It’s another almost last minute post to meet this week’s theme on 52 Weeks of Cooking. At least it isn’t Sunday. Well, maybe it is, but I started working on this post on Saturday, so give me at least partial credit. Ok racing the clock!
As stated in the title, the theme is Coffee. I wrestled quite a bit over what to make. After a bit of deliberation, along with some flat out rejection of my thoughts of some savory coffee dishes by my family, I opted to go with something a bit more conventional, and took the dessert route. I had my heart set on making curry, but I suppose paying tribute to a Vietnamese Borrowed from French cooking tradition, the Bánh Choux, or as it is more commonly called in the States, a Cream Puff. Other equally acceptable names are Bánh Xu, Bánh Su, Bánh Sữa, and as mentioned in the title, profiteroles. I’m sure I’ve missed a few iterations not to mention several languages, but we have some cooking to get to.
Anyway, first the glamour shot. This is the end result folks! So now that you know what we’re in for, you can continue reading or… well, I hope you do.
They look fine before.
But the after… oh the after.
First the coffee part, a pastry cream flavored with coffee. I took the easy route and used instant coffee, because I wasn’t too sure how even the most concentrated of espressos would play with the ratio of half and half and all the other ingredients. Something to think about later I suppose. This is a half recipe from the one in Ratio. Yes, I know, Ratio, again. It’s a damn good book people! I’ve made the tiny addition of daring to add instant coffee for my own selfish desires.
By the way, if you are too snobby to use instant coffee in cooking you are at the wrong website.
Oh, and if you can afford real vanilla beans, go for it, but for my humble needs, vanilla extract works fine.
Clockwise from top left (ignore the bread and massive piece of meat): Vanilla extract, sugar, half and half (or a mix of milk and cream, as per the book), corn starch, instant coffee, eggs (just the yolks, actually need 4), butter.
To the half and half or milk and cream, add your vanilla and put on medium heat.
When bubbles form around edges add a teaspoon of instant coffee.
Once it simmers, remove from heat.
While that cools, mix your egg yolks and sugar to dissolve the sugar.
A small amount of sugar is combined with corn starch to add some mega thickening power to the cream.
Get yourself a huge bowl ready. It just needs to be bigger than your saucepan actually, I was thinking something else would happen, but I was wrong.
Never hurts to be safe though. Ice water set and ready in your huge bowl.
Bring the milk/coffee/vanilla mixture back to a simmer.
Then pour into your yolk sugar mixture and whisk like hell, before pouring back into the saucepan.
And your cornstarch milk and stir until the pastry cream thickens.
The recipe said that once it hits a boil and becomes very thick it is good to go. I say forget worrying about the boil and just worry about the thickness.
Because damn this thickening snuck up on me in a hurry. Quick, into the ice water!
Stir to cool the mixture, adding the butter when it is still warm enough to melt with good mixing.
And there you have it, coffee flavored pastry cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. I know, not attractive.
Now for a jarring bit of history in the middle of the post.
Banh Choux is actually a dessert my mother made for rare special occasions in my youth. Given my bullheaded nature, I wanted to try a different method. That and I couldn’t find her cookbook. After I made these, she admitted to me that she typically fudges her own recipe and adds a lot more flour because she has trouble getting it to rise, so I serendipitously stumbled into the right decision this time. As is so often the case, my procedure for making the choux pastry comes from Michael Ruhlman. His website describes the method excellently, so please take a gander and then come back.
To make choux pastry: sugar, salt, flour, water, eggs, butter.
Water, butter, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of sugar are brought to a simmer.
Flour is thrown in…
And stirred vigorously. Wow, this was actually fun to see the amazing change that took place.
Now if you have one, throw it into a mixing bowl. Whatever you do, let the stuff cool for a few minutes.
Add eggs one at a time and persistently mix. Or be blessed with a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
Should look like this when you’re done.
Some sad looking piping here. Sorry.
Put into a preheated 425 degree F oven for ten minutes, then lower heat to 350, and continue to bake for 10-20 minutes. I recommend leaning towards the latter, as you’ll see later.
The first batch went in for an extra 15 minutes. Not bad!
Get your piping bag ready and filled with your coffee pastry cream. Or just lop the puffs in half and spoon it in.
Ok, some filled puff pastries.
The trapdoors that we have snuck the cream through.
And now the reveal!
Very nice, coffee flavored things. I think I prefer “plain” cream, but these are quite novel. Nice for a change up, especially if you’re feeling like something a bit darker than the usual cream puff.
Ok, now why the twenty minute recommendation?
The second batch seemed to have much more sturdy puffs. A good dark color, a good smell, and they just seemed better able to hold up to the puff. Well, I had practice too, so they were formed better too, and were more sizeable.
And yum. For those of you keeping track, it is almost 12:30 am, so unfortunately we have crossed over into last minute territory.
Coffee Flavored Pastry Cream Recipe, full version, adapted from Ratio.
- 16 oz. of half and half plus 3 ounces of milk
8 oz. milk plus 3 more and 8 oz. of cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 oz. sugar
- 4 oz. yolks (from 8 eggs)
- 6 tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 oz. butter
- 2 heaping teaspoons instant coffee
- In a small saucepan add you’re a total of 16 oz milk and cream or half and half, reserving the 3 oz of milk.
- Stir in vanilla extract and place saucepan on medium heat.
- When small bubbles form around edges, add instant coffee.
- Take off heat once it begins to simmer.
- Combine egg yolks and sugar well.
- Combine reserved 3 oz. of milk with cornstarch.
- Fill a bowl that can hold the saucepan with ice water.
- Put saucepan back on medium heat. Once simmering, pour contents into yolk sugar mixture whisking quickly.
- Add the mixture back into saucepan, and add milk cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly. Remove from heat once the mixture becomes very thick.
- Place saucepan into ice water and stir to cool, but not too much.
- When mixture is cooled down to warm, add butter and stir into to melt it in.
- Place in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, chill until ready to use.
- 8 oz. of water
- 1/2 a stick of butter
- 4 oz. of flour (1 cup)
- 8 oz. of eggs (four large eggs)
- pinch of salt
- Tablespoon of sugar
- Bring water, salt and butter to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium.
- Add flour and stir quickly, dough forms rapidly, pulling from the sides.
- Cook for a few more minutes then let cool slightly, or cool the saucepan with cool water or you can transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Add one egg at a time to the cooled but still warm to hot dough and stir in rapidly until incorporated. This is much easier with a stand mixer. The dough will become “furry” when finished.
- Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.
Cream Puff filled with Coffee Pastry Cream:
- One recipe Pate a Choux, as above
- Coffee Flavored Pastry Cream, as above
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Pipe out Choux pastry into golf ball sized swirls (or larger) onto parchment paper or a silpat.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for an additional 10-20 minutes (I recommend 18-20 minutes).
- Once the cream puff shells have cooled (or you are too eager to stand waiting any longer) fill baked Pate Choux with the coffee flavored pastry cream, either by piping, or by cutting and half and filling by hand.