Puff Recipes

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Basic Cream Puff Dough

(Pâté a Choux)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of dough

I prefer this dough to be slightly thicker than is usually called for -- especially when it is to be used as the base for other recipes -- to help maintain a puff shape.

2 ounces unsalted butter ( 1/2 stick)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup flour

2 eggs

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the butter and water until the butter has melted. Add the flour all at once and beat with a spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Stir vigorously for a few seconds for the flour to cook slightly. The dough will come together and pull away from the sides of the pan, about 1 minute.

Transfer the dough to a food processor and pulse several times to cool the dough. When it's no longer steaming, add 1 of the eggs and pulse 5 or 6 times until the egg is completely incorporated. Add the remaining egg, pulsing until it is incorporated. The dough is now ready to use for whichever application you choose.

Plain Cream Puffs

18 puffs

Filled with savory concoctions, cream puffs make excellent conveyances for hors d'oeuvres. Cut across the middle and fill each half for bite-size hors d'oeuvres or snip off the cap and turn the puff into an appetizer or mini-sandwich.

Be creative about the fillings. I have used larb gai (a Thai chicken salad), seviche, tuna or salmon tartare, shrimp salad and crab remoulade. Note that there may be some uncooked dough in the puffs (see "Baking Tips," on this page); it helps keep filled puffs from getting soggy by absorbing some of the moisture of the fillings.

1 batch Basic Cream Puff Dough (see box above, at right)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready a large baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or parchment paper.

The dough can be dolloped into heaping mounds on the baking sheet by using a tablespoon or a soup spoon. The better method for plain puffs is to fashion a pastry bag from a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag by snipping off 1/2 inch to 1 inch from one of the corners. Pipe the puffs onto the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Leaving the puffs in the oven, turn off the oven and let the puffs dry for 10 to 15 minutes.Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Per piece: 45 calories, 1 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 2 g saturated fat, 8 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Vegetable Bhajis

Makes 40 pieces

Bhajis are Indian fritters traditionally made with onions and chickpea flour. This version is basically a take on hush puppies. Instead of being fried, they may be baked (425 degrees for 20 minutes), but the baked version is not nearly as crisp. The dough may be made several hours ahead of time if you don't add the baking powder until just before frying. The bhajis also may be fried ahead of time and reheated in a hot oven for a few minutes.

1 batch Basic Cream Puff Dough (see box above)

1/2 cup peeled sweet potato, cut into 1/4 -inch dice

1/2 cup sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

1/2 cup French beans or green beans, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed and blotted well on paper towels

1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed and blotted well on paper towels

1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and tender green parts

1/2 cup cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Peanut oil, for frying

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the peanut oil and mix well.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil to a depth of 2 inches. When the oil is smoking (375 degrees on a candy thermometer), carefully drop heaping teaspoons (no more than 10 at a time) of the dough into the pot. Fry the bhajis, flipping occasionally, until they are dark brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve warm.

Per 4-piece serving: 99 calories, 0 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 111 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Marcia Kramer; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Salmon Puffs

Makes 25 to 30 pieces

Here, I prefer to use hot-smoked (or kippered) salmon, which is uncured (usually chunks of fillet with the skin on) and smoked slowly over low heat and wood chips until it is thoroughly cooked. Brine-cured, smoked salmon may be substituted.

1 batch Basic Cream Puff Dough (see box, top right)

1 1/2 cups hot smoked salmon (about 8 ounces), skinned and broken into 1-inch chunks*

2 teaspoons soy sauce (may substitute low-sodium soy sauce)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon five-spice powder

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready an ungreased baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the sesame seeds. Drop tablespoons of dough (or pipe them using a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag with 1 inch snipped off one corner), at least half an inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on each mound and bake for 20 minutes or until the puffs are no longer doughy. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*NOTE: Hot smoked (or kippered) salmon is available at Harris Teeter, Balducci's, Wegmans and Whole Foods stores, and can be special-ordered at Magruders.

Per 3-piece serving: 129 calories, 8 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 4 g saturated fat, 83 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Pam Kendrick; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Cheese Puffs

Makes 42 pieces

These are spicy. Monterey jack cheese may be used instead of pepper jack for a milder flavor.

1 batch Basic Cream Puff Dough (see box, at right)

3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) grated pepper jack cheese

3/8 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the dough with the pepper jack and Parmesan cheeses, chili powder and salt. Drop teaspoons of dough (or pipe them using a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag with 1 inch snipped off one corner), at least half an inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the puffs are deep brown and no longer doughy. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Per 3-piece serving: 94 calories, 4 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 49 mg cholesterol, 4 g saturated fat, 139 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Leigh Lambert; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

Cocoa Puffs in Vanilla Sauce

Makes 80 mini puffs, about 10 dessert servings

I like to serve these little chocolate cream puffs like a bowl of breakfast cereal, with the ice cream melted to simulate milk, but you could also sprinkle the cocoa puffs onto frozen ice cream or serve them alongside coffee. The puffs may be baked up to 4 hours ahead.

1 batch Basic Cream Puff Dough (see box above, at right)

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder*

5 teaspoons cocoa powder, plus additional for dusting

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 to 2 pints premium vanilla ice cream, melted in the microwave and then kept cold

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have ready a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the ice cream. Using an espresso spoon or a teaspoon measuring spoon, drop teaspoons of dough (or pipe them using a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag with 1/2 inch snipped off one corner) at least half an inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. You may have to prod the dough out of the bag if a chip gets stuck. Bake for 12 minutes or until the puffs are dark brown, crisp and are no longer doughy. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. To serve, pour melted vanilla ice cream (about 1/3 cup per serving) into cereal bowls, top with 8 puffs and sprinkle with a little cocoa powder.

*NOTE: Instant espresso powder can be found near the instant coffee in most supermarkets. The most common brand is Medaglia d'Oro.

Per serving of 8 puffs: 219 calories, 2 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 82 mg cholesterol, 12 g saturated fat, 35 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Yuki Noguchi; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

'Gnocchi' in Gorgonzola Sauce

Makes 60 gnocchi for 6 appetizer servings

Here is a version of Italian dumplings made the French way, from cream puff dough, and served in a casserole. The dish may be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to bake it. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

2 cups cornmeal

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

9 ounces (1 to 1 1/4 cups) Gorgonzola cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 batch Basic Cream Puff Dough (see box at left)

3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or scallions (white and tender green parts), for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a small ungreased casserole dish or 6 individual gratin dishes. Spread the cornmeal on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a boil. Add the Gorgonzola cheese, remove the pan from the heat and whisk until the cheese has melted. Pour the sauce into the casserole or gratin dishes about 1/2 -inch deep, reserving any extra sauce. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Set a large bowl of ice water next to the stovetop.

In a medium bowl, combine the cream puff dough, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Using a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag with a 1/2 -inch snipped off one corner, pipe 1-inch lengths of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Lightly coat the gnocchi in the cornmeal just enough to be able to pick them up without sticking to your hands and gently drop half of them in the boiling water. Use a slotted spoon to gently stir the gnocchi, which will quickly rise to the top. Cook for 2 minutes. They should be delicate but solid; if they are pasty, let them cook a little longer.

Using the slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the ice-water bath and let them cool for a few minutes, then transfer to blot them on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

Place the cooked gnocchi in the casserole or gratin dishes and gently shake to coat them with the sauce. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling. Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley or scallions, and pass any extra Gorgonzola sauce at the table.

Per serving: 374 calories, 13 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates, 30 g fat, 160 mg cholesterol, 20 g saturated fat, 530 mg sodium, 11 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Tom Wilkinson; e-mail questions tofood@washpost.com

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