Thursday: What’s Baking?

puff pastryI usually talk about cakes when I talk about baking, because I am always making them as part of my business. However, I experienced a “EUREKA!” moment, if you will, where I thought about how wonderful it would be to explore a new area of baking. Pastries are a bit more complicated than cakes, only because they require unique preparation steps. Diving into the world of pastry making seemed like a challenge, and I believe we should all try to put our true culinary skills to the test. I have been a long-time fan of Buddy Valastro in “Cake Boss,” where he takes on the challenge of the most glorious custom cakes I have ever seen!!! Buddy is also Italian, and sees baking Italian pastries as something he could do with his eyes closed. Today, we will challenge ourselves with Buddy’s “Italian Cream Puff with Custard Filling” recipe, just to see who really holds the spatula among us! I will post pictures of my puffs on Sunday’s “Home” entry, and I would also encourage you to post some of your creations so that I can see we are truly in this together. Let the baking begin! Happy Thursday.


Buddy’s Italian Cream Puffs with Custard Filling

For the Italian custard cream:
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup cake flour, sifted
5 extra-large egg yolks
2 teaspoons salted butter

For the choux pastry:
1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 extra-large eggs

For the Italian custard cream: Put the milk and the vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
In a bowl, whip together the sugar, flour, and egg yolks with a hand mixer. Ladle a cup of the milk-vanilla mixture into the bowl and beat to temper the yolks.
Add the yolk mixture to the pot and beat over medium heat with the hand mixer until thick and creamy, about 1 minute. As you are beating, move the pot on and off the flame so that you don’t scramble the eggs. (Buddy’s Tip: The longer you cook this cream, the thicker it will become, so you can — and should — adjust the texture to suit your taste.)

Remove the pot from the heat, add the butter, and whip for 2 minutes to thicken the cream. Transfer to a bowl. Let cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 1 week.
(To make chocolate custard cream, add 1½ ounces melted, cooled unsweetened chocolate along with the butter. For a richer chocolate flavor, add a little more.)
For the choux pastry: Put the water, butter, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients come together in a smooth, uniform dough, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (You may also use a hand mixer.) Start paddling on low speed, then add the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly absorbed, mixing for 1 minute between eggs, and stopping the motor periodically to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Finish with the final egg and mix for an additional two minutes. (Buddy’s Tip: Use the dough immediately. It does not refrigerate well.)
For the cream puffs: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450F.
Transfer the dough into a pastry bag fitted with the #6 plain tip. Pipe rounds onto two non-stick baking trays, about 2 inches in diameter by about ½ inch high, leaving 2 inches between puffs. (You should be able to make 24 puffs.)
Bake the cream puff shells in the oven, in batches if necessary, until they are golden brown and they have set enough that you can pick them up (test by gently pinching one with your thumb and forefinger to see if it can be lifted), 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and let the shells cool on the tray for 20 minutes. (The cream puff shells can be frozen in a plastic freezer bag for up to 1 month; let come to room temperature before cutting and filling.)

Fill the puffs by either cutting them in half horizontally with a serrated knife and piping them full of Italian Custard Cream, or by using your pinkie to hollow out the puffs from the bottom and piping the cream into them through the hole.



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