Cream puffs with lemon cream and caramel
I have been on a roll since the weekend making pate a choux, or cream puff dough. I am trying to pipe the perfect eclairs but something is going on because they come out of the oven nice and puffed but not perfect, some cracked on top, others a bit lopsided and overall rather annoying. I am persistent though so I will keep trying. While I pipe the elusive eclairs I always make a few simple and forgiving cream puffs to play with and that’s just what I did today. Cream puffs usually look fine even if not perfectly shaped and are meant to look a little rustic.
Years ago I used to make Croquembouche, known as a French wedding cake or a cream puff tower wrapped in spun sugar. It sounds more complicated that it is and if I have the chance I will make one up for a post before too long. I have also made small croquembouche for individual dessert servings, quite special. In any event, today I made cream puffs and filled them with the lemon cream and because they are so much better with caramel, I made some caramel to drizzle over. The combination of sweet and crunchy caramel with the soft and tangy lemon cream and light pastry is one of those flavour combinations made in heaven, you know, like pears and gorgonzola, pecorino and honey, bread and butter, apple and cinnamon or strawberries and cream. Since I was playing, I made angel hair caramel for garnish. Making this can be a big production but if I just need a few strands I make it simply over a baking sheet in a small scale “production” I can accomplish on the countertop. See directions and images below.
The recipes for cream puff dough are similar, but some use milk as part of the liquid, or add more butter than others. I am sticking to my basic recipe of one cup water, 5 tablespoons butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and one cup flour. I then add 4 eggs mixing them in by hand, although you can use a mixer or food processor to beat in the eggs.
To pipe the puffs it may be easy to use disposable piping bag, so you don’t have to wash the pastry bag after. Unless you are good at piping it’s good to have a dinner knife handy to swipe the it clean after piping each puff and have a smoother top. In any event, this is a forgiving dough and you can fix any imperfections with a wet finger.
Many recipes call for egg wash before baking, I skip this step.
You can make the cream puffs in the morning for serving at night but don’t fill them until shortly before serving.
Well, are you inspired? If not, drop by, I have a few left.
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup flour
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup lemon curd (you can buy it)
Caramel angel hair:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place water, salt and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
As soon as the water comes to a boil and the butter has melted pour in the flour all at once.
Mix the flour in with a wooden spoon over a very low heat for a minute or so to dry the dough. The dough should be very smooth and shiny.
Remove the dough to a bowl and let cool for about 5 minutes, breaking it down with a spoon to allow the center to cool as well.
Once the dough has cooled sufficiently you can begin mixing in the eggs, one at a time. I use a spatula to do this, mashing them into the dough as it absorbs the egg. Add the next egg only after the dough has fully absorbed the previous one and become pasty. At first it looks like the dough breaks and won’t hold the egg, but as you keep mixing it it will come together.
You can also place the dough in a food processor or a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment adding the eggs one at a time.
The dough should be smooth and shiny when you are done adding the eggs.
Scrape the dough into a piping bag fitted with a round tip and begin piping the cream puffs onto the parchment lined baking sheet spacing them about two inches apart.
If you use the egg wash do it now: mix an egg with a fork using about half the white and the whole yolk. Brush this over the cream puff. Let them dry about 10 minutes before baking.
Place the tray in the oven, lower temperature to 375F and bake 35 minutes or so until the pastries puff up and begin to turn golden.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Whip the cream and sugar together, then add the lemon curd with a spatula, mixing it in gently without delating the cream. Refrigerate until using.
Slice the cream puffs open and fill with the lemon cream. Reassemble the puffs.
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, covered. Lower the heat and let it simmer until golden caramel forms, being careful not to let it get too dark.
Drizzle the caramel over the cream puffs but be careful not to let it pile under the puffs as they will stick to the pan. Drizzle it on top and let the caramel slide down along the sides.
If you want to make spun sugar in a small amount suspend a wooden spoon over the baking sheet (set it over two mason jars). Let the caramel cool a little more until it becomes stringy and falls slowly from the fork. Dip a fork in the caramel and wave it back and forth over the wooden spoon. Lift the fork high and let it drip by fine streams over the handle. Fine caramel “angel hairs” should form. See images below. Cleaning the caramel is easy, just put everything in the dishwasher and the heat will melt it and clean the dishes, or run hot water over it to dissolve the caramel..
Gather a few of the caramel strands and decorate the cream puffs as you go.
More uses for spun sugar: