Classic Cream Puffs
Makes 36 cream puffs
I got the idea for gluten-free cream puffs from my friend and mentor Laura Russell, who writes the gluten-free column for the Oregonian. She came up with a tapioca-based recipe for Brazilian cheese puffs, and the dough base reminded me of the pâté à choux used for traditional cream puffs, except that it’s much easier to make. The pastry cream can be made up to 5 days in advance: simply keep in an airtight container or wrap well with plastic wrap directly on the cream to keep a skin from forming. The puffs can be baked up to a week ahead and frozen in an airtight container. Make sure you poke the hole in the bottom, sticking your pinky in to clear the way for the filling, before you freeze them. Then, just reheat the puffs at 350°F for 6 to 10 minutes. The assembled puffs can also be frozen in an airtight container, but they will soften quite a bit. Thaw them at room temperature for about 2 hours before you plan to serve them.
2 cups / 454 ml whole milk
1/2 cup / 113 g sugar
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup / 51 g cornstarch
2 tablespoons / 28 g butter
2 teaspoons / 10 g vanilla bean paste or extract
2 cups / 454 ml whole milk
2/3 cup / 147 g canola oil
4 cups / 521 g tapioca starch
1 tablespoon / 14 g vanilla extract
Pinch / .5 g salt
1 1/2 cups / 263 g best-quality dark chocolate
1/4 cup / 57 g butter
1/4 cup / 59 g heavy cream
To make the pastry cream, line a baking pan with heatproof plastic wrap and set aside. Place the milk and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a saucepan and scald the milk (heat to the point where it is steaming and the edges look like it is about to boil but is not yet bubbling). Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until smooth. Once the milk is scalded, whisk the egg mixture vigorously while very slowly pouring in the milk in a steady stream. Then pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium-high heat. Whisk constantly while heating to ensure that no lumps form. Bring to a boil and, whisking constantly, continue to let boil for 90 seconds.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla bean paste until well blended.
Pour the pastry cream into the plastic wrap–lined pan and cover the entire surface of the cream with additional plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Chill 30 to 60 minutes.
To make the puff dough, preheat the oven to 350°F. Set aside two mini muffin pans and leave them ungreased.
Pour the milk and oil into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, put the tapioca starch in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. When the milk mixture comes to a boil, turn the mixer on medium speed and slowly pour the milk into the tapioca. Turn to high and add the eggs, one at a time, and blend thoroughly, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
Evenly fill 36 muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake until puffed and golden brown and hard to the touch, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the plastic wrap from the pastry cream and place the cream in a bowl. Whisk to soften and smooth the texture. Spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a #802 round piping tip. (Normally, I advocate using a ziplock bag if you don’t have a pastry bag, but in this instance, the ziplock is likely to split along the seam.) Then refrigerate. Once cool to the touch, pop the puffs out of the pan. (If you can’t get the puffs to easily pop out, or if they begin deflating as they cool, put them back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes so they finish baking and crisp up.) Take a pointed paring knife and carefully cut a small round hole in the bottom of each puff. To fill the cream puffs, insert the piping tip of the bag of pastry cream partway into the bottom of each puff and gently squeeze.
To make the chocolate glaze, melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave-safe bowl. If using the microwave, heat in 30-second intervals, stirring between each. Stir the butter and cream into the melted chocolate until well blended.
Dip the top of each cream puff in the chocolate glaze, turn right side up, and place directly on a serving platter.
To cut down on preparation time, you can use a gluten-free vanilla pudding mix, cooked according to directions. Please do not use an instant mix: the scalded milk is an important flavor enhancer and tastes so much better!
(* Reprinted with permission from Sweet Cravings: 50 Seductive Desserts for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle by Kyra Bussanich -Ten Speed Press, © 2013- Photo Credit: Leela Cyd)