Sunday, August 15, 2010

Swans are tough.

So I realize that I've been quite neglectful. I apologize dearly, but now I am home and don't have classes to focus on and can give you my full attention. Kind of. Well, last night I was feeling a little down and really wanted to make something. I ended up making some yummy cream puffs. I was a little worried at first when I saw the recipe because I didn't expect the cream puffs to be made that way, but I went for it and it actually worked. Baking them kind of worried me as well because I baked them for the first 20 minutes as I was supposed to and I initially thought that you are supposed to take them out after those 20 minutes and so I checked them and they didn't seem finished and then I went back to the recipe and reread it and noticed that I'm supposed to lower the temperature and bake the puffs for another 20 minutes which eased my worries.


These puffs will make you worry a lot, actually. When I first took them out of the oven and put them on a cooling rack, they were kind of hard and stiff. Cream puffs are supposed to be puffy and soft and easily flattened. I let them cool overnight since it was about 1 am when I baked them and I needed some sleep, in the morning they were nice and puffy.

I used a recipe from a cookbook called Baking by James Peterson. There are some changes I made, such as in the cream.

Let's see what we will be needing.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg white (if needed)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar (granulated)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

  • Pot (to be placed on a stovetop)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Bowl
  • Pastry bag or large ziplock bag
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet

1. First, take the water, the butter, the 1 tsp sugar, and the salt and place it into a pot placed over high heat on the stove. You don't really need to mix it of anything just leave it there. Let it come to a simmer.

2. Turn the heat down to medium and add all of the flour. Mix thoroughly with the wooden spoon until the clump of dough starts coming away from the sides of the pot.

3. Take this clump of dough and place it into the bowl. Keep mixing it.

4. Now this part is kind of tough to explain, so bear with me. Add an egg and mix it well into the dough. The dough will look kind of funny and wet. Make sure the egg is mixed well in.

5. Take another egg and crack it in there and mix it well in. Once again the dough will look kind of wet and slippery. Make sure the egg is mixed in there well.

6. This is the part where the dough is going to start coming together. Add one more egg. Mix it in well. The dough should now start being kind of sticky and will start sticking to the spoon. Great, that's exactly what it should be doing. Test the dough out at this point. If you pull the spoon out and the dough just slides of the spoon, it's ready (go to step 8). If you pull the spoon out and the dough just sticks up and doesn't really do much else, you will need another egg (go to step 7 in that case).

7. So now you need to add that potentially last egg. Do it! The more eggs the better anyway. Add that egg and you know what to do next, mix it into the dough well. Do another check. Pull the spoon out, if it globs off nicely it's ready, if it sticks up well too bad! Just kidding. If it sticks up you are going to have to add an egg white, and do the dough test. Another way to check if the dough is ready is to take the spoon and pull it through the middle of the dough, if the dough just sinks around the spoon it's not yet ready. If the dough leaves a kind of groove/line hole in the dough, you are good to go!

8. Now that your dough is ready go fill up your pastry bag. I used a ziplock bag because it was more convenient for me, and I don't exactly have a pastry bag. Well, anyway, with the ziplock bag, you can just fill it up, bring the dough to one corner (keep the bag open), twist it like you would a pastry bag, and then cut your corner off. It works just the same, and just as well.

9. This is just a recommendation but it really helps, pipe small dots onto your baking sheet and then press the parchment paper into it. That way, while you are piping your dough onto the parchment paper, the paper doesn't move or pull up every time you pull your (makeshift) pastry bag away.

10. Now go for it and start piping. The general shape of cream puffs is a puffy circle thing. I don't really know how else to describe it make the circle about 2 inches in diameter. You can also make swans by piping a circle and then piping down the paper and letting the dough taper off. That's the body. To make the head, just take a piece of parchment paper and making it into a small piping triangle and pipe S-shaped necks with one end having a little bigger bump for the beak and head. Here's a video on how to make the piping triangle. This video will show you how to make the swans, in case my explanation isn't clear enough, which it probably isn't.

11. Now take your cream puffs and throw them into an oven that has been preheated to 400ºF. Leave them in there for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 300ºF and leave the puffs in there for another 20 minutes. Take them out of the oven and check they are nice and golden. Let them cool on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes (like I said, I left mine overnight).

12. If you are letting them cool for those 20 minutes, you can meanwhile make the filling. Take the heavy cream, the 1 tbsp sugar, and the vanilla extract and put them together in a bowl. Using a whisk or a electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the cream until it is stiff and holds its own.

13. When your puffs are cool, take a serrated knife and cut them in half, (or if making swans, however the video shows to cut them). You can now either take a spoon and just spoon the cream filling into the puffs, or take a piping bag and fill it with the filling and using a fluted tip, generously pipe the cream into the puffs. Then top the puffs with the top, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top if desired.

14. Enjoy your yummy cream puffs. You can place them in the freezer and have frozen cream puffs. Another thing that you can do is take vanilla ice cream and replace it with the cream filling, but you would have to work fast and place them in the freezer to make sure the ice cream doesn't melt too much.

Just remember, keep eating sweetly! :)

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