Friends like to ask me about my signature dish and I have a tough time answering because I try so many different recipes. A few of the goodies get repeated, but I also feel that variety is the spice of life and it may be months to years before I retry a recipe. But the truth be told, my favourite repeated dishes are salmon teriyaki and my wheat berry salad with almonds and cranberries in a citrus dressing. They are a bit different and are a treat for guests.
However, I can’t just whip the dishes out of thin air as they aren’t made with pantry staples. I need some advance notice to head to the grocery store before I make them.
But what happens if I have unexpected guests? Well, to be honest, they will likely go hungry if they don’t want leftovers. My grandmother, wise in her years, has staples she can whip up in no time. Cream puffs are her emergency dessert and if pressed, she’ll ask her guests to come with the whipping cream for a stellar dessert.
I never knew cream puffs, light and delicious pastry filled with vanilla whipped cream and smothered with chocolate, could be considered easy. So I put my grandmother’s recipe to the test, to figure out how foolproof it was to make cream puffs.
The cream puff pastry (aka pâte à choux – cabbage paste!) is nice because the ingredients are all pantry staples and you can make it without a machine. You need to whip it really hard and fast until it pulls from the side of the pan, but no problemo! Next you drop them onto a cookie sheet and bake until they are browned and hollow in the middle. The moist dough allows steam to puff the pastry. Cut them in half, remove any soft dough (still tastes yummy!) and let cool. The pastry can easily be frozen at this point, and later reheated in a 350F oven for a few minutes prior to filling and dressing.
Next, once your guests arrive with the whipping cream, and the cream puffs are cool, stuff them with the whipped cream and top with chocolate ganache. Serve to astonished guests because it was actually quite simple to make, just many small steps towards a delicious dessert.
Cream puffs are incredibly versatile, using any combination of fillings and toppings. Filled with ice cream, they are known as profiteroles, but one could equally fill with savoury vegetables for an impressive lunch. What a powerhouse!
This is my submission to this month’s Tea Time Treats for French desserts.