Have you met author Heather Blake? I've never seen her without a smile. You might be familiar with some of her books since Heather also writes under the name Heather Webber. She's the author of over a dozen novels. She's a Dr Pepper enthusiast, total homebody who loves to be close to her family, read, watch Reality TV (totally addicted, especially to competition shows), crochet, occasionally leave the house to hike the beautiful mountains in the northeast, bake (mostly cookies) and dreams of owning a house at the base of Mt. Mansfield in Stowe, VT. Heather grew up in a suburb of Boston, but currently, she lives in the Cincinnati area with her family and is hard at work on her next book.
Her latest book A Witch Before Dying hits the stores officially on August 7th.
When Darcy is hired by Elodie Keaton to clean up her missing mother’s disorderly home, the Wishcrafter is certainly up for the task. After all, the motto of her Aunt Ve’s personal concierge service As You Wish is “No Job Impossible.” But beneath the piles of old newspapers and knickknacks, Darcy discovers something much more disturbing: Patrice Keaton’s body.
Darcy’s determined to give Elodie peace of mind by investigating her mother’s disappearance and death. Patrice was last seen over a year ago after a fight with her Charmcrafter boyfriend. Was her murder a crime of passion? Or were Patrice’s troubles caused by the Anicula, a wish-granting amulet? Now Darcy has to find not only a killer but also the Anicula— before the power of ultimate wish fulfillment falls into the wrong hands…
Read more about Heather at www.heatherblakebooks.com .
And now -- Heather!
Back in the spring, my daughter came home from school with a specific assignment for her high school French class: She had to make a French recipe.
Of course, I volunteered to help because as I have a French character in my latest mystery series (Pepe, the mouse familiar from my Wishcraft mysteries), I felt as though I was fully qualified.
However, my daughter being the good girl she is opted to do the project on her own, though she graciously allowed me to be her sous chef (I can measure flour like no one’s business).
She pored over various recipes and ended up making something that we’re quite fond of in our family: Cream puffs! Light and crisp pastry shells that have a yummy filling. Fillings can be anything you choose, from savory to sweet. She opted to use our family’s vanilla custard filling for her assignment.
There are many recipes for cream puffs out there—all very similar. Here’s hers:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs at room temperature
Preheat oven to 375˚. In a medium pot, combine the water and the butter and bring it to a boil. Remove it from the heat and dump in the flour, stirring until it’s all combined. Let it cool for a couple of minutes before returning it to the heat (on medium) and stir constantly until a dough ball forms. One at a time, add the eggs, and stir briskly until the dough is nice and smooth (great arm workout!).
Place rounded tablespoons of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet (which can be lined with parchment if you prefer), 2-3 inches apart. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the pastry is nice and golden brown. During the last few minutes of baking, you can poke one or two holes in the dough with a toothpick to let steam escape and prevent puffs from collapsing (she didn’t do this and her puffs were fine).
After cooling, cut the top part of the puff off (save it!), remove some of the doughy insides (they look like strings), and fill the pastry with your favorite filling. Then replace the top (like a little hat).
***You can adjust the dough amount depending on what size puff you prefer. Small bite-sized puffs are great for appetizers.
Yield depends on size of the puffs. My daughter’s batch made twenty.
Vanilla Custard Filling (can be easily doubled):
1 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt
In another small bowl, combine egg yolks, beating gently to combine
On medium heat, warm milk in a pot until you start to see steam rising. Slowly whisk in the sugar, flour, salt mix. Stir until the mixture thickens, about five minutes. Remove a teaspoon of the mix and slowly temper it into the egg yolks, then slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the custard. Continue to cook for another five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Transfer into a bowl and let cool for ten minutes before placing a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the custard (actually touching the custard—this prevents skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cool—a few hours.
***A quick and easy substitute for vanilla custard is to use instant vanilla pudding.
You can dust the top of your cream puff with confectioner’s sugar or drizzle with chocolate.