This was the cover recipe on this months La Cucina Italiana (See pic at end of post) and as soon as I saw them I had to make them. We were getting together with some friends last weekend for the holidays and thought these special enough for such an occasion. The Grand Marnier was my substitution for the dark rum called for in the original recipe but you can use whatever liqueur you like, Chambord perhaps? They were devoured and enjoyed thoroughly by all. I was momentarily exalted to pedestal level!
I had never made my own cream puffs before because it seemed like it would be difficult but it's actually quite easy as long as you have a pastry bag. Now I have a great show stopping dessert as part of my repertoire. I don't bake often but I will go to great lengths to make anything that has vanilla custard or pastry cream in it i.e. ice cream, rice pudding, bread pudding, eclairs, and now these cream puffs! These take a little time but none of your guests has to know that they were actually quite easy. Enjoy!
Recipe: Pear Cream Puffs with Chocolate-Grand Marnier Sauce
Bigne alle Pere con Cioccolato
La Cucina Italiana; December 2009
Time: 2 Hours 15 minutes; Makes 24, Serves 8-12
1 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1-1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
3 medium Bartlett pears
1/4 cup water
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
5 ounces dark chocolate (62%), roughly chopped (1 cup)
2 tablespoons dark rum (or other flavored liqueur)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water
Fine sea salt
Special equipment: a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch fluted tip and a 1/4 inch plain tip.
1. FOR PASTRY PUFFS: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. In a medium heavy saucepan, bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Add flour and, using a wooden spoon, immediately stir until mixture is well combined.
2. Stir steadily until mixture pulls away from sides and forms a ball. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes (do not brown).
3. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium, and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating until each is completely incorporated before adding the next. Add egg whites in same manner. Beat until dough is smooth, about 2 minutes more.
4. Spoon dough into a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch fluted tip and pipe 24 mounds onto prepared baking sheet, each about 1-3/4 inches in diameter, leaving 1-1/2 inches in between mounds. Bake until puffs are lightly golden, about 20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue baking until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Transfer puffs to a wire rack to cool. Leave oven on.
5. FOR PASTRY CREAM: Peel, halve and core pears. Arrange cut-side down, in a baking dish; add water. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds over pears. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn pears and continue baking until tender, about 15 minutes more. Transfer contents of baking dish to a food processor; puree until smooth.
MY TWO CENTS: When I baked the pears I needed to add more water during baking and it took more like 45 minutes but I think my pears weren't perfectly ripe to begin with so just keep an eye on them and see how it goes.
6. In a small saucepan melt 3 tablespoons butter; remove from heat. Add flour and stir to combine.
7. In a medium saucepan bring cream and milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Add pear puree and flour mixture; whisk to combine. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until pastry cream is thick enough to form a ribbon, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
8. Transfer pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip. Insert tip into side or bottom of each puff and fill.
9. FOR SAUCE: In a small, heavy saucepan, combine chocolate, liqueur, cream, sugar, water and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium heat, whisking often, until chocolate is melted and sauce is smooth.
10. Arrange cream puffs on a single serving platter or individual plates and drizzle with chocolate sauce.
MY TWO MORE CENTS: Now that I've done this process all in one afternoon I can honestly say that it would have been a lot easier to make the pastry cream and chocolate sauce on one day and then baked and filled the puffs the next day. See all of the sauce in the picture below? Don't use that much or you'll never taste that wonderful pastry cream you slaved over. A drizzle like I did above was perfect even though my puffs weren't. Your friends and family will applaud you when you present them with these. Perfect or not.