On the week-end I needed a quick and easy dessert. Something that could be whipped up from the contents of my pantry and refrigerator. Wasn’t too time consuming. And had a little bit of wow factor.
Since our visit to Hokkaido in Japan my family has been obsessed with cream puffs. Constantly asking when would I make them. The basis of a good cream puff? Light, crisp choux pastry. Not difficult to make if you follow a few basic rules. No time to make the traditional creme patissiere filling? Ice cream is a delicious substitute. And so using a little lateral thinking dessert was sorted. Choux pastry puffs. Filled with ice cream. Topped with a home-made salted caramel sauce. And don’t they look glorious? Mes petits choux.
In France mon petit chou is a term of endearment. Loose translation? My little sweetheart. Or more literally. My little cabbage. Look closely. These delicious little pastry puffs, mes petits choux, do in a way resemble little cabbages.
Once mastered, choux pastry dough is the basis of a wide variety of desserts. Think profiteroles, croquembouche, éclairs, and religieuses. In Spain this dough is fried, rolled in sugar and dipped in thick chocolate to make churros. Don’t have a sweet tooth? Add your favourite cheese, spices and herbs to the pastry dough to bake wonderfully savoury gougères. A most elegant and delicious canapé.
Here is a very easy and very basic choux pastry recipe to get you started. I have included all the little tips I use to get a light, crisp choux pastry puffs every time. Filled with ice cream and drizzled with Nigella Lawson’s incredibly decadent salted caramel sauce they make a wonderful dessert. One post. Two recipes. Enjoy.
Ice-Cream Choux Pastry Puffs with Nigella Lawson’s Salted Caramel Sauce.
Fill crisp choux pastry puffs with a generous scoop of softened, good quality vanilla bean ice cream. Place 2 -3 ice cream puffs on a plate and drizzle with Nigella Lawson’s salted caramel sauce.
To Make The Choux Pastry Puffs
Makes about 30
100 g butter, chopped
1 cup (250 ml) water
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
PREHEAT oven to 200 C. Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
COMBINE butter and water in saucepan, bring to the boil. When butter has melted and water boiling rapidly, add sifted flour and salt all at once.
STIR vigorously until the mixture is glossy and pulls away from the side of the saucepan to form a smooth ball.
TRANSFER to a bowl. Cool slightly and beat in eggs a little at a time. The pastry dough should be smooth and stretchy and fall easily off a wooden spoon. If it reaches this stage before you’ve added all the eggs don’t add the rest. You are aiming for a good dropping consistency that holds its shape well. If the mixture is too stiff (not enough egg) then the choux puffs will be too heavy. If the mixture is too wet (too much egg), they will not hold their shape when spooned onto baking paper.
PIPE or drop the pastry dough about 5 cm apart onto lined oven trays.
BAKE in hot 200 C oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180 C and bake for a further 10 -15 minutes until puffs are lightly browned and crisp.
REMOVE from oven. Make a small slit in the side of the choux pastry puffs to allow steam to escape.
RETURN the trays to the oven and bake for another 5 mins until really crisp.
TRANSFER the puffs to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. It is important to bake the puffs until they are browned and firm. If they are removed from the oven too soon they will collapse as they cool and have a dense, tough texture.
WHEN cool store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Baked and cooled choux pastry puffs will keep in an airtight container for about a week or may be frozen for about a month. Re-crisp puffs in a moderate 180 C oven for a few minutes.
To Make Nigella Lawson’s Salted Caramel Sauce.
75 grams unsalted butter (best quality)
50 grams soft light brown sugar
50 grams caster sugar
50 grams golden syrup
125 ml double cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
MELT butter, sugars and syrup and butter in a small heavy based pan and let simmer for 3 minutes, swirling every now and again.
ADD cream and half a teaspoon of fleur de sel salt (not table salt!) and swirl again, give a stir with a wooden spoon and taste – go cautiously so that you don’t burn your tongue – to see if you want more salt before letting it cook for another minute on the stove, then pour into a jug for serving.