Cream puffs with custard filling

So I was perusing the usual suspects within the food blog realm when I encountered entries that seemed to worship the phenomenon that is Beard Papa's cream puffs. The more I read about them the more I wanted to try one, and the more I really wanted to make my own. Beard Papa's cream puffs are notoriously different from regular French cream puffs because there is a double-layer of dough, the inside being the traditional choux pastry and the outside being a pie dough, giving the puff a crunchy texture that is unique. The real recipe is a secret that is being patented, but I had hoped to find some mock recipes I could try. I found a recipe that is supposedly similar to the puff pastry, and then used a regular cream puff custard filling recipe for the filling. The results were quite yummy, and disappeared far too quickly :)


Cream Puffs With Custard Filling (makes 20 small puffs)

Make the custard filling ahead of time because it takes a few hours before it is ready to be used for filling the puffs. Then you can make the puffs while the custard is cooling

For the custard:

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
5 tbsp flour
a pinch of salt
2 cups of milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Combine the sugar, salt, and flour in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in milk gradually until mixture is smoothly dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat, be sure to stir constantly to prevent lumps from forming.

2. Boil mixture until it begins to thicken and able to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, drizzle some hot liquid into the beaten egg yolks to temper the eggs. Return eggs to the saucepan and stir well. Heat until bubbling again and slightly thickened to custard texture as desired.

3. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract. Cover custard surface with cling wrap and chill in fridge for 2 hours.

Feel free to substitute the custard filling with any number of cream puff fillings, such as pastry cream, fresh whipped cream, instant vanilla pudding mixed with whipped cream, or ice cream. The fillings really define the cream puff, so try one that suits your taste. The following puff pastry recipe will work with any kind of filling.

For the puffs: (makes 20 small puffs or 7 large puffs – recipe from "Essentials of Baking" by Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients:
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1/8 tsp salt (absolutely necessary!)
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a saucepan, combine milk, water, salt, and butter. Bring to full boil on medium-high heat.

2. Remove from heat when butter has melted and mixture is boiling. Add in flour all at once, stir vigorously until blended. A thin film will form on the bottom of the pan, don't scrape it off, it's not meant to be mixed into the dough.

3. Continue stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a nice ball of dough. Cool for a 3 minutes.

4. Beat an egg in a separate bowl before adding to the dough. Mix well to incorporate. Repeat with second egg. The resulting batter should be smooth and soft:

5. Let dough cool for 10 minutes before making the puff balls on lined baking sheets. I threw the dough into a large ziplock bag and cut a corner to make a disposable piping bag.

6. To make small puffs, pipe about 1 tsp of batter for each puff, spaced 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet. To make large puffs, pipe out 1-2 tbsp of batter. Using your finger, smooth the edges of the balls of dough to prevent edges from burning prematurely.

7. Bake puffs in oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the puffs are golden brown. I was intrigued watching the batter rise and morph into beautiful, round little cream puffs.

8. When puffs are done baking, remove tray from oven and immediately use the tip of a sharp knife to prick each puff on the side to release steam and prevent them from getting soggy. Shut off the oven and return the puffs to the oven rack for 10 minutes to dry out, leaving the oven door slightly ajar.

When the cream puffs have dried off and cooled slightly (or completely, however you prefer), cut open the tops and fill with chilled custard. The puffs should have a hollow center that will hold the custard perfectly. Cover with top of puff and serve immediately. For best presentation, dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with melted chocolate and pair with fresh fruit or ice cream. If you try to keep the dry puffs around they will eventually become soft (maybe it's the humidity where I live), so try to eat them while they're still fresh and crispy. Yum :)

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