Sunday, March 6, 2011

Puffy (not P Diddy) and Delectable.

This week I embarked on an Italian pastry cooking class because nothing cures Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) quite like a sugar high with added fat content (BUTTER). I am proficient in the language of cupcakes and cookies... but pastries? In Italian no less?

I am here to tell you after my first attempt at making bigne- or what we call profiteroles or cream puffs- that they are not so darned difficult.

Actually, these puffy little pastries are not difficult AT ALL. I made them with vanilla pastry cream- but they are super versatile. You can add ice cream and chocolate sauce or sauteed broccoli and sausage. Nutella and cream cheese or a lox, eggs and onions mini omelet. There is no sugar in the  recipe so sweet or savory stuffings both work well.

Here's the deal:
125 grams of butter
125 grams of water
125 grams of flour
2 pinches of sea salt
4 eggs

Heat the butter, water and salt in a saucepan until butter melts. Add flour and stir constantly- the consistency is rather doughy. When the dough starts to stick to the pan and you hear crackling (about three minutes) take from heat and put in a mixer. Add 1 egg at a time. Mix for 3-5 minutes.

Put the dough in a pastry bag (or a Zip-Lock and cut the corner). On a paper lined cookie sheet, begin to squeeze out small and evenly spaced pastries (try to make them all the same size for even cooking). Cook them for 15-18 minutes on 180 C or 360 F. They literally puff up and are filled with air. Once they've cooled, poke a whole in the bottom so they are ready to be filled (Or slice for a savory pastry)

For the cream:
1 liter milk
300 g sugar
10 egg yolks
100 g flour
1/4 paste and stalk from vanilla bean
*** cut  1/4 of stalk then cut long ways a scrape out seeds (paste)with knife

Bring milk, HALF the sugar 150 g and vanilla to boil.

In a bowl mix 10 yolks with 150 g sugar. Then add flour.

When milk is boiling, remove from heat and add 3/4 of contents to the bowl with the eggs. Mix.

Then, pour the 'egg' bowl back in to the saucepan and return to heat. Stir with whisk until you get the consistency of cream. Remove from heat, wrap in plastic and chill.

To assemble: Put chilled cream in a pastry bag and fill pastries one by one. Garnish with powdered sugar.
Yields about 50 impressive pastry with cream to spare.