I am a sucker for cream puffs….really I am…and strawberries and of course pastry cream because well, it is like eating berries on a cloud of cream and a pillowy puff. Yes, I know, I am often called a hopeless romantic or a dreamer, sometimes a combination of both. As long as I can remember I was the one hording the "choux" at every wedding back home. The "Piece Montee" (Constructed Piece), also known as a Croquembouche was for a long time the traditional wedding cake in France (and still is), with the American ones being the "new kid on the block" so to speak. I would take my little plate and usually wait for everybody to forget me and come back to take chunks out of the nougatine base and decorations, some caramel and of course a few extra choux.
I don’t know why but as a child I kept other "choux" related items very separate. I was like person who does not like her/his vegetables to touch the meat which in turn should not touch the corn. Aside from the "wedding choux" having its special place in my heart, I was a complete devout to "chouquettes" and "Religieuses". Each had a purpose: a wedding, an afternoon snack, and a Sunday dessert. It was not until years later when I became old enough to handle a rolling pin and a whisk that I started making "Puffs" just for fun, and fill them just for fun, and discover many years later that this little bite of heaven is my favorite to bake and eat. There is something absolutely liberating about biting into the crusty puff and to find my lips covered in cream, as well my fingers because it started oozing out from the side. Now you tell me if this isn’t heaven? Well, all things considered because this is a food blog peeps!!
Keeping with the not so child related idea, I got giddy about Mike's Strawberry Seduction event and I knew I had to pair my love for strawberry with my love for "choux". I made rather large so I could fill them with plenty of Grand Marnier Mousseline cream (pastry cream lightened with whipped cream) and strawberries. Mr. Tartelette, also known as B. called them "Strawberry Shortcakes crack" one night and tonight they were called "Zee Strawberry Cream Puff". They reminded me of one other favorite desserts of mine, the Tarte Tropezienne, but in the end we just called them plain "good"…
Strawberry Puffs with Grand Marnier Mousseline: Serves 8
For the Choux:
85 gr all purpose flour
75 ml milk
65 gr butter
1 Tb sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Sift the flour and set aside. Heat the water, milk, butter and salt to a full rolling boil, so that the fat is not just floating on the top but is dispersed throughout the liquid. Stir the flour into the liquid with a heavy wooden spoon, adding it as fast as it can be absorbed. Avoid adding it all at once or it will form clumps. Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up the lumps if necessary, by pressing them against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a mixer bowl. Let the paste cool slightly so that the eggs will not cook when they are added. You can add and stir the eggs by hand but it requires some elbow grease. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, using the paddle attachment on low or medium speed. The dough should have the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (I use Ateco #809). Pipe big rounds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet,sprinkle them with pearl sugar and bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Split the choux in half.
For the Grand Marnier Mousseline:
zest of one orange
3 egg yolks
25 gr cornstarch
115 gr butter, cut into small chunks
30ml Grand Marnier
1 tsp gelatin and 1 TB water
120ml heavy cream
1-2 cups of fresh strawberries, sliced
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand until ready to incorporate into the pastry cream. Bring the milk to a boil with the orange zest. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until pale. Slowly pour the milk over it: add with a small amount to temper the eggs and make sure all your ingredients incorporate smoothly and them continue to add the rest of the milk. Return the whole thing over medium heat and cook until thick for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter and the Grand Marnier. In a microwave, dissolve the gelatin for 15 seconds. Quickly mix into the pastry cream. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (make it touch the cream so it does not let a skin form on top) and refrigerate until cold.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks and gently fold it in the pastry cream. Pour into a piping bag and divide among the choux. arrange some strawberry slices over the cream and put the hats back on (the picture below makes me think of the Smurfs). Serve within the hour. If you plan to serve this later, assemble it at the last minute so the choux don’t get soggy.
Since we are in the seduction theme, I would like to dedicate this post to the only Cream Puff I really love: Ivonne. I never got to thank you properly for seducing me with this wonderful cake and it is about time I did. You were on my mind the whole time I was putting these together!