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Quick and Easy Cream Puffs

Servings: Makes at least 12 cream puffs
Cream Puff Pastry or Choux

Definition: [shoo] Also called choux paste, pâte à choux and cream-puff pastry, this special pastry is made by an entirely different method from other pastries. The dough, created by combining flour with boiling water and butter, then beating eggs into the mixture, is very sticky and pastelike. During baking, the eggs make the pastry puff into irregular domes (as with cream puffs). After baking, the puffs are split, hollowed out and filled with a custard, whipped cream or other filling. Besides cream puffs, choux pastry is used to make such specialties as éclairs, gougère and profiteroles.

Traditional cream puffs have sweetened whipped cream in the filling. The cream cheese in this recipe adds a little extra tang. It will be a little less stiff than the traditional filling, but it's worth the compromise. People will ask you what makes your cream puffs so special, and you can decide whether or not you want to tell them that it is so very easy!

For the Pâte à choux pastry:
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 extra egg mixed with 1 1/2 tsp. water, for the egg wash

Cream Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream, very cold

Confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F/220 degrees C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

For the Pâte à choux pastry:
In a medium saucepan bring the water and butter to a boil. Make sure the butter is completely melted. Add the flour, sugar and salt all at once. Stir vigorously until the mixture turns into a ball. Cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat. Cool 5 minutes. Add one egg. Beat with an electric beater until the egg is entirely incorporated. Repeat this process with the next two eggs. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe the dough onto the baking sheet, in 2-inch diameter rounds or balls. Whisk the remaining egg with 1 1/2 teaspoons water. Brush the surface of the rounds with the egg wash. Make sure you leave 2 inches or so around each dough puff. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Puffs should be almost doubled in size, and they should be dry and golden. Cut puffs in half, horizontally, and let cool completely. Fill each puff with cream filling* (see note below) and place the tops back on top. Chill until ready to serve, no more then 4 hours. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar right before serving.

Makes at least 12 cream puffs, maybe more, depending on what size rounds or balls you pipe out.

Cream Filling
Beat together the softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the cream into the cheese mixture.

You may place cream filling in a pastry bag fitted with a medium star or plain tip and pipe the cream filling into the cream puffs if desired.

Date: January 27, 2004