Strawberry, vanilla, or wasabi... take your pick.
You know, for me, it's been a rough week. I was in the hospital with my friend last Tuesday, then I had a crisis at work, and then I had to reconcile my very existance as a functioning human adult, which is never a pleasant task. So, this week I wanted to make something simple and fun.
What did I choose? Cream puffs. Again. I hate cream puffs. Have I said that before? I'm not a huge fan of their eggy flavor, I don't really like the cream in the middle, and, though the recipe is simple, it requires filling a piping bag which is always messy, even when it should be simple. I chose them because I thought the recipe would be a fun challenge to do with my friends, but then that fell through when it became clear my steadfast roommate was now unable to sample my delicious food creations until the doctors had diagnosed her health problem. Making a dish that didn't excite me now lacked even the fun of sharing it with my best friend. Truly, this week was not going well for me (or her, to be honest).
And yet, when I made the puffs this time, a miracle happened and I seem to have achieved cream puff perfecion. The puffs were crispy on the outside but soft and custardy within. The strawberry and vanilla creams were both delicious. And while, yes, it did take a long time to whip everything up, each recipe in itself is pretty simple. I'm convinced the puffs have been a turning point for me. I remembered that my favorite author's third book is coming out in a little more than a week. I realized Valentine's day was coming up, the one day of the year I find it appropriate to make raspberry and white chocolate mousse and eat it all by myself (my SO doesn't like it). And I got some awesome K-Pop swag in the mail. My life has been more care-free since these puffs, so no longer will i spurn them. But, what brought on the idea of cream puffs??
Satania is invited to try some humungous cream puffs. However, Satania from the show Gabriel DropOut seems to have no tastebuds to speak of (Which makes me think that she actually wouldn't appriciate my award-winning cream puffs, but she might at least appreciate the bubbly inner structure of the puff).
There are 3 puffs. One strawberry filled, one vanilla custard filled, and one.... one filled with a super spicy sauce!!!
Do I even need to say which puff Satania gets? She is remarkably un-swayed by the puff she is handed, which is frankly amazing. I've heard of this kind of game before; rice balls that are regular, and balls that are filled with wasabi. The game is played with friends- everyone chooses a rice ball and eats it together. The person who gets the wasabi ball is the loser and, at the end, the person who ate the most wasabi has to complete a challenge, or something similar. In this case, the girl who got the super-spicy cream puff was supposed to pay the bill.
Since I've heard of this challenge done before with wasabi, I decided to make the third puff filled with straight wasabi. Nothing fancy to it, really, but it's super effective. I invited many of my friends to try it, but strangely, no one was willing to take a bite. This recipe is long- it takes a bit of time to make the different fillings. If I had to choose one, I would go with the traditional vanilla cream filling. I decided to add more vanilla than normal, which really improved the flavor, in my opinion. The strawberry one is good too, but I found it a little stiff for my tastes. In hindsight, I would only add half the gelatin packet for a looser cream filling. IF you plan to serve these to friends, though, the strawberry cream with the full packet of gelatin will hold up really well for travel purposes, better than the vanilla cream. With puffs, it's best to fill them right before you eat them but, of course, sometimes it can't be helped.
A note about the video- I'm not sure what happened, probably my bad week coming back to haunt me, but I lost some of the footage. There are three parts specifically you should be aware of that aren't in the video. I mention them, and they are in the instructions below, but I apologize for the missing footage. Please read below for a clarificiation of this lost footage.
Check out the video below for a visual on instructions. Ingredients and picture instructions are listed just below.
- 8 oz Strawberries, chopped roughly
- 2 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 packet gelatin
- 2 tbs water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup flour
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
1. Let's start with the vanilla pastry cream. Begin by steaming the milk on the stove. Do not let it boil. While it's heating up, combine sugar, flour, and salt with the eggs. Whisk until everything is saturated- it's ok if it's crumbly.
2. When the milk is steaming gently- not boiling- remove from stove and mix into the egg mixture a little at a time. After each addition stir quickly and vigorously to incorporate it all together. You must whisk in quickly, or the hot milk will cook the eggs. The act of stirring quickly both cools the milk down, and brings the eggs up in temperature to the right amount so they don't make scrambled eggs when you return everything to the stove.
3. When the milk and egg mixture are completely mixed together, return the liquid to the stove over medium-high heat. Stir constantly, about 4-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency. This will happen all at once after several minutes of stirring- don't leave the mixture along.
4. Remove from heat and stir the vanilla through the mixture. Then, strain immediately to remove any lumps of accidental cooked egg.
5. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming, and refridgerate at least 2 hours, overnight is best.
6. Then, let's work on the strawberry filling. Pour the gelatin into the water, mix together, and set aside.
7. Then, put the strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar into a pot and heat over high heat. While on the stove, mash/ liquify with some kind of mashing implement (potato masher) or a stick blender to bring out the juices. You want a relatively lump-free concoction. Let the whole mixture come to a boil, and then let simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes. (THIS DIDN'T MAKE IT INTO THE VIDEO- DON'T FORGET IT!!)
8. Then, remove from heat. Strain to remove any seeds/lumps.
9. Stir the gelatin mixture into the hot liquid. The heat from the strawberries will melt the gelatin. Continue stirring until completely melted, and then set aside to come to room temperature. If at any point it begins to harden up, simply put in the microwave to gently melt in on 10 second intervals, or until mixture is liquid, but not hot.
10. Beat the cream to medium peaks and fold into the cooled strawberry mixture. Once folded in, prepare the piping bags and place the strawberry and vanilla creams into them. Filling the piping bags- turn the top over to create a lip and fill the bags that way. Then, just fold the top back up to leave any mess inside the piping bag. You will need a circle or star tip of moderate size- not too big, as it will leave a hole in the side of the puff. (THIS DIDN'T MAKE IT INTO THE VIDEO- DON'T FORGET IT!!)
11. And now for the cream puffs! Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Place water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt into a pan and heat over high heat. When it's boiling, and butter is melted, turn the heat to medium and dump in the flour all at once.
12. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes over medium heat, until a ball forms nicely (for me, this happens pretty quickly. Nonetheless, keep stirring for the 5 minutes) and liquid has had a chance to steam off. There should be some dough residue on the pan- this will indicate it's ready. When in doubt, keep it moving over the heat, at least 5 minutes. The goal is to cook some of the liquid out, which will produce and airy puff later.
13. Take dough off the heat, and put into bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to cool about ten minutes, and then start beating in the eggs, one at a time. Wait until each egg is fully incorporated before mixing the next one in, ~4-5 minutes overall. (THIS DIDN'T MAKE IT INTO THE VIDEO- DON'T FORGET IT!!)
14. Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Prepare a plastic bag or a piping bag for the choux pastry.
15. Pastry is done when it is glossy, slightly sticky, and holds its shape well. It should not be runny. Put the pastry into a piping bag/ ziploc bag, and snip off about 3/4 inch of a tip.
16. Pipe puffs by starting in a big circle that draws up into a point. The bigger you pipe, the bigger the final puff. These will rise upwards, not outwards.
17. Tap down the tips- if it's sticking, dip your finger in a bit of water to tap down the points, so they don't burn in the oven.
18. Reduce heat of oven to 375 Fahrenheit and then place in the middle of the oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Do not open until at least 30 minutes have passed. If your oven burns hot (mine does- it's a gas stove), err on the side of caution and check at 30 minutes. If your oven isn't as hot, check after 40 minutes. Puffs should be golden brown and nice and tall.
19. While puffs are cooking, prepare fillings. Place into piping bags or plastic bags fitted with piping tips. I'd recommend a round or star tip, but whatever you have will work. You could even try it without a tip, if you're accustomed to living on the wild side.
20. When puffs are done, allow to cool completely before filling. Use a knife to create a hole in the bottom of a puff. Then, fill with the filling of your choice.
21. To make a wasabi puff, put some wasabi in a plastic bag, snip the tip, and pipe it in like the others.
22. And now it's done!