Strawberry Cream Puffs with Milk Chocolate Sauce
Some problems can only be solved by Fiona Apple songs. Loud. In headphones. All up in my brain. In the car. Drowning out surroundings.
Fiona Apple reminds me of heartbreak that I no longer mourn. Young loves from years ago. Young loves that feel old now. Loves that I feel faded into just good memories. The sting is gone… and it’s all just sweet. The memories are indulgent. The drama so pleasingly removed. It’s like watching a movie in my head… me and that cute boy I loved are the star. It’s tender and earnest.. and there is good even when it gets sad.
It’s hard to imagine how my now will someday have this faded comfort of my current memories. All of the now feels so… now… and pressing and urgent. If I’m lucky, my now will be my sweet moments later.
But really… the now is sweet indeed.
I made pastry vessels for whipped strawberry cream…. then I covered the whole thing in chocolate. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to do this.. but I feel pretty much like a genius.
If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be sitting on a bed eating strawberry cream and NOT crying to this song… I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have called you a liar… because that song would always and forever tear out my heart. Or.. not! Because now it just feels sweet, and tender, and reminds me of love and strawberries and cream.
Is it completely hard to believe that flour and butter turn into cream puffs?
It sort of blows my mind… it can’t be this simple, right?
We need eggs. Eggs do all the heavy lifting in this recipe. They create the webbed and moist texture. Eggs also create the lift and lightness in this dough.
Eggs are a wonder.
If you’ve never made a pate a choux dough… it’s a little different.
Don’t let its difference intimidate you.
Flour is added to a mixture of simmering water and melted butter.
Sounds crazy, but it totally works out.
The mixture gets cooked and stirred over a low flame, helping the moisture cook out. The process is entirely satisfying.
Once some of the moisture is cooked out, we’re going to add more fat and moisture with eggs!
This is the dough after two of four eggs are added.
It looks slightly tough and glue-y.
It will smooth out with the addition of more eggs.
After four eggs are beaten into the flour mixture, the dough is glossy and smooth. Thick and juuuuust pourable.
The dough gets piped onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Pro Tip One: when this recipe asks you to line the baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper…. just do it. Trust the process.
Pro Tip Two: I used a 1/2-inch pastry tip (the #9) and disposable piping bags for this recipe. It’s an investment…. but it’s totally worth it. If you like to bake, disposable pastry bags and a few tips are really a great thing to have on hand. Think on it.
I have a new obsession in my kitchen: freeze-dried strawberries!
These strawberries are my favorite part of packaged breakfast granola. They come in a bag of just freeze-dried berries from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
I suppose you could even make your own freeze-dried strawberries. That’s a whole thing that requires machinery.
Because I don’t have proper machinery… I buy the bag of freeze-dried berries.
I used a spice grinder (though you could use a small food processor) to grind the berries into a powder.
This is the powder that will flavor and tint our whipped cream.
The best, right?
(The Tomato Tart has an amazing use for freeze-dried strawberries. It’s the inspiration!)
Just barely pink and full of strawberry flavor.
All you really need is a spoon. Truth.
Because I don’t know when to stop…. we need milk chocolate.
Let’s pour hot cream over it and call it a ganache. Come on…. what’s better than that? (nothing… duh.)
Let’s smash three desserts into one!
Profiteroles + Strawberry Cream + Milk Chocolate Sauce
Nothing bitter. It’s all just sweet. Let’s keep it sweet.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Thomas Keller. Ok… so it’s ballsy to adapt a Keller recipe… to be sure. But! I added strawberry cream. I’m sure he’d understand.
If you don’t have access to freeze-dried strawberries, you can make a whipped cream filling with vanilla beans, you can add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and double the powdered sugar, or you can add a splash of bourbon. You’ve got options.
This might not be the sort of recipe you’d think to make. I know… there are a lot of steps. I know… you’re cooking dough. It might feel weird and overwhelming. Try something new! Surprise your kitchen brain. It needs surprising.
Strawberry Cream Puffs with Milk Chocolate Sauce
makes about 2 dozen puffs
adapted slightly from Thomas Keller
For the Profiteroles:
1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 to 5 large eggs
For the Strawberry Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberry powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Sauce:
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
To make the Profiteroles:
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and the mixture is brought to a simmer, lower heat slightly, and add flour all at once. Stir immediately using a stiff heat-proof spatula or a wooden spoon. Stir until the mixture thickens, pulls away from the side of the pan, forms a mass, and the bottom of the pan is clean. The mixture will be glossy and damp.
We’re going to cook the dough over a low flame. This will allow moisture to evaporate from the dough, allowing it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added. Stir for about 5 minutes. A thing gluten coat will form along the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, the dough will steam and the cooking flour will smell slightly nutty.
Immediately transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, releasing some of the heat from the cooked dough. Add four eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. Stop the mixer between each egg addition and scrape down the bowl. After beating in the last egg the mixture should be glossy and thick… but still juuuust pourable. When scooped into a spoon, the dough should slowly pour off the spoon. If it doesn’t fall, or it fall in one giant clump… beat in the 5th egg.
Spoon the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch pastry tip. On the prepared sheets, pipe out dough into circles so that they are about 1 1/2-inches across, about about 3/4-inch tall. Space them about 1 1/2-inches apart on the sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans from bottom shelf to top. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake for 15 minutes more.
Remove a cream puff from the oven and slice in half. If the inside is not gooey, but still just moist, they’re done! If they’re gooey, bake for another 3 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the pan.
To make Strawberry Cream:
Place dehydrated strawberries in a spice grinder or small food processor. Grind to a powder. Set aside 1/2 cup of pink strawberry powder.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, add cold cream and powdered sugar. Beat of medium-high speed to incorporate. Stop mixer, add strawberry powder and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until just thick. You want the cream to be thick and hold its shape, but not over whipped and on its way to butter.
Allow cream to chill in the refrigerator until it’s time to assemble the cream puffs.
To make the Milk Chocolate Sauce:
Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat heavy cream and corn syrup until just simmering. Pour hot cream mixture over chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then carefully whisk to incorporate. Mixture will be glossy and smooth. Refrigerate sauce if you’d like a thicker consistency.
To assemble Cream Puffs:
Cut each profiterole in half. Top with 1 heaping tablespoon strawberry cream. Place the top of profiterole on top of the cream. Drizzle with chocolate. Serve with coffee. Once assembled, these are best served immediately. Profiteroles can be made a day ahead, wrapped will and kept at room temperature. Before serving, place profiteroles on a sheet pan and toast at 300 degrees F for about 5 minutes… just to heat through and re-crisp. Cool then fill with cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce.