Last Friday I destroyed my kitchen. There is nothing like a full day of rain, coupled with a public holiday in which every indoor play ground is closed, to force you into extreme measures to entertain your child.
Flour. Everywhere. Broken egg shells. Everywhere. Powdered sugar. Everywhere.
Earlier this year I told my husband that for Christmas I wanted one of those fancy motion-sensor vacuum cleaners. Forget the little blue boxes at Tiffany & Co. Forget the new Prada handbag. Bring on the hoover baby.
Who in their right mind asks for a vacuum cleaner for a present? Any parent who has mistakenly kept an unopened bag of frozen peas on the bottom shelf of the freezer. Any parent who has made the same mistake, but with rice. And don’t even get me started on the amount of oatmeal that has fallen victim to construction site projects in my living room.
It’s a messy job, keeping a child entertained indoors. Every room is exhausted in the process, including the kitchen. Aidan loves “helping” mama cook. Nothing makes him smile more than sitting on my countertop with a whisk, a small bowl, and his culinary creation.
And so last Friday when the rain lashed down upon on us like a life-sized sprinkler with a defective off button, that’s exactly what we did. The culinary creation of choice? These gorgeous raspberry cream puffs… Choux pastry is a light, airy dough used to make cream puffs, profiteroles, éclairs, and other delicate delights. The pastry itself is made only of butter, water, flour and eggs.
As a child, I remember my mother making these for her cream puffs. I remember watching the steam rising from her kitchen aid as she beat the heat out of the mixture. I remember the buttery scent of them baking in the oven. I remember watching them rise. And of course, I remember salivating as I watched her fill them with her homemade custard.
We are in the midst of raspberry season here in Basel, and I decided to make use of a fresh carton I had stashed in my fridge. But first up, the pastry. To make the dough, add cubed butter, salt, sugar and some water into a medium-sized sauce pan.
If relegating this task to your toddler, be sure you monitor how many cubes actually go into the pan. Take it from me, it’s pretty difficult to gage the amount of butter that needs to be replaced after you discover several unknown quantities in said mouth.
“It’s just a little, mama,” Aidan mouthed, barely audible, cheeks full.
Anyhow, once you’ve reclaimed all your butter and it is safely in the pan, bring it to a boil, remove from heat and add a cup of flour. Just dump the whole lot in. Using a wooden spoon, cook and stir the mixture over medium heat until it pulls from the sides of the pan and leaves a film on the bottom of the pan (about 2 minutes). Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until all the steam rises from the dough (about 1 minute). Then raise the speed to medium and add four eggs (always at room temperature), one at a time, until the dough is smooth. Now onto piping the batter. This took a bit of creativity on my part, as my piping bag had burst a few weeks before and I had yet to replace it. Ikea plastic bags did the trick. A quick snip in the corner, and viola, we were ready to go. Pipe the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper (I used two sheets) at about 1 1/2 inch in diameter, and pop in the oven at 425F (220C) for 20 minutes, until nicely browned and puffed. Turn off the heat, then quickly poke a knife into the side of each one. Apparently this helps keep them puffed. Return them to the oven with the door ajar, and let rest for 10 minutes. What you do with the rest is up to you.
While the cream puffs were in the oven, Aidan and I made some whipped cream using heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar. My husband has a soft spot for sweet simplicity, so as a treat for him I stuffed a few with cream and dusted it lightly with powdered sugar… For myself, I decided to be a bit more adventurous with the raspberry. Using this recipe by Emeril as a base, I whipped together a raspberry/lemon filling. After a quick naptime and a bit of cleanup, we went for the final lap. Nearly a day of baking with Aidan, and nothing had burnt yet. Score! It was still raining outside, by the way. We lobbed off the tops of the puffs, added a dollop of whipped cream, some raspberries, and a good long drizzle of raspberry filling on top, and viola, we were done. I still can’t decide which picture I like best – tops on or off. By the evening, once the rain had made it clear it had no intention of stopping, my family and I were fully prepared for a night in. Movie – check. Fuzzy blankets – check. Sweet raspberry dessert to munch on for hours – triple check. And let’s not forget Stephen’s simple yet elegant cream puffs. We even had a few leftover for the morning, when it was, oh yes, still raining. These May flowers better be fan-flippin-tastic. And best of all, I had enough leftover raspberry sauce and whipped cream to throw together another dessert a day later… Who says leftovers are boring? A strawberry puff pastry with raspberry/lemon sauce. Not too shabby for a weekend of rain day desserts. Stay tuned for this recipe…
Ingredients for Raspberry Cream Puffs
- 1 portion choux (see recipe below)
- 1 portion raspberry filling (see recipe below)
- 1 cup raspberries, washed
- 1 portion whipped cream (see recipe below)
- Using a serrated knife, slice the tops of each choux. Set aside.
- Layer bottom portion of choux with 1 dollop each of whipped cream and raspberry filling, as well as a few fresh raspberries. Gently place tops back on. Keep in fridge until ready to serve.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar prior to serving.
Ingredients for Choux
- 1 cup water
- 3 ounces (6 tbsp) butter cut into pieces
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs (plus 1 egg and 1 tbsp water for egg wash)
- Preheat oven to 425F (220C). Line a sheet pan with parchment. Fit a large pastry bag with a large tip.
- Bring water, butter and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until it comes together and the dough starts to coat the bottom of pan. This should take a few minutes.
- Dump the hot dough into a kitchen aid fitted with a paddle attachment, then mix on low speed until all the steam rises from the dough (about 1-2 minutes).
- Add eggs one at a time, until mixture is thick and smooth.
- Spoon mixture into the pastry bag, and pipe out 1 1/2 inch mounds (this recipe makes about 30). With a wet finger press each top down slightly to keep the top levelled.
- Brush with egg wash, then bake 20 minutes until lightly browned and hollow when tapped.
- Turn off oven, make a small slit in the side of each puff to allow steam to escape. This will help them to stay puffed.
- Keep in oven with the door ajar for 10 minutes, then cool on rack.
Ingredients for Raspberry/Lemon Filling (Adapted from Emerils.com)
- 2 cups raspberries
- 1/3 cup water (plus 1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- In a small saucepan, combine the raspberries, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until raspberries have broken down. Add lemon.
- Turn off heat, strain mixture in a fine-mesh sieve, then return the strained mixture to the heat. Mix cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water, then whisk into the raspberry mixture. Bring the mixture back to a boil and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Ingredients for Whipped Cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2-3 spoonfuls powdered sugar to taste
- 500 ml heavy cream
- In electric bowl (or hand mixer) with whisk attachment, beat cream, sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until cream peaks.