Friday, February 5, 2010

Cream Puffs

Sunday is our friend Giacomo's birthday and since we are seeing him tonight, I wanted to make something special. Cream puffs came to mind because when we were little kids, my mom always always always made cream puffs for a special occasion. And since Giacomo is from Italy, I figured he'd appreciate the Italian creme in these. And I figured you would too.

See, these are not your average creme puffs, filled with thick whipped cream, or butter cream, these are Italian creme puffs, filled with crema pasticchiera- doesn't that just sound special?
Well, it is, and it is also easy to make, which is great on a day that I am working from home and have a to-do list as long as the table.

Cream puffs have two steps- hence the name "cream" and "puff". Incidentally, both parts can be used in many many ways. Like Italian rum cake? Try it with this cream. And the "Puff" is so versatile. It can be used as the base of my favorite dessert- profiteroles ( just fill these suckers with ice cream and top with a hot chocolate sauce), or, since they are not sweet, they can be used in savory dishes. You can stuff them with crab salad or goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes- yum!
So next time you want to make something special for someone ( ahem- like on Valentine's day perhaps?) give these a try.

Cream Puffs
yield 20 medium creampuffs

The Puffs-
1 stick of butter
1 cup of water
1 cup of flour
4 eggs- at room temp.

1- In a medium saucepan on low heat, melt the butter.
2- Add the water and bring it up to a boil.
3. Once the butter/water is boiling, add the flour and stir, making sure to "cook" all of the flour so that no white is showing. ( You'll be able to hear the sizzling of butter on the sides of the pan- this is a good thing!)
4. Remove the dough from the stovetop and spread it on a flat plate to cool- like this:

5. Once the dough is cool, transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time on a low speed. The dough will appear sticky. This is good! Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
6. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Drop teaspoons of dough on the sheet, about 1 inch apart.
7. Bake on the middle rack at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN!
8. Lower the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until golden. ( If you have to peek you may at this point)
9. Cool on a wire rack.

Crema Pasticchiera
2 cups whole milk
the peels of 2 lemons
3 egg yolks
4 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar
4 heaping tablespoons of flour

1. Peel the Lemons, leaving them intact. Place the lemon peels in two cups of whole milk. Heat the milk on the stovetop, over a low flame, being careful not to let it boil.
2. In a different bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Once incorporated, add the flour.
3. Add a small ladle full of the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking quickly so that the eggs yolks do not cook.
4. Add the egg mixture into the milk and stir over a low flame until it thickens into a cream- about ten minutes.
5. Remove from stovetop and allow to cool to room temp. Remove the lemon peel.
6. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembling the cream puffs:
Cut each puff in half. If you'd like them topped with chocolate, like I did melt some chocolate chips in a double boiler, being careful not to burn them. Add a bit of butter ( about 1 teaspoon per cup of chips) to give the chocolate a nice shine. Stir it together. Dip the top of the puffs in the chocolate now. ( it is a lot easier than dipping when the puffs are filled).
Spoon the cream into the bottom half of the puff, and top with the top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or let them be.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  1. I love that these puffs can be sweet or savory! Delicious!

  2. Cream puffs are one of my favorites, and I sure ate my share of "profiteroles" on my latest trip to Italy.

  3. Thanks for this recipe and pictures. This always seems so hard to do. They are a very special treat.

  4. I make something so similar for special times. Yours are heavenly and so worth the calories.

  5. ciao... bellissimi i tuoi bigné, io li adoro, proverò a fare la tua ricetta... mi sembra molto gustosa... anch'io li faccio spesso, ma la ricetta è completamente diversa.... grazie... e buon san valentino... ^.^