Cream Puffs with Strawberry Semi Freddo

It’s probably a good idea that I spent the first 38 years of my life not knowing that it was so incredibly simple to make pâte à choux, the airy pastry that makes up such dessert wonders as eclairs, cream puffs and, yes, my favorite, profiteroles. The problem now is that I know. If you can boil liquids, and have about an hour, 40 minutes of which will be spent leafing through a magazine while the little balls puff and brown, you can make them. The trickiest part, perhaps is the piping into little rounds… but that is even unnecessary. Little balls spooned onto the parchment work just fine too.

This combination of strawberry cream and cream puffs came to me from a french lifestyle magazine, Maisons Coté Sud, that I picked up last week to flip through. While I don’t speak French other than that on a menu, it didn’t really matter. It was the photos that spoke to me… idyllic scenes of country gardens, fresh cut flowers, stone walls, French rustic tables, and gorgeous crockery. Just the thing for leafing through while sitting out on the deck on a gorgeous Seattle summer evening sipping a glass of chilled rosé. It was the choux à la créme frais-rose all bunched together in a glass dome, looking like the perfect thing to pop into your mouth, one after another. How could I resist?

Finding a pâte à choux recipe was actually trickier than I thought… after searching through about 10 of my cookbooks that I thought were sure to have one, I turned to a newer purchase, Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, that I had found for 50% off at Whole Foods recently. Once the cream puffs were cooked up (it took two batches, as I messed up measuring the butter on my first batch and ended up with a oily mess all over the oven and little hard rocks instead of puffs), I whipped up a strawberry semifreddo roughly based on the chocolate chip recipe in Donna Hay’s Flavors cookbook. While tempted by the idea of rose syrup, something I’d like to try, particularly making it from my own rose bush overflowing with blossoms… I decided to skip it this go around, and let the flavors focus on the simple, peak of season strawberries. This is a great frozen treat that doesn’t require an ice cream maker and is equally good just chilled as it is frozen. In fact, I really like it in the more goopy state, where it’s a bit more like a very thick, sweet whipped cream.

Now, the only trick is how to stop myself from making more…

Pate à Choux
from Baking at Home with the CIA
makes 15 to 20 small puffs

1 cup of nonfat milk
1 stick of unsalted butter (8 Tablespoons)
2 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 cup all purpose flour
3 eggs
1 egg white
egg wash (1 egg whisked with a bit of water)

Preheat the oven to 375F, and line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment. I was able to fit all of my puffs on a 14″ x 16″ baking sheet.

Combine the milk, butter, sugar and salt together in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring the whole time with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium and sift in the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the flour is well incorporated and the dough thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a mixer bowl, and mix on medium until the dough cools to about 98F. It’s best to use a paddle attachment if you have one for this.

Once the dough as cooled, add the 3 eggs, one at a time. Push the dough down from the sides of the bowl if needed between the additions of the egg. When all the whole eggs have been incorporated, increase the speed to beat in the egg white.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag with a broad, round tip, and pipe onto the prepared baking sheet. I did mine in little spirals, and liked the look. If you don’t want to bother with piping, use two spoons to make little golf-ball sized rounds. Lightly brush each ball with the egg wash.

Bake at 375F for 20 minutes, or until just a little golden brown on top. Then, reduce the heat to 325F and bake for another 25 minutes, or until the puffs are a richer golden and dry. They should sound a bit hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Next time I make these, I’m going to be even more decadent and dip them in dark chocolate once cooled.

Strawberry Semi Freddo
Adapted from Donna Hay’s Flavors
Make a lot

1 pint of fresh strawberries, stems and caps removed
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
4 eggs, separated

Mash the strawberries well. It’s fine if there are chunks, but not whole strawberries. I used a muddler for this, and it worked really well. Set aside.

Whip the cream until it is firm. Cover and refrigerate.

Combine the sugar, vanilla and egg yolks in the bowl of a mixer and beat until it is thick and a pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Move to a large metal bowl, cover and set aside.

Beat the egg whites in a clean mixer bowl until you get soft peaks.

Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolk mixture. Then, fold in the egg whites, trying not to deflate them.

Finally, fold in the strawberry puree, mixing just enough to get some nice swirls and streaks but not a solid pink color.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. You’ll need to freeze it for well over an hour for more of an ice cream texture.

If frozen overnight, let it sit at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes before trying to scoop it.

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