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seduction in three courses
by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3 4 5
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Cream puffs with strawberries and whipped cream Cream puffs are one of those fancy-looking desserts that are actually fairly simple to make. Large puffs look more dramatic, but you can also make bite-sized puffs (profiteroles) by dropping smaller mounds of dough onto the baking sheet and reducing the baking time slightly.
(pāte a choux)
makes about 6 large puffs, or a dozen+ small ones
1 Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly grease a big baking sheet.
2 Toss the water and butter into a small pot, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to help the butter melt faster. When the butter's melted and the liquid is at a full boil, dump in the flour all at once, and keep stirring. Cook just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and comes together into a ball. This shouldn't take more than a minute or two. (If the butter starts to separate out of the dough, you've overcooked. If this happens, you'll pretty much have to start the whole process over again as the puffs won't rise.) Immediately remove from heat, and let the mixture cool for 3 minutes.
3 After the short cooling, break open one egg into the pot, and beat it into the dough with a wooden spoon. It'll start off looking loose, lumpy and all-around unappetizing, but as you work, the dough and egg will begin to come together and stiffen up. Keep beating until the dough turns smooth and uniform again. Once this happens, beat in the second egg, again working until you have a smooth, glossy, medium-stiff mixture.
4 Use two big spoons to drop 1.5"-2" sized mounds on the lightly greased baking sheet. (Alternatively, if you want more uniform looking puffs, use a pastry bag and tip.) Leave 2" between each mound. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes at 425F. Now at this point, assuming your oven has a window and you can see into it, you should find that the little mounds have puffed up to at least double their original size, if not more. If you don't have a window, however, you'll just have to go on faith, as opening the door to check on the status will result in fallen puffs. Reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes.
5 The puffs should feel firm and dry when done. Make a small horizontal slit about 1/2 - 2/3 of the way up each puff; this'll let out the remaining steam and, hopefully, keep the puff from deflating. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, you can use them straight away, or store in an airtight box. To refresh stored puffs (they'll get very soft), pop into a 300F oven for 3-5 minutes, just until the shells firm up. Let cool and fill.
ready to assemble your puffs
7 Cut the tops off each cream puff. Dollop some cream on each base, followed by a layer of strawberry slices, followed by a little more cream. Replace the puff tops. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve, garnishing the plate with extra strawberries if you like. You can make the cream puffs a couple of hours ahead of dessert time if you like (though the pastry may soften very slightly); refrigerate, uncovered, until you're ready to dig in.
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