Adapted from: Cakes and Deserts by MPH Publishing (1986)
Photos by: JS
I have tried making cream puffs twice before my virgin solitary attempt 2 weeks ago. The first try was during the summer of 06, when a good friend of mine,WQ, was back for summer vacation from her penultimate year at Oxford. I had a 2 months summer break back in Singapore too (after a horrendous freshmen spring term spent staring at organic chemical reactions 24/7) and decided to pay her a visit at her awesome house (with an even cooler kitchen) at Holland Grove Drive.
After mulling over a huge cupboard full of cook books the entire morning, she finally dragged out this humongous recipe book called “Italian Kitchen” and we were soon trooping around the kitchen, dragging pots, flour, sugar, eggs, spatulas and a million other utensils+ingredients out. The plan for that day was to bake chocolate biscottis and cream puffs. That fateful day was also my very first encounter with a choux pastry recipe, I remembered being very skeptical about melting butter in water (yea, yew?)… But of course, under the guidance of WQ (actually, i think she ran the whole show.), the puff pastry turned out really really well and I was quite blown away by the very first one I tried. I was then put in charged of whipping the cream for the filling. Oh my goodness, you guys simply have NO IDEA how tough it was whipping the cream till light and fluffy.Both my attempts failed miserably and I think I kinda exhausted the entire Chow’s family worth of unwhipped cream. However, the puff pastry tasted so good that it still went down well with liquid-ish cream.*shock shock horror horror*
Here is what the cream puffs looked like during our attempt 2 years ago,
For those interested in what choux pastry actually is, here is the definition from Wikipedia:
Chou(x) pastry, paste, or dough (French pâte à choux, German Brandteig) is a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, eclairs, French crullers, beignets, and gougères. It contains only butter, milk, flour, and eggs. Its raising agent is the high moisture content, which creates steam during cooking, puffing out the pastry.
So, there goes my most memorable story on cream puffs. Whenever I see one on the rack or in a recipe book, I would always remember that very day spent at WQ’s place. Wished there could be more of that but she will only be back in Singapore after a year or 2 in the UK flying high with her investment banking career. Hope that her love for baking never dies though, because I am still very much looking forward to more of those fun times with her in the future.
2 weeks ago, I had a very special friend visiting from Indiana, a long friendship dating back to those glorious bowling days(ok, who am i kidding,it wasn’t glorious at all). Anyways, I was thinking of stuff to bake as a welcome surprise when I came across this ancient recipe book called “Cakes and Deserts” that I brought over from home, there were many loose writing papers that fell out of it and I smiled to myself because those belonged to my mum, copied recipes that she obtained from TV programs and cooking classes all written neatly in her unique cursive handwritting. That is just so..mummy=) Anyways, I eventually chose the custard cream puff recipe from the book itself as it looked fairly simple and I had most of the ingredients needed for it. Right down to the Bird’s Custard Powder (one of my stash from Singapore again!) for the filling.
I made 3 batches over the course of 4 days and I would say that my last attempt on the Monday before Thanksgiving was the most successful one with a hollow puff pastry and thick cool custard filling. One point to note about this recipe is that the baking time is really sensitive, do not place it in the oven longer than necessary. There is a very fine line between it not rising enough and overbaking it (till it becomes like rock hard). A good puff pastry should be hollow in the middle. The unbaked pastry should also be shaped into a size that should be no bigger than a Singapore 50-cent coin as it expands to about 5 times its size! My first attempt produced a batch of puffs that were almost as big as a tennis ball, very cool to look at, not very cool when you try eating it with all the custard cream drooling down the sides of your mouth. Oh, and the custard filling should be refrigerated for about an hour or 2 for the best effect!
In the words of my friends Ed and Jer *in a funny tone*… Ennnjoooyyyyy…. (ok, you really have to meet them in person before you can actually appreciate that word)
170 g flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
115 g butter
285 ml water
1. Preheat over to 450 F
2. Sift flour and baking powder
3. Bring butter and water to boil in a saucepan. Add sifted flour, stirring in well, till mixture is smooth and leaves sides of pan.
4. Remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to cool. Add eggs one at a time beating well till mixture is smooth and shiny.
5. Place cooked mixture in a forcing bag and press. Space better out in small heaps on a well greased tray, and place in the oven to bake for 15 minutes.
6. Cool on a wire rack.
7. Slit puffs at sides and fill with custard cream.
115 g sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp custard powder
225 ml evaporated milk
225 ml water
2 tbsp condensed milk
1 tsp butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
1. Beat eggs, sugar, flour and custard powder together in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
2. Pour condensed and hot milk into egg mixture
3. Cook mixture over low heat
4. Stir in butter and vanilla essence.
5. Cool before using.