I still remember the first time I made cream puffs. It was a good thing my mother was standing by to give my skinny little stirring arm a break. I've always felt compelled to make them the way my mother and grandmother made them -- by hand -- but I'm still having an issue with my beating arm, so I made these in the food processor.
Most people have no idea how easy these are to make, so when you bring them out your guests will be positively dazzled! That's always fun. You know, when you look all modest and humble, only rolling your eyes when your head is down, thinking "If only they knew!"
Stir constantly and cook the flour mixture well. It will pull completely away from the sides of the pan when it's done. Set the timer for 10 minutes, and allow the dough to cool for precisely (well, approximately) 10 minutes before beating in the eggs. If the mixture doesn't cool long enough, the eggs will scramble; if it cools too long, the dough starts to set up.
Bake the puffs thoroughly, until very well browned. Then cut a little slit in the sides to vent the steam and put them back in the turned-off oven to dry out. That's really all there is to it. But give yourself a break and make the Vanilla Pastry Cream the day before. Or just whip up a batch of Stabilized Whipped Cream.
Pate a Choux(pronounced pot-ah-SHOO)
(Makes enough for 20 #40 cream puffs)
2/3 cup (5.33 fluid ounces/158 milliliters or grams) water
1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces/142 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 Combine water, butter and salt in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan (I use the Le Creuset stainless steel 2-quart saucier). Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as water reaches the boil, reduce heat to simmer and add flour all at once. Beat vigorously with wooden spoon until flour is absorbed and mixture forms a ball. Mash dough against bottom of pan with spoon for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
2 Preheat oven to 450F/230C/Gas8. Line a large baking sheet (I use a 3/4-sheet pan) with parchment paper.
3 Add dough to food processor work bowl fitted with chopping/mixing blade. Process for 10 to 15 seconds. Add 4 eggs* and process about 1 minute, or until smooth and shiny. Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. The dough should be shiny, smooth and very thick but not stiff; and it should hold its shape when lifted on a spoon. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for 1 to 2 days. Cold dough can be shaped without bringing it to room temperature.
Note: If you are making the dough by hand or with a hand mixer, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat at least 2 minutes after adding the last egg.
4 Drop dough by #40 scoops 3 inches apart on parchment-lined (or greased) cookie sheet. (I make 4 rows of 5 on my 3/4-sheet pan.) I go over the scoops of dough with a wet finger to smooth out any rough spots. Bake at 450F/230C/Gas8 for 15 minutes, then at 325F/165C/Gas3 for 25 minutes.
5 Remove puffs from oven; cut a little slit in the sides to vent the steam and put them back in the turned-off oven to dry out, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack to room temperature. Just before serving, split the puffs horizontally (but not in half -- I cut the top 1/3 so that the bottom can hold more), fill, replace tops, ice or dust with powdered sugar. Or you can leave the puffs intact and pipe the filling.