Sunday, July 22, 2012

cream puffs with vanilla pastry cream

cream puffs with chocolate ganache

all week last week i've been so busy or tired that i have not had any time to bake. usually these days, i feel like my nights are so precious, i can't afford to do too many things. either that or i'm usually exhausted and drained come 9pm to do anything.

anyway, i really have been itching to bake lately and finally earlier today i managed to have enough free time (no kids fussing, etc) and decided to make these delicious cream puff. that's because they're so easy to make, you don't need a whole lot of time to do this (okay, that's true for the prepping or making part -- but you do need some time for them to bake). now, usually the cream puffs i make have whipping cream in them. that's because about the only time i make cream puffs is when there's heavy whipping cream lying around the house. well, there were some this time, but i decided to skip the ones with whipped cream and go for the pastry cream filling instead. see, i stumbled upon the recipe for pierre herme's vanilla pastry cream sometime last week and since i do have some spare egg yolks around, i figured i'd try out his recipe. it didn't turn out quite the way i had hope. it could be because i made a little more than half the recipe and winged the rest of the other ingredients. but for the  most part, it came out okay and they still tasted delicious. the recipe below is an adaptation of pierre herme's recipe. for the most part, all the measurements are pretty accurate so, if you decide to make it, they should come out right.

oh, another thing about baking these goodies was that i could test out my photography skills (i don't have any, actually). well, i definitely don't have what you'd consider a cool camera. no fancy dslr or anything like that. just a typical point and shoot (canon powershot, model something?!). anyway, i've been playing around with the manual settings stuff with focus, aperature and shutter settings. i'm hoping i'll get the hang of those things and eventually make my way up to a dslr, whatever model i can afford.

so for now, do enjoy the two photos i shot and edited of these delicious cream puffs.

vanilla pastry cream
adapted from pierre herme's vanilla pastry cream recipe
1 cup milk (i used 1%)
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/6 cup cornstarch, sifted
1-1/4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

in a small saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla extract to a boil over medium heat (or do this in the microwave oven). cover the pan, remove from heat, and allow the mixture to rest for a few minutes, time enough for the liquids to be infused with the warm flavor of vanilla.

whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (or a bowl). while still whisking, gradually whisk hot milk into egg yolk mixture. return mixture to saucepan over moderate heat and cook, whisking constantly, until pastry cream simmers and thickens, about 1 minute. remove from heat and whisk cream until smooth (i guess this is when you can add the butter in if you like. or follow pierre herme's tip below). transfer to bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto surface. chill until cold, generally a few hours.

pierre herme said he likes to cool the pastry cream before adding the butter. that's to ensure the cream doesn't separate so that the butter doesn't lose its smooth texture. plus, it gives you a pastry cream with a better, more buttery taste. i say you can certainly follow this advice and try it yourself. i for one can't stand for anything to cool down unless i really have to, so i usually just put my butter in right away after the stove. maybe next time i will try this little tip.

note: pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped well with plastic wrap on surface, up to 3 days.

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