I wanted a "wow" dessert for my husband for Easter week. But I didn't want to invest two days of my life for a few moments of eating (read: homemade puff pastry). Really, it looks like a barracuda feeding frenzy around here on the few occasions we have dessert -- several hours of work can be devoured in a few seconds.
So I set my bar a bit lower and decided on cream puffs. My Better Homes & Gardens cookbook claimed they could be made in about an hour. Perfect.
Then I learned, cream puffs, éclairs, and profiteroles all use the same pastry. Three desserts for the price of one!
What are the differences?
Round (big or small). Filled with sweetened whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar.
Oblong (big or small). Filled with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla custard and top-coated with a chocolate glaze. My experimental variation: Filled with mocha cream cheese.
Round (big or small). Filled with ice cream (any flavor) and served with hot fudge sauce for drizzling.
As you can see, they don't need to be perfectly rounded, but they bake up beautifully.
To make the éclair shape, I squeezed them out of a quart sized ziplock with a 1/2 inch snip out of a bottom corner.
Now, for the good stuff...
I thought it would be a bit too gluttonous (even for Easter week) to make profiteroles too, but imagine these babies with ice cream in them, drizzled with hot fudge sauce.
Actually I think I felt my middle jelly roll expand when I thought about that. Think broccoli thoughts instead.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (David Lebovitz of "The Perfect Scoop" fame has another recipe for them that someday I will try. It might be better, but for now these are delicious!).
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/8 tsp (pinch) salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a baking sheet (or use a Silpat). In a medium saucepan combine the water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil. As soon as the butter melts, add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes (seriously wait 10 minutes, set a timer). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until smooth with a wooden spoon after each addition. (FCW note: this is the hardest part. The eggs don't exactly want to get friendly with the dough, but if you persist and show it who is boss, you'll get them to join the party and form a nice smooth shiny dough).
2. For cream puffs and profiteroles: Drop 12 heaping tablespoons of dough (for big rounds) or 30 rounded teaspoons (for mini puffs) onto prepared baking sheet. For éclairs: Pipe 12 (for large) or 24 (for mini) strips of dough 3 inches apart (about 4" long, 1" wide and 3/4" high) onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turn the oven off and leave them in for 5 more minutes (total of 35 minutes). The puffs should be golden brown and firm. Cool (doesn't take long).
3. Cut tops from puffs, fill with filling. Replace tops (it's easier to chocolate glaze the éclairs before you put the tops back on). If desired for cream puffs dust with powdered sugar and for éclairs coat with chocolate glaze.
These are definitely best eaten the day you make them, but they may be frozen (after being filled) for up to 2 months.
The sky is the limit. Butterscotch, chocolate, banana, coconut, vanilla or lemon pudding, homemade custard, any flavor of ice cream. You can even fill them with chicken or tuna salad for a dainty and elegant brunch, tea, or shower dish.
But I used....
CWCL's Fluffy Filling
1 can marshmallow creme
1 8 oz. package softened cream cheese
about 2 cups sweetened whipped cream (3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream, 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, beat until stiff peaks form)
Mix marshmallow creme and softened cream cheese together. Fold in sweetened whipped cream.
Variations: to make mocha creme, add 1/2-1 tsp. instant coffee granules (careful, too much will make it really bitter) and a big tbsp. of chocolate glaze (see below).
Chocolate Glaze: (this recipe is okay, but if you have a chocolate glaze you like better, use it!)
4 oz. (about 1/2 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 1/2 Tbsp. hot water
Melt chocolate and butter slowly in microwave, stirring after each 20 seconds until melted.
Beat in the rest of the ingredients and whip until smooth (add more hot water until you reach the consistency you want).