, I can attest to the fact that they are curious little creatures indeed. I filled them with icecream :-)

    Glad the surgery went well and wishing you a speedy recovery. Can't wait to meet you at IFBC!

    Angela said...

    Shari I had no idea about your cancer. So sorry to hear this. Glad you are alright. I have had hard time commenting on your blog. The "name" is no longer an option.

    I love cream puffs. This might be my favorite pastry.

    pigpigscorner said...

    Glad to hear that it went well! The cream puffs are gorgeous! It's definitely in my to-do list!

    lisa is cooking said...

    So glad your surgery went very well, and I hope you're feeling better each day! Cream puffs are such a great dessert. This makes me want to go whip up some choux pastry right now!

    Garcon de Croissant said...

    I love cream puffs. My mom used to make them all the time when I was growing up! Such fond memories.

    chriesi said...

    I wish you all the best! Take care!

    Unknown said...

    I was wondering where you went off to! So glad the surgery went well! These look so good, it's been on my list since forever!

    EB of SpiceDish said...

    Absolute perfection. There really is nothing like a good profiterole.

    Anonymous said...

    I'm so sorry to hear you've been through such a trying time...but so glad to hear you're doing well and recovering!
    Beautiful photo, and I bet it tastes just as wonderful as it looks!
    Take care of you...
    Wishing you blessings,

    Ozoz said...

    I'm glad things went well and you're recovering - stay well and take it easy. All the best

    Unknown said...

    Georgeour puffs, I must try your recipe...

    I'm glad to hear about the surgery and that you are feeling good!