Puff, puff, my cream puffs...

It is known as profiterole puff or profiterole but it's simply cream puff to me; an airy round bread with custard filling and candied caramel top. The first time I made them was really exciting because they were so small in the beginning. I was literally watching them from the glass door of the oven “puff puff please my cream puffs …lol… and they did! I used bread flour and the custard filling is from the same recipe I use for all my custard filled pastries. Looking at the recipe, it seems like it's a lot of work and it is but it is made in stages so there's a lot of pauses and breaks and when you bite into this luscious, scrumptious pastry, it's worth all the hard work.

For the puffs 

1 cup water 
1/2 cup unsalted butter or shortening 
1 cup bread flour 
1/4 tsp. salt 
1 tsp. sugar 
4 large eggs 

Preheat oven to 425 F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. 
In a medium saucepan, combine water and butter and heat over medium heat to melt butter. Once it is melted, bring water to a full boil and immediately stir in salt, sugar, and flour. 
Stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is blended and leaves the sides of the pot in a round mass. Shuffle the pot briefly on the burner to dry out the dough. Remove from heat and place dough in a large bowl (if mixing by hand) or in the mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Let cool about 10 minutes. 
Then, with mixer running, add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Mixture should look smooth and glossy after the last egg is blended in. 
Spoon the pâte a choux into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Pipe out mounds of dough, about 3/4 inch in diameter. Use a blunt knife dipped in water to separate dough from tip. 
Bake until golden brown, about 22-25 minutes. Remove from oven and slit each cream puff slightly on one side. Replace cookie sheets in oven to dry inside of pastries. Remove from oven and let cool in a draft-free place. Proceed with recipe or freeze for later use. Makes 3-4 dozen small puffs.  

For the custard filling 

2 cups half-and-half 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
2 tbsp cornstarch 
a pinch of salt 
4 large egg yolks 
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract 

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk the half-and-half, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt until it comes to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then slowly whisk in half of the hot mixture. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook, whisking, until it comes to a boil. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vanilla. Cover with wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

For the caramel topping 

1 ¼ cups sugar 
1/3 cup water 

Pour the sugar into the center of a deep saucepan. Carefully pour the water around the sugar, but do not splash any sugar onto the sides of the pan. Do not stir; just gently draw your finger through the center of the sugar to moisten it. Over high heat, bring to a full boil and cook without stirring, swirling the pot occasionally to even out the color, until amber-caramel in color. When the mixture is done, remove the pot from the heat and rest the bottom in the ice bath for 15 seconds to stop the cooking. 
Dip the top of each cream puff in the caramel and place it caramel-side down, with the base sticking straight up, on the other greased cookie sheet. The caramel will pool slightly around the puff and will harden and develop a foot. (When you turn the puffs over later, this will be a smooth flat "lid" for each profiterole.) Let cool until set, at least 10 minutes. 
When ready to serve, carefully turn the puffs over and cut each 1 horizontally in 1/2 using a long serrated knife. Fill each with a small scoop of the prepared custard filling. Place the lid on top and serve immediately. 


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