Showing posts with label cream puffs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cream puffs. Show all posts

Friday, June 5, 2015


by Sheila Connolly

I kind of backed into this recipe. You see, it’s fiddlehead season. If you’re not familiar with fiddleheads, they are the tender tips of emerging ferns, still tightly coiled. They’re available for a very short time each spring. They taste a bit like asparagus, with a nice crunch.

The thing is, there’s not much you can do with them, if you want to enjoy their delicacy and freshness: simply saute/steam them with a little butter.

So, while contemplating my pound of fresh fiddleheads, I tried to come up with a complementary recipe for something, and I landed on gougère. That’s a fancy word for a pastry made of pâte à choux. Not any clearer? Think cream puff dough. I was first introduced to gougère by Julia Child, many years ago. Most often they are made by the spoonful, which produces a hollow crispy pastry that you can fill with either a sweet or savory filling. The dough is easy and fun to make.

But I wanted a single dish, not a fiddly (ha, a pun) bunch of little things. So I had to go hunting, and found one that was kinda, sorta what I wanted, so I started fine-tuning it. And voila! Here is my companion dish to the fiddleheads!

Gougère with mushrooms and ham

Pâte à Choux:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
1 cup flour
Pinch each of salt and pepper
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs
1/8 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, diced (about 1/4 inch cubes)

Mix the flour, salt and pepper together. Heat the water and butter in a large saucepan until the butter melts.

Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the flour mixture all at once and stir vigorously (most sources suggest a sturdy wooden spoon for this) until it comes together in an elastic ball. This should take about a minute.

Allow the mixture to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with that wooden spoon after each one.

Stir in the diced cheese.

Filling: (actually I made the filling first, because it can sit while you make the dough)

4 Tblsp butter

1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
1-1/2 Tblsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly grated pepper
1 cup chicken broth, heated
6 ounces cooked ham, chopped
1 Tblsp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onion over low-medium heat until soft but not browned. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the ham. Taste for seasoning.

Butter a 10- or 11-inch ovenproof skillet or shallow baking dish. Spoon the pâte à choux in a ring around the edge, leaving a hole in the center. 

Spoon the filling into the center. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the whole thing.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the gougère is crisp and puffy and the filling is bubbling.

Serve at once, cut into wedges (it kind of goes splat once you cut into it, but it tastes good!. Along with your fiddleheads!

At last! Privy to the Dead, available everywhere! You can finally find out what's in that hole in the basement of the Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society. (Don't worry, it won't turn your stomach.)

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Indiebound

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ooh La La Cream Puffs

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 .

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 water
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.

Bon appetit!