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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cream Puffs

Need a dessert that will dress up any occasion? How about a light main dish for a special luncheon? Cream Puffs fit the description perfectly!  They look as delicious as they taste and are really, really, easy to make. We like to eat large ones filled with a creamy chocolate filling, or we've made small ones to serve at wedding receptions. They make a delightful main dish by filling with a fresh chicken or seafood salad.  Any way you fill them, they are YUMMY!

Today is our "Engagement Anniversary"!  Just a mere 28 years ago my husband proposed over a lovely Japanese dinner he cooked for us.  The proposal was hidden in fortune cookies he served at the end of dinner.... no wonder he was so insistent when I didn't take one the first time he offered them. LOL  I'd never enjoyed fortune cookies before like I did that evening. :)  No time for a special celebration dinner tonight, so chocolate filled cream puffs will be what makes our celebration special.

Now, these aren't something you whip up when you're in a hurry for something to serve right away, they have baking and cooling time, so be sure to start a few hours ahead.  You can bake the cream puffs several hours before filling.  If you are baking a large quantity for a wedding or other large occasion, these can be frozen once they're baked and cooled, but before the top is cut into.  Freeze in an airtight container and bring to room temperature before filling.

Cream Puffs

1 C. water
1/2 C. butter or margarine
1 C. flour
4 large eggs
filling of your choice (recipe below for cream filling)
powdered sugar

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Have a large cookie sheet and 2 large spoons out and ready. Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl and set aside.  

In a 3 quart saucepan, bring water and butter to a full boil.  Stir in the flour.  Stir quickly over a low heat until it thickens and forms a ball. Probably about a minute.  Remove from heat.  Pour eggs in all at once and continue beating the mixture until it blends and is smooth.  At first this will stay separate - kind of a slimy, lumpy mixture but keep beating and all the sudden it incorporates the eggs and goes smooth.  Drop by large spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. (this is where I like the 2 spoons...  one to scoop up the dough and one to slide it off onto the cookie sheet)  

Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 35-40 minutes.   Cool away from drafts.  Cut off the top 1/4th of the puff, clean out the filaments inside so mainly the crust remains.  Fill with your choice of filling:  ice cream, cream filling, any type of pudding, whipped cream, chocolate mousse OR chicken or seafood salad.  Overfill them a little so when you replace the top the filling peeks through.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar (unless you filled with a savory filling).  Keep cold until ready to serve.

Cream Filling

1 C. sugar
1/3 C. cornstarch
 1/4 tsp. salt
3 1/2 C. milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
4 T. butter, softened
1 T. vanilla

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a 3 quart saucepan.  Beat eggs yolks and mix with milk.  Add milk mixture gradually to the sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and comes to a boil.  Boil and stir for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.  Let cool before filling cream puffs. 

Joy's Notes:  Obviously, if you're using ice cream as your filling, you either want to fill right as you're ready to serve, or fill and then refreeze.  If you don't have time to make the cream filling - just use instant pudding or a mix of instant pudding and coolwhip.   Instead of the powdered sugar you might drizzle them with melted chocolate.  When I'm stirring the dough on this I prefer to use a long wooden spoon.  It just works better than anything else I've tried.  This recipe is easy to cut in half.  The full recipe makes about 12 large cream puffs.

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