My earliest cream puff memories involve trips to the neighbourhood bakery with my grandmother whenever she came to visit. We'd take a stroll down the street to see what the bakery had to offer for the day. If we were lucky, we'd come home with a dozen or so mini cream puffs - I absolutely loved every light, fluffy, custard-filled bit of those little treats.
I was always under the impression that making cream puffs would involve complicated techniques - the need to whip eggwhites a certain way or the need to get the oven temperature just right. On retrospect, it seems likely that I may have somehow managed to associate cream puffs with souffles. So when the housemate suggested that we make cream puffs, I immediately imagined us in full project mode - deciphering a complicated recipe, whipping countless eggwhites and fashioning some sort of make-shift baking device that we needed but didn't own. When I saw the recipe she had pulled up on our favourite recipe site, I couldn't have been more surprised. No crazy techniques, no complicated procedures - I'd say that making a batch of cream puffs would be easier than turning out a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Based on Shellie Wendel's Cream Puffs Recipe
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
50g plain chocolate
Make custard as per instructions on the packaging (we used about 2 tablespoons of Bird's custard powder to make a pint of custard), adding the plain chocolate to the mixture.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
When the shells are cool, either split and fill them with the custard mixture, or use a pastry bag to pipe the custard into the shells.
I have to admit, we did have to fashion a utensil that we needed but didn't own - a piping bag. We've come away having learnt that while a ziplock bag generally does the trick, it really isn't the cleanest tidiest way to go about it.
I marveled at how the bits of dough transformed into gorgeous, golden brown puffs in the oven, almost as if by magic.
Who would have thought - cream puffs, easy as ABC.