- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

No sooner do I become enthused about cupcakes as the fashionable bakery dessert than cream puffs start elbowing the dainty cakes off their pedestal.

According to a recent article in Bon Appetit magazine, baseball-size cream puffs may be the next trend, but the airy shell of butter, flour and eggs is hardly new. Wisconsin claims the title for its invention at a state fair a little more than 80 years ago, although it may have originiated in Europe several centuries earlier.

A well-made cream puff has a crisp shell and light, hollow interior. It isn’t soggy or gummy.

Unfortunately, those criteria can be a cream puff’s downfall. If the dessert isn’t well-executed or is stale, it’s not worth the calories. Unless your bakery does a stellar job, your best source for an ethereal cream puff is probably your own kitchen.

Cream puffs are easier to make than you may have been led to believe. The basic dough, called a choux pastry, is unusual. You beat flour into boiling hot water and butter. Then you beat in an egg, or eggs, to get a gluey consistency.

The dough is easy to handle and presents no challenges for baking. Cream puffs, which bake to an almost hollow interior, should be split and filled to serve. That’s where the fun begins. You can choose from a wide variety of luscious fillings. The easiest is a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge sauce. My recommendation is lemon cream filling. It’s rich, slightly tangy and just right for spring.

Cream puffs for two

PASTRIES:

2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces

Dash of salt

1/4 cup flour

1 egg

Lemon cream filling (recipe follows)

Confectioners’ sugar

Combine butter, 1/4 cup water and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat until water boils and butter melts, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add flour and beat until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Stir in egg and beat well.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop batter in 2 mounds, 2 inches apart. Smooth tops of each mound. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until cream puffs are golden.

Remove from oven. Make a slash in the side of each cream puff. Turn off oven. Return cream puffs to oven for 10 minutes for steam to escape. Remove cream puffs to wire rack. Split cream puffs horizontally. Scoop out and discard any wet dough in the centers. Cool completely.

Prepare lemon cream filling. Spoon filling into bottom halves of each cream puff. Top with remaining halves. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately to 2.

LEMON CREAM FILLING:

1 egg

3 tablespoons sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of 1 large lemon)

2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces

1/4 cup whipping cream

Beat together egg, sugar and lemon zest in a stainless steel saucepan. Add lemon juice and butter. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly until butter melts and mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool completely. Beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold cream into lemon mixture.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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