One might ask why the holiday-scheduling powers-that-be allowed January 2 to become National Cream Puff Day. Haven’t we just finished six weeks of heavy eating? Don’t we have resolutions to diet in the New Year? Aren’t we running out to gyms?
But, since it is National Cream Puff Day, a few words of puffery:
Cream puffs are made from pâte à choux (pot-ah-shoo), also called choux paste or cream puff paste. This very versatile dough is used for both sweet and savory pastries. Savory examples include gougères (cheese pastry) and pommes dauphine (crisp potato puffs); sweet pastries include éclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles (cream puffs served cold with an ice cream filling instead of pastry cream) and croque em bouche.
Pâte à choux is made by combining flour, butter and boiling water, then beating eggs into the mixture until it becomes very sticky and pastelike. During baking, the eggs create irregular domes in the pastry.
CREAM PUFF HISTORY
Of those two pastries that people consider siblings, the cream puff and the éclair, the cream puff is the elder, dating back to the late 16th century. The elongated éclair did not appear until 200 years later, in the late 18th century.
Who can turn down a cream puff (photo courtesy American Egg Board).
Originally, the cream puff was filled with whipped cream and served plain (or late, dusted with powdered sugar). Now, the round pastry, which is piped from a bag and baked, is often halved, as in the photo at right. Profiteroles, cream puffs stuffed with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce, are a 20th century dish.
Today, both can be prepared in any way that the pastry chef can conceive, from pistachio whipped cream and glaze to saffron custard with caramel glaze to blueberry jam with cassis whipped cream and cassis glaze. Some cream puffs have chocolate-glazed tops, similar to the éclair.
Learn how to make pâte à choux.
Here’s a cream puff recipe from chocolatier Michael Recchiuti.