Cream Puffs

Today’s post brings us halfway through our 12 Days of Oscars, and the sixth film featured is Marie Antoinette.  The 2006 film won the only Oscar for which it was nominated, Best Achievement in Costume Design.  Marie Antoinette follows the life of Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst), starting in 1768 to marry the Dauphin of France Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) to secure an alliance between France and Austria.  While Antoinette initially finds life at Versailles stifling and has the court gossiping about her not producing an heir, she surrounds herself with a few close friends and takes to throwing lavish parties and shopping for expensive gowns and shoes.  France is pushed further and further into debt while Louis XVI invests in foreign conflict and Antoinette continues to spend extravagantly, and the working class is in a state of poverty and unrest.  The film follows this until 1789 when the palace is stormed by rioters.

There is no shortage of food in this film. The party scenes in Marie Antoinette are incredible, and one entire montage is dedicated to showing the excess of lavish pastries and flowing champagne available to Antoinette and her friends during an afternoon of gown shopping.  Laduree in France made the sweets, including its famous double-decker macaron, for the movie.   There are banquet scenes where course upon course of elaborate dishes are served for the king and queen.  The food moment that sticks with me though, is a close-up of one of Antoinette’s friends biting into a massive cream puff.

Cream puffs are so much easier to make than they look.  Putting together the dough (or choux paste) takes minutes on the stove and can be quickly piped or dropped by spoonful onto a baking sheet.  Mixing the filling also happens in the time it takes to boil the milk.  Filling options are pretty limitless, but I stuck with the classic vanilla custard.  The dough isn’t very sweet but the custard makes up for that so it’s a nice balance.  The only real trick to making cream puffs is that they must be cooked entirely before removing them from the oven, or they collapse.  What makes these time-consuming is that you need to wait for the cream puffs and the custard  to cool down before filling the cream puffs.  About two hours in the refrigerator is sufficient to cool down the custard.  I like to start them in a 400 degree oven to get them mostly baked and golden brown, then turn down the oven to 300 for an additional 10-15 minutes so they finish baking and aren’t burned.  Topping them with melted chocolate doesn’t hurt, but isn’t necessary.

cream puff

Cream Puffs

Ingredients:

for the pastry:

  • 1 C. water
  • 1/2 C. butter
  • 1 C. all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

for the filling:

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 3 C. milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, heat water, salt, and butter to a rolling boil then reduce the heat to low.

Add the flour and stir vigorously until the mixture forms a ball, about 1 minutes.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add in the eggs one at a time, stirring constantly until the dough is smooth.

Either drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls (up to two tablespoons per cream puff, depending on how large you want them), or use a piping bag to make mounds of dough on the baking sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 300 and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until they are puffed and golden brown and cooked through.

Move to a cooling rack.

To prepare the custard, beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until the mixture is fluffy and looks more white than yellow.

Slowly pour in the milk while the mixer runs, and mix until the sugar is melted.

Add the flour, cornstarch, and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens.

Place the mixture into the refrigerator until completely cooled.

To fill the cream puffs, use a sharp serrated knife to slice horizontally 2/3 of the way through each cream puff, then spoon or pipe the custard filling into the slit.

Makes 24 2″ diameter cream puffs (yield depends on amount of dough per puff, 24 puffs is the yield for approximately one heaping Tbsp. of dough per puff).

Source: adapted from The Happy Homemaker

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